When Jackson signed with Atlanta in mid-March, it seemed some broken-hearted Packers fans were ready to call it a lost season.
“[S]tarting to think ted might be more of a great college talent scout and not a great gm,” opined one reader on BleacherReport.com.
“Jackson is better then [sic] anything we have now,” wrote another, on ESPN.com, “and better then [sic] what is in the draft. He would have been a much needed upgrade. Now it will be another so-so year with the 2nd & 3rd rate running backs we have now.”
Even some LombardiAve.com readers were deflated and critical of what we’ll now refer to as The Steven Jackson Flirtation: “Other teams get better, and TT just sits there,” one reader commented. “Like the East end of a West bound horse! No running game, no problem we’ll lowball all the RB’s. Then we can say we tried!”
I almost expected some of those folks to start quoting old country songs. Or posting their heartbreak on their Facebook and Twitter feeds. “Thanks, Ted Thompson. I’ll never love again! Waaaaah!”
So, Packers GM Ted Thompson spurns on a 30-year-old running back with more than 10,000 yards on the tires, and then? He drafts running backs Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin — arguably the top two backs in the draft — and gets them at bargain prices in the second and fourth rounds. Younger, hotter. Faster.
So what would TT now say to those folks who panicked following the unconsummated Steven Jackson Flirtation? Probably something along the lines of, “Sorry, he just wasn’t my type.” Which is to say, too old and too expensive. And not a home-grown Packers draft product. “Used up” is a term some might use.
Not all Packers fans reacted negatively, but shouldn’t this serve as a cautionary tale for future free-agent signing periods? I mean, Ted Thompson didn’t exactly blindside us; you’d think the Packers faithful would have seen that coming. Ted is fickle when it comes to his flirtations. Hey, we all want the Packers to improve — that’s part of being a fan. But in spite of two straight embarrassing ejections from the playoffs, the team is still winning division titles, still making the playoffs. And Ted still manages to be the belle of the ball.
And look at what we got by way of Thompson’s failed flirtation: In Lacy, we potentially have a powerful, Jackson-esque pounder who actually has more wiggle and comparable receiving skills. Second round, folks.
In Franklin, we got a back who has been compared with Baltimore’s Ray Rice due to his speed and skill set. Suddenly, the team that lives and dies by the passing game may not have enough footballs to hand off. (Ooh, Ted. I’m a little turned on).
And what does this ultimately do? It helps protect Aaron Rodgers’ butt, for one thing, but it also should help the Packers re-open the downfield passing game at which Rodgers is so dominant when he can work play-action. As long as the newly-reconfigured offensive line can open holes in the zone blocking scheme the Packers use, we should begin to reap the rewards right out of the gate.
Perhaps even more importantly is that this gives Green Bay quality depth at the running back position for the foreseeable future. Remember the collective groan last year when Cedric Benson went down in game five, just when he was starting to gel with the offense?
This way, if Lacy’s turf toe injury re-asserts itself and he misses a couple of games, it isn’t the end of times, and DuJuan Harris and Alex Green won’t have to shoulder the load alone (you won’t have to take them to the prom, you just keep them in your phone in case you need a date).
When you consider all this in retrospect, it makes the Steven Jackson Flirtation seem much more like a win than a loss, don’t you think? I can hardly wait to see what Ted gives these guys next year for Valentine’s Day.