The Donald Driver Dilemma
If the Green Bay Packers aren’t the true “America’s Team,” they are without question the unparalleled darlings of the NFL. Everyone loves the small market Packers with their amazing history, family-first approach and draft-and-develop philosophy.
There have been bumps in the road of course. Most notably would be the heavily-scrutinized decision to prevent Brett Favre, arguably the greatest Packer of all, from unretiring in 2008.
Now the Packers are faced with a similar dilemma with an equally-adored player in Donald Driver. The only difference in this situation is Driver isn’t playing the role of the selfish diva. He’s not ready for the press conference and he knows it. He has absolutely no desire to retire. He wants to play.
Even more than wanting to play, he wants to play for the Packers and is willing to take less money to do so. He’s not waffling and sitting back, making things difficult on the organization like Favre did. He’s doing everything in direct contrast to that.
Donald Driver is doing everything right.
The idea of Double D putting on another team’s uniform is a seriously depressing thought. But is it any less depressing than Driver’s skills declining further while a guy like Tori Gurley or Diondre Borel develops for another team?
In order to fend off suitors ready to add him to their 53-man roster, the Packers gave Gurley a substantial raise during the season that reportedly paid him three times his previous salary. It’s unlikely the Packers did that so he could spend another year on the practice squad.
Borel is a converted quarterback and punter who flashed glimpses of brilliance and at times looked better than Gurley last preseason. He has a tremendous upside and I don’t think the Packers can let either player go in good conscience.
However, Driver’s willingness to take a pay cut and announcing it to the world was a shrewd PR move that will put pressure on the Packers. Releasing Driver would make the organization look heartless. After all, this is Mr. Packer we’re talking about here — he’s contributed as much to the community as he has the team. Most fans will be firmly behind Driver and his team-first approach, even though the much bigger issue for the Packers is their wealth of talent at the wide receiver position.
We know Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb aren’t going anywhere, but can we say the same thing about James Jones? Although Aaron Rodgers went to bat for Jones last year, is he more valuable to the team than Driver?
From a physical aspect, Jones is the guy you’d rather have and is capable of some big plays, but Driver might just get the edge when you include intangibles, leadership, and locker room presence. Can Green Bay possibly be so cold-blooded to let Mr. Packer go, especially when he’s willing to do anything to stay?
With the luxury of hindsight it’s easy to see that the Packers made the correct call letting Brett go. Now they’re faced with a decision not as crucial to the overall success and future of the franchise, but possibly one that will be even more difficult.
If this decision were being made by Bill Belichick and the Patriots this wouldn’t even be a conversation. It would be a foregone conclusion. The Packers do things a little bit differently though, and it will be interesting to see where they come out on this one.
Although we trust in Ted, we certainly don’t envy the decisions he has to make.
Andrew Chitko is a Packer fan who enjoys the mental and mathematical side of football just as much as the action and excitement on the field. "Cerebral Football" will focus on key coaching decisions, situational football, and other NFL-related topics deserving deeper analysis.