In Green Bay's post-Super Bowl era, Brett Favre has never had bonafide playmakers at wide receiver. The luxury of a Jerry Rice or Michael Irvin gave way to collective receiver units such as the 2001 trio of Antonio Freeman-Schroeder-Bradford that at least provided consistency, if not flash. Had it not been for St. Louis' offensive juggernaut, Green Bay would have had a better chance of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl that 12-4 season.
After bypassing top-tier receivers in free agency in favor veterans on defense and continually trading down for a backup guard in the draft, the Packers' pass-catching unit as a whole gradually became a laughingstock. Reggie Wayne, Keyshawn Johnson, and David Givens were ignored in free agency this year, as Ted Thompson zeroed in on Ryan Pickett and Marquand Manuel. Florida's sure-handed Chad Jackson was available at multiple junctures in the draft, yet Daryn Colledge was the man Thompson pinpointed, while accumulating extra picks.
It's still way too soon to judge Colledge and all of Thompson's picks, for that matter, but he admitted fault this week by signing the troubled Koren Robinson. It's the ultimate cry for help. The GM stuck to his guns on Rod Gardner and Marc Boerigter too long and when they were released, the cupboard was dry. Donald Driver is a solid, 80-1,000 receiver, not a phenom that can routinely beat suffocating triple coverage. As a defensive back, scouting Green Bay's passing attack is a joke...and its only Week 2.
The pistons in the West Coast offense can only churn when a crop of receivers repeatedly find seams and cracks in defenses game-in and game-out from the starters to fourth and fifth stringers.
When Robert Brooks and Freeman were injured in Green Bay's Super Bowl season, Don Beebe (220 yards, TD vs. San Francisco) and Terry Mickens (seven catches, two TD vs. Detroit) kept the offense's pedal firmly on the metal. The hope was that Gardner and Boerigter could fill this void. After combining for four catches and 65 yards in the preseason, any hope quickly evaporated.
At this point, you have to believe that swapping the combined contracts of Charles Woodson and Manuel for Reggie Wayne would have been a much wiser decision. The Packers, who led the league in cap space once free agency began, certainly had the ammunition to entice such a prolific target for Favre. Instead, Greg Jennings is being asked to produce in his first NFL season, which is virtually impossible for rookies in the West Coast system. The team is still trying to salvage anything it can out of Robert Ferguson who is destined to be a special teams flyer for life, not a pass-catcher.
And now the Packers are tied to Robinson, arguably the league's most profound poison at the WR position. In Minnesota, he lopsided the term ‘risk/reward' worse than Ron Artest loitering the streets of Detroit. Does an individual that is subject to a year-long suspension fit the "Packer People" mold that Mike McCarthy stressed the day he was hired? At this point, odds say Robinson won't change his ways even if a (green and) golden opportunity awaits before his droopy eyes.
But as the Chicago game exposed, these are frantic times.
"This is a good kid," Thompson said. "I'm not making excuses. He's made some mistakes, but this is a good kid. He is a good character guy for all intents and purposes."
Like Thompson, Favre is desperately optimistic that Robinson, who earned a trip to Hawaii as a returner, can give the passing game a much needed jolt of energy.
"I think it's a positive move," Favre said. "On the field, he can really help our football team, let's face it. His credentials speak for themselves; he's a Pro Bowler."
Robinson's off-field skirmishes promise that he is by no means a long-term solution at wide receiver. Whether he flourishes into a supporting, Andre Rison-type role or flounders as Gardner did may determine the offense's progress. After Ahman Green rushed for 110 yards on last season's second-ranked defense, the heat has been taken off the team's young guards for the time being. The pressure to succeed has clearly shifted to the passing attack.
Thompson's willingness to change is admirable. Many general managers let their egos interfere with success and latch onto players that have no business in the league. Even the franchise's architect, Ron Wolf, was at fault i.e. Antuan Edwards and Jamal Reynolds. At the very least, the fact that Thompson is going out on a limb proves Green Bay's newest leader has guts.
Unfortunately, the re-haul at receiver may have come six months too late.
Robinson, who was clocked at 104 mph in a 55, registered a BAC level of 0.11, was arrested for drunken driving twice, and has a 5-year jail sentence pending may provide some pop to the return game.
But when coupled with the defense's struggles, the signing appears more as confirmation that Thompson shopped poorly last spring.
Editor's note: Tyler Dunne is a freelance writer from the Buffalo, N.Y. area. E-mail him at email@example.com.