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The Curious Case of Casey Hayward

In 2012, the Green Bay Packers made Casey Hayward, cornerback out of Vanderbilt in the powerful Southeastern Conference (SEC), their second-round draft pick.

A scouting report on Hayward by WalterFootball.com listed him as having 17 positive traits (instincts, anticipation, size, quickness, intelligent, strong, hard worker, makes game-changing plays, very good in run defense, operates well in man and zone coverage, etc.) and only three negative ones (not a great athlete, average speed, gambles at times).

The report summed up that Hayward was one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the 2012 draft, one of the nation’s “best corners in terms of producing turnovers,” and “a ballhawk who has consistently produced splash plays.”

In a rarity for the Packers, Casey Hayward was sent straight out onto the field as a rookie and, playing every game, he responded with a great year: 53 tackles, a forced fumble, six interceptions and a phenomenal 21 passes defended. Ted Thompson had hit the jackpot or so it seemed. Playing mostly as a slot cornerback or nickel back, he clung to receivers like glue.

Just before the 2013 season, however, Hayward injured his hamstring during a workout. He probably was returned to the lineup too soon, promptly re-injured himself and ended up playing in only three games on the year.

In 2014, Hayward bounced back strongly: 43 tackles, 3 interceptions for 113 return yards (one returned for an 82-yard TD), two fumbles recovered (one returned for a 49-yard TD), and eight passes defended.

Playing in his fourth season in 2015, his tackles were up to 65 and he had seven passes defended, four tackles for a loss, but he failed to have an interception on the year.

There certainly were no lingering injury concerns, as Hayward completed his third season in a row playing every game of the year.

Let’s stop right here. Upon the completion of his four-year rookie contract, hadn’t Hayward done almost everything the Packers had hoped for?

He was a ballhawk, a game-changer, a rugged tackler, a clinging defender. Pro Football Focus loved the guy – PFF calculated that in 2012, opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 31.1 against him, the lowest against any corner in the league. In 2014, PFF rated him as the ninth best cornerback in the league.

It should also be noted that Hayward was compiling all these stats while playing only about 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He was listed as a starter in only 20 games in his four years in Green Bay.

Packers Abandon Hayward

As Total Packers reported toward the tail end of the year, the Packers might have fouled up by playing Hayward at “outside” cornerback for much of 2015, rather than in the slot. Hayward himself indicated that he wanted to play on the “inside” and that Sam Shields and Damarious Randall belonged on the outside.

But Ted Thompson didn’t see Hayward as belonging anywhere on the Packers’ defense. When Hayward’s rookie contract was up after the 2015 season, he made no attempt to talk to him or re-sign him. Some speculated that it was a matter of money, but the three-year deal Hayward signed with the Chargers in March was for a modest sum of a little more than $15 million.

It’s been just about a year since Hayward headed to the West Coast. Who’s laughing now?

Hayward, wearing Chargers navy, blue and gold, recorded 58 tackles, led the league with seven interceptions (107 yards returned, tied for fourth best) and had 20 passes defended, tied for third best in the NFL.

It gets better — or worse if you’re a Packers fan. Pro Football Focus calculates that Hayward finished second, to only Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, in coverage snaps against opposing teams’ No. 1 receivers. PFF’s Mike Renner says Hayward emerged as “a legit shutdown force in 2016,” and was “the rare boundary corner capable of chasing top receivers into the slot.” Renner predicts that if cornerback Jason Verrett returns healthy from ACL surgery, the Chargers will field the NFL’s best cornerback tandem in 2017.

Hayward was of course selected to the Pro Bowl team at the end of the season and he was also named second-team All Pro.

What’s left to be said? There’s a group of readers out there who like to insist that when the Packers release a player, fans should never judge the coaches or the GM. They are the EXPERTS – they watch the guy every day at practice and they know far better than us dumb fans who’s good and who isn’t.

Well, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Dom Capers and the rest scrutinized Casey Hayward for four years and failed to see what was right before their eyes. What about some accountability or at least an admission regarding this massive fail?

If you are looking for a reason Green Bay did not make it to the Super Bowl…

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Xlvordie February 22, 2017

    I miss Casey hayward

  2. Xlvordie February 22, 2017

    I would go as far as saying the season could have ended differently with him

  3. PF4L February 22, 2017

    Although i agree with most of the article, did anyone at the time scream we should keep Hayward?
    Most readers gave no fuck, including myself.
    But give it up for this guy…..
    03/13/2016 at 4:36 pm
    $5 million a year will prove to be a bargain for Hayward. I think I would have paid him. I expected he’d get more.

    Lets not forget the biting ironic sarcasm of Ditka’s Mom…….Looks like he had it pegged. lmao
    03/13/2016 at 4:36 pm
    We’ll never win Super Bowl without Hayward. Thanks for wasting our draft pick on his replacement. Fire Ted!

    03/13/2016 at 5:41 pm
    Heywood was too often late to the party. His departure should save my vocal cords.

    Also give it up for Kato….credit is given, when it’s due. That’s just how i roll.
    03/15/2016 at 6:52 am
    Hayward was a lot better than you guys make him out to be. Sheesh.

    Now Rob, Janis didn’t get released….so calm down.

    Also Rob…Hayward had a great rookie season, Janis had a great 2 long catches. These situations are hardly similar, so don’t get it all twisted in your bitterness.

    Thank you for understanding.

    1. Ace February 22, 2017

      Dude, what is with your archive of comments?

      1. PF4L February 23, 2017

        Dude, explain please.

  4. PF4L February 22, 2017

    Also credit Monty for acknowledging Hayward, even after only 3 games.

  5. Cheese February 22, 2017

    So much for draft and develop. Who needs a second round pick that you’ve been grooming for four years when you can replace him with a basketball player and an out of position safety. God TT is fuckin maddening…. What stupid shit is he gonna pull this year?

  6. Savage57 February 23, 2017

    I’m pissed at Hayward like no other.

    He proved I don’t know shit about football talent.

    1. PF4L February 23, 2017

      lol…Now you know how Ted feels :)

  7. shawn February 23, 2017

    No one who watched a snap of game film for the Packers in 2014 or 2015 would have paid Casey Hayward the money he got from the Chargers. That was a no brainer. If Ted won’t pay a guy HE spent a 2nd round pick on, that says about all you need to say about it.
    The press man coverage in the slot was the only thing he was good at. He was lazy in combo coverages, fell asleep while playing zone and couldn’t tackle anyone. Other than that, he was fantastic.
    Maybe not being offered a contract by the Packers woke him up, and he realized he better focus on his game. Maybe he hates cold weather and wanted to play someplace warm all along. Maybe his stat-line was a fluke this season. Who knows?
    I just know I don’t want him covering Doug Baldwin on 3rd and 7 in the NFC Championship Game. I DO know that.

    1. PF4L February 23, 2017

      There’s a lot of Packer corners i don’t want covering anybodys receivers in any NFCCG. Because it’s painful to watch.
      After seeing our corners against Atlanta, i would have gladly taken my chances with Hayward replacing any one of them.

      There were a lot of reasons to point to as reasons the Packers lost to Seattle, but Hayward wasn’t one of them.