Often times, the culture around social media and the general way fans interact with sports in their daily lives leans towards frenzy and tension. Twitter and Instagram interactions can be particularly virulent in this regard. However, with all Aaron Rodgers news bringing out the worst in everyone, it is wise to temporarily withdraw from the cesspool of projection and breathe quietly for a while.
In my own quest to get away from the fire, I found myself reflecting on some of my favorite Packers memories over the years. I didn’t become a big football fan until the late 2000s; many of my fond memories relate to the successive players during the Green Bay teams during the Rodgers era. These players were largely the driving force that led me to love football in the first place.
I owe much of this exposure to one of my best friends growing up. My boyfriend – let’s call him Nathan, who lived across the street from me – had a complex depth of the Packers roster. He always kept me up to date with the players who would be the next big thing, and Jermichael finley was one of the first Packers players I got attached to.
The next big thing
At the start of my NFL fandom, Finley looked like the next big thing. This guy was going to be the future of the tight position. He was going to have an impact on the pitch similar to players like Tony González and Antonio gates.
Watching this screening unfold in real time certainly seemed to keep that promise. Finley recorded 676 receiving yards and five touchdowns in his second season in 2009 with a 76.4% catch rate, apparently on track for a breakout campaign in 2010. His physical measurements also performed well. against these tight big names who were regular contributors to their teams.
Finley, Gonzalez and Gates each measured on the combine at 6’4 “. Finley and Gonzalez each ran a 4.8 in the 40-yard scorecard, while Gates ran a 4.6. Gonzalez and Gates each ran a 4.8 in the 40-yard scorecard. both had basketball backgrounds to enter the NFL – Finley had also played AAU basketball. So many great tight ends in NFL history have done so as a result of potential basketball successes – ball.
In the eyes of Packers fans, Finley was going to be an offensive star whose abilities would play well over Rodgers, Greg Jennings, and Jordy nelson. His 2010 campaign started off gloriously, amassing 301 yards in five games with an 80% catch rate. Finishing all 16 games would have seen Finley approach the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.
However, Finley would fall with an injury and miss the rest of the season, including the Super Bowl. He would return the following season and play 16 games in 2011 and 2012, but he would never be the same again. He had problems hanging on to the ball, and Finley had clearly lost a step before his final season in 2013.
Wounds on wounds
Finley’s biggest problem with his NFL career was that he couldn’t stay healthy.
His meniscus injury in 2010 that forced him to miss the rest of the season also forced him to miss the Super Bowl. This knee injury is made worse by five distinct known concussions, as well as the traumatic spinal cord injury that effectively ended Finley’s career in 2013. Ultimately, it was too much for Finley to overcome, and he went on. announced his retirement in 2015.
Like many former NFL players, repeated head and neck injuries have taken a heavy toll. Finley detailed many of these aftermaths in an article on The Players Tribune in 2017. His depiction of his own struggles with his mood and temper with his concussions and neck injuries is sobering. While his talent is often too hard to dispute, it’s clear that Finley made the right decision in retiring.
Seven years after Finley’s playing days, it’s curious to wonder what could have been. If Finley had played a long and productive career with Green Bay, how would that have affected the fortunes of the team?
I think of a few defining moments that could have been avoided with competent tight play. The fallout from Finley’s retirement ultimately resulted in Brandon bostick‘s failed kick recovery. Finley’s presence on this team would likely have pushed either Andrew Quarless or Richard rodgers in that special teams role – anyone other than Bostick would have done it there. This tight 2014 room was devoid of talent following Finley’s injury.
There’s also a world where, while Finley has a 10-year career with Green Bay, the Packers don’t waste their money on Jimmy graham in 2018. Graham’s signing was a flop, and it was a decision to try and get Rodgers a weapon similar to the one he had at Finley. Obviously, it didn’t work. The position was revitalized with the emergence of Robert tonyan last year, although the consistency of 2014-19 would have shaped this team’s fortunes much differently.
While it doesn’t do much to bemoan the past and “what could have been”, Finley’s burgeoning career could have taken the franchise to new heights. He has helped pave the way for the physical archetype of the tight end that so many teams seek to help their quarterbacks. Creating such a mismatch serves the offense well, and Finley could capitalize on these clashes more often than not.
With a ring to his name, we can’t call Finley’s career unsuccessful by any metrics. Although it was a shame, he couldn’t spend more time on the pitch catching passes from Rodgers. However, its effects on the team had a lasting impact on both front office decisions and players.
Here is one of the good ones.