It is time to bid farewell to a Green Bay Packers icon, wide receiver Donald Driver.
After restructuring Driver’s contract in the offseason the Packers gave Driver another opportunity to don the Green and Gold and take what you’d have to believe the Packers saw as a farewell tour. The thing is Driver does not seem to be ready to ride off into the sunset.
It’s not fair to compare this parting of ways to the elongated and seemingly bitter divorce between the Packers and future hall of fame quarterback Brett Favre. Driver, a class individual, has not complained and has accepted his dwindling role with the offense. But Driver has also maintained that he is not ready to hang up the cleats.
At times he has stated that he wants to play until he is 40, other times he has said two more years, in May of 2012 after being crowned champion of ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ Driver tweeted that he was set to be a “Packer for Life.” This has created a bit of a quandary for the Packers. One they have addressed in a passive aggressive manner.
Thus far in 2012 Driver has been inactive on more than one occasion and only targeted 13 times with 8 receptions for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns. Career lows in all of the above categories. Not the numbers you would anticipate from the Packers all-time reception leader.
Driver, who maintains an impeccable level of conditioning, believes, as most professional athletes do when they reach the sunset of their careers that he has a little left in the tank. And he might. The thing is good NFL General Managers plan for the decline of star players in the latter days of their careers. Packers GM Ted Thompson is the personification of this strategy. And because of this the Packers have a stable filled with young and capable wide receivers.
There are always ‘what ifs’ for the unknown. What if Driver was given more opportunity this season? Could he be the wide receiver that at age 37 defies Father Time and continues to be an offensive weapon that defenses fear? On the other hand, what if the Packers sat Randall Cobb and played Driver? It would be hard to argue that the Packers would be going into Sunday’s game with the Vikings vying for the number two NFC Playoff seed.
Driver seems to be set on playing next season. Maybe on another team with a less dominant receiving corps he could be a key contributor, the second or third receiver option. The reality of this scenario is that this is most likely not a winning team that Driver would join. And having played for one of the elite organizations in the NFL would this really be how Driver would like to end his career?
These are difficult decisions for all involved. Playing in the NFL one would have to believe is a magical opportunity. One in which Driver has been able to experience a Super Bowl Championship, Pro Bowl appearances and all the fame, fortune and love that comes with being a star player. To walk away from this into the abyss is probably frightening and distressing.
For the Packers it comes down to the cold reality that the show must go on. If as an organization the Packers were fair and honest about the situation they would probably simply state that they would love for Driver to retire at the end of this season. A clean break, one in which they would have the opportunity to rightfully honor Driver for his service. Pay due tribute to his career in Green Bay.
It does seem however that Driver is intent on trying to squeeze out another year or two in the NFL. He’s not the first guy that has done this. Emmitt Smith, arguably one of the NFL’s all-time great running backs played two inconspicuous seasons with the Phoenix Cardinals to close out his career. Brett Favre, well, we all know how that story ended, face down on the frozen University of Minnesota turf.
Maybe if the Packers can bring home the Lombardi Trophy that will be enough to persuade Driver to go out on top.
Let’s hope so, it would be difficult to imagine “Double D” in any other colors than the Green and Gold.