This is how we should remember Donald Driver … breaking free in the secondary and beating defensive backs to the end zone.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph
This morning while I was having my usual order of bacon with a side of eggs at Crabby’s Diner, our discussion turned from the evolution of human society as based on anthropological evidence that the Fertile Crescent was not fertile or even a crescent, to Donald Driver.
Shorty had mentioned that Brown County had made Jan. 17, Donald Driver Day. We all agreed that the honor was well-deserved and truly represented a man who was not only an outstanding athlete, but a great man, husband, community leader and an even better dancer. In fact, there in the middle of the diner we gave Double D a standing ovation!
But then Joe Kano brought up the dreaded topic of should DD stay or should he go. I mean, c’mon this is a day of celebration and honor, not a day for indepth Packers discussion on the future path of Donald Driver and the team. Yet there it was staring us all in the face and the question had to be addressed (otherwise Joe would get upset and refuse to pay the bill and it was his turn to buy).
Shorty said that there was no longer any room on the team for an aging veteran who had lost a step and could no longer separate himself from the explosive defensive backs now playing. He even said that the coaching staff clearly saw the deterioration of the skills in Driver and that it was because of this that he was inactive and had such a minimal impact on the field.
Grandpa Bob then stood up shaking (probably because he was on his fifth cup of coffee) and questioned Shorty’s analysis (and a few other things not fit to discuss in a family setting). Grandpa Bob explained that it was clearly the fault of the coaching staff and their reluctance and utter failure to utilize Driver and his skills. Skills and abilities do not deteriorate that quickly, Grandpa Bob explained. The more you use your skills the sharper they become. If Coach McCarthy would have designed more plays that centered on Donald and his ability to cross-over the center, there would have been more catches, yards after the catch and touchdowns. Clearly the fault for his lack of play was based on the coaching staff and not him.
Slim, ever the conspiracy theorist outlined (with graphs and charts) how Aaron Rodgers plotted against Donald Driver in order to push him out of the mix due to the fact that A-Rod was still jealous over Donald’s win on Dancing with the Stars. Though the presentation he gave was impressive, we all clearly felt that this X-File approach to the discussion did not add anything credible. So we gave Slim more tinfoil to reinforce his “special hat.”
So then the gang turned to me and asked me what I thought. Was Donald still worth keeping? Could he still play at a level that was worth keeping him, while at the possible expense of others? I choked down my last few bites of bacon and wiped away the tear that was forming in the corner of my eye. Donald Driver is and will always be my most favorite player. He is class and skill that is as rare as a thousand-yard rusher for the Packers. He is a role model for role models. He is all of that and the bag of chips! He is DD.
So then I gave my answer.
Donald Driver, the most prolific Packers receiver of all time.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph
I felt that based on what I saw, he could still play the game and play it well. Would he ever be that featured receiver? No, but he seemed to accept that fact. But was it worth keeping him at the risk of not elevating other younger players? No. Did I want to see his unselfish play on special teams, just so he could stay on the team and field? No, because I did not want to see him risk injury just to play until he reached age 40. As much as I want to see that smile flash across my TV screen as he did another Lambeau leap, I did not want to see him carted off the field with a career-ending injury after covering some kickoff. The internal torment of the discussion was overwhelming (or it was that I ate too much bacon) and the tears began to flow. I did not want Donald Driver to end his career with the Packers and play elsewhere, I did not want him to retire. I wanted him to play forever and ever, but I knew in my heart that his time, like all the others before him was here. The jersey needed to be put away so it could hang in the Packer Hall of Fame (and I hope Canton). As I stood there babbling about the greatest wide receiver in Packers history, I told the guys, the best thing to do would be for him to stay on and coach, teach the new receivers all that he has learned, not just about football, but how to be a good man, a role model and community leader. It was these skills and his impeccable route running that he could share so the next generation of receivers would carry on his legacy.
As I finished, I looked around at the gang and the entire diner; there was not a dry eye in the place. So it was then that we decided that this summer, when the warm winds return we would honor Donald Driver in the only fitting way we knew how, invite him to a cookout in his honor.
In the case of Donald Driver, his playing career may come to an end, but his future is just beginning and that is what we have to look forward to.
GO DOUBLE D, GO!