For seven straight seasons, Jennings was a reception machine in Green Bay – that was long before he rejected a $10 million per-year contract from the Packers; long before his sister exploded on Twitter and made him look like a fool; long before he was wined and dined by Vikings officials and kept the Packers (and fans of the team) at arms-length while he texted Brett Favre and negotiated a deal with his former team’s arch-rival.
That was long before the start of the 2013 season when he had to turn into a gymnast just to try to get his hands on a Christian Ponder pass. That was long before he started the season at 1-5 with the Vikings. It was long before he had 24 receptions for 327 yards and two touchdowns through six games. Compare that with the 526 yards by the Packers’ Jordy Nelson; the 378 yards by the now-injured Randall Cobb; the 300 by now-injured Jermichael Finley; and the 349 by the soon-to-be-back James Jones. That’s three out of four Packers receivers with more yards than Jennings.
Heck, Jarrett Boykin, who has played only 1.5 games for the Packers has nearly half as many yards as Jennings at this point.
But we’ll forget about all that for right now. We’ll definitely be rooting against Jennings tomorrow night.
Instead, let’s take a look at the wide receiver’s career before all that came to be. That means going back into the archives of Packers history over the past seven years.
When Jennings was selected 52nd overall in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, the Packers knew they had someone special. The Western Michigan alum immediately made waves in Packers camp and was soon to become one of Brett Favre’s favorite targets.
Jennings caught 45 balls from Favre in his rookie season, gaining 632 yards and scoring three touchdowns. His production, especially in the touchdowns department, exploded in his second season, 2007. He caught only eight more passes in 2007 than he did the year before, but 12 of them went for touchdowns, including that iconic first pitch walkoff homer for 82 yards that he caught in overtime at Denver. Now you gotta admit, that was an incredible moment in recent Packers history.
But it got even better when Aaron Rodgers started pitching to him. In 2008, he caught 80 balls and his yardage went over 1,000 for the first time in his career, 1,292 (16.2 yards per catch). Between 2009 and 2011 his catch number never went below 68 and he exceeded 1,000 yards in two of those three years. In 2011, he missed three games and fell just sort with 949 yards.
In his contract season last year when Jennings dissed the Packers and their more-than-generous contract offer, he got hurt and only played half the season. His production reflected that (36 receptions for 366 yards and four touchdowns).
In addition to that OT catch for the walkoff win at Denver back in 2007, the other play that helps define Jennings’ years in Green Bay was that laser he caught from Rodgers on the third down slant that extended the Packers drive and led to a late-fourth quarter Super Bowl field goal from Mason Crosby in 2010.
Jennings, over the course of his first six years, was Mr. Reliable and the consummate teammate. Something happened that final year in Green Bay. A separation was under way throughout 2012 and the divorce was made official during the free agency period last March.
Since then, Jennings has made sure to twist the knife he inserted into his former team and quarterback. He says it was all in jest. We just don’t understand the humor.
Tomorrow, things get serious. The Packers have been silent through this all. It’s time to put up or shut up. Packers fans have been waiting for months for this day. With a defensive backfield that has stifled the production of the likes of A.J. Green and Josh Gordon, this will be the match-up everyone’s been anticipating.
By 11 p.m. Sunday night we should know whether the wait has been worth it.