Category Archives: Tori Gurley

10

June

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sunday with no Packers football.

Surviving Sunday with no Packers Football

The passing of the torch in the NFL can be cruel and never ceases. I’m referring to players: old and established giving way to players in their prime, all being chased by the up-and-coming new faces.

In Green Bay we have the example of future Packers Hall-of-Famer Donald Driver having ceded territory the last two years to the likes of Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Now fresh faces like Tori Gurley, Diondre Borel, Shakey Smithson, Dale Moss are all trying to get noticed.

I was reminded of this last evening, as I sat (and stood) in my local musical venue watching the still-amazing 75-year old Buddy Guy (video below) fill the air with powerful blues riffs and entertain a crowd like few others can.

Opening for Guy was Jonny Lang, a former child guitar-playing prodigy (now 31) who had his first album released at the age of 14 and was a Grammy-nominated artist at the age of 16. Guy was one of the people responsible for discovering and pushing Lang towards success.

Towards the end of Guy’s show, Lang naturally came out to jam with Guy and they tore the house down (or so we thought). That was until Guy brought out a new guitar-playing prodigy he had first discovered at the age of 7! Now 13, this young boy came onstage looking as uncomfortable as you might expect from a 13 year old, then proceeded to sound like a guitar God from the 60′s. he jammed the blues with Guy and Lang, then veered off into some Hendrix and finished up with some Eric Clapton (Cream-era).

Guy looked on with as wide a smile I’ve seen this side of Donald Driver, mesmerized himself by the talent of this young kid.  Lang was smiling, but looked a little uneasy, as perhaps he saw his status as a modern-day blues virtuoso soon to be eclipsed by some teenager.

And that’s where I make a connection to the NFL and the Packers. Donald Driver is Buddy Guy, the aging veteran who just wants to keep playing and displaying his talent. Guy said to his fans last night, “I don’t come out here and play for Buddy Guy anymore, I come out for you.”

21

May

Donald Driver: Is It Packer Nation Vs Ted Thompson Part Two?

Packers WR Donald Driver

Have Packer fans seen the last of Driver's trademark smile?

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver learned a brutal lesson last week on the power of social media.

Driver, whose place on the Packers’ 2012 roster is most certainly up in the air, sent out the following message on Twitter this past Thursday:

“Hello everyone: I’m a packer for life. It will never change. Go Pack Go!!!!”

With that comment, Packer Nation immediately awoke from its post-draft slumber. Had the Packers decided to hang onto one of the most beloved players in franchise history or was this a way for Driver to cryptically inform Cheeseheads all over the world that his time in green and gold was indeed up?

Even after clarifications issued by Driver and his agent, Jordon Woy, it’s currently the hot topic around the water cooler for Packer fans everywhere. Some see things through the eyes of GM Ted Thompson and say that while they will always love Driver, the Packers are so deep at the wide receiver position that Driver has to be a casualty to keep players like Tori Gurley on the roster.

Others feel that Driver, whom is often cited as the only offensive player to actually “show up and play” during the playoff debacle this past season against the New York Giants, is still better than any of the other options on the roster.

I would fall more into the first group than the second, thought I totally understand where people who insist Driver must stay are coming from. Although I have to say that Packer fans have to realize they have seen this script play out before and it is not a good idea to be going down this road again.

Remember the Summer of Favre in 2008? Well, 2012 is appearing to be the sequel: the Summer of Driver. I’m not accusing Driver of being a prima donna like Favre. Far from it. Driver has handled this situation perfectly, no doubt taking cues from the PR disaster that was Favre’s divorce from the Packers. Not to mention Driver has always been one of the most decent guys in the NFL.

Fans are obsessing over this pending decision to the point that it is going to consume discussion even more than it has already. Just wait until the cut down days during the preseason. It is reasonable to believe Driver could at least make it to training camp where he will actually be allowed to compete for a roster spot.

30

March

Packers Keeping 6 WRs Doesn’t Make Sense

Donald Driver

Could the Packers keep six WRs to retain Donald Driver?

Packers coach Mike McCarthy spoke highly of Donald Driver this week, giving no indication that the team plans to cut the 37-year-old any time soon. Of course, McCarthy wasn’t going to come out and say that Driver will be off the team shortly, so take the coach’s praise for Driver with a grain of salt.

Actually, McCarthy had a general quote about the Packers WR philosphy that I think actually hurts Driver’s chances of being a Packer in 2012. McCarthy said:

“We don’t just try to get four receivers or five receivers and stop there. You want to get as many as you can.”

This is bad news for Driver because it tells me that the Packers won’t hesitate to draft a WR if they see one they like. No, WR isn’t a position of immediate need, but Ted Thompson doesn’t draft strictly based on need. If there’s a WR he likes and feels is a good value for the round he’s drafting in, he’ll take him.

But let’s say Thompson doesn’t draft a WR. Driver’s main competition would be Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, both practice squad players last season that other teams tried to sign away from the Packers. Would Thompson keep a 37-year-old over two up-and-comers?

Now lets say Thompson drafts a WR, maybe an unpolished guy in the fifth or sixth round. Based on McCarthy’s above quote and past history, I don’t think Thompson would hesitate to do so. That’s more competition for Driver and yet another young player in the wrestling match for a roster spot.

Whether the Packers draft another WR or not, they could choose to keep six WRs, perhaps all five from last season and one of the young guys. This is the option I dislike the most.

The future seems bright for the Packers at WR. Greg Jennings (if they extend him), Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb appear on track to be contributors for a while. James Jones is decent enough and Jermichael Finley is basically an extra WR. Packers WRs have also manged to stay healthy the last couple of seasons. There’s no reason to stockpile an extra WR by keeping six on the roster.

29

February

Hines Ward: A Precursor to the Packers’ Decision With Donald Driver

1,000 career receptions, two Super Bowl rings and 14 dedicated years later, receiver Hines Ward was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday.

From Steelers president Art Rooney II: “We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year. Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines’ accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.”

The Steelers saved almost $4 million on their 2012 cap and have young, capable receivers in Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmaunel Sanders who overtook Ward, 36, on the receiving depth chart during the 2011 season.

We may be able to spin this same record in coming weeks with Packers receiver Donald Driver.

Driver, who is 37 years old and holds several Packers receiving records, has one year left on the contract he signed in 2010 worth almost $5 million. While Driver has expressed an interest in re-structuring that contract to continue playing in Green Bay, Ward offered the same service to the Steelers to stay in Pittsburgh. He was still released. Money is more of an issue for the Steelers in this offseason than the Packers, but the dollars don’t tell the whole story.

The meat of the pages here is that the Packers have younger players who need a bigger platform in 2012.

As is the case with the Steelers, who saw Antonio Brown emerge as a very capable No. 2 receiver in 2011, the Packers have two or three players—Randall Cobb, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel—who need more opportunities and, in the case of Gurley and Borel, a spot on the Packers roster. Giving Driver an honorable release is the only way the Packers can accomplish that.

People aren’t going to like it, and there’s going to be a morbid feeling surrounding the release—just like there is right now in Pittsburgh. But don’t get this game of football twisted: It’s a business first and foremost, and releasing Driver is the better football move.

27

February

Thomas Hobbes’ Green Bay Packers Offseason Blueprint

Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson
  1. Release LT Chad Clifton: The writing is on the wall.  Even Chad Clifton knew that it was unlikely that he would ever finish his 3 year and had most of the money guaranteed up front (which was helped by the cap-less season before the lockout).  Clifton has had issues staying healthy in the twilight of his career and this year was no different with Clifton being out for the majority of the season.  Added to that a $5.5 million salary in 2012, ascending player in Bryan Bulaga, 1st round draft choice Derek Sherrod and up and at least a serviceable backup in Marshall Newhouse and the Packers have set themselves well for life after Clifton.
  2. Renegotiate Charles Woodson and Donald Driver contracts:
    1. Charles Woodson: Woodson has undeniably lost a step and his high-risk high-reward style of play backfired a couple times last season.  Woodson currently leads the Packers roster with a salary of $11.5 million, some of which was a bonus for a NFL defensive player of the year award in 2009.  But what Woodson is still capable of is shutting down the new breed of tight end, like Jermichael Finley.  For instance, Woodson is still quick enough and physical enough to handle a Jimmy Graham, and I’m not sure who else on the defense could.  Unfortunately Woodson will turn 36 next season and at some point he’s going to have to realize that aging veterans start getting marginalized.  Hopefully Woodson doesn’t let his fiery attitude get in the way of business.
    2. Donald Driver: At 37, Driver has exceeded even the greatest expectations by still being in the NFL at all.  However, his production dropped drastically with the emergence of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson and has Randall Cobb and James Jones breathing down his neck for more playing time.  What Driver has to his benefit is experience, he’s well versed in the offense and isn’t likely to miss an assignment or a read.  What hurts him is that he’s not player he used to be and he wouldn’t survive playing on special teams.  In my opinion Driver should be retained since consistency at wide receiver (even as the 5th wide receiver) outweighs any benefits a player has on special teams.  Furthermore, I’m not convinced that any free agent/undrafted rookie would be better than Driver.  Are Cobb and Jones better than Driver?  Probably.  Are Tori Gurely or Diondre Biorel better?  I doubt it.
22

February

Packers Stock Report: 2011 End of Season Full Roster Edition

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers stock fell a bit during the playoff loss to the Giants, but it remains high heading into next season.

The Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl and there will be no more meaningful football games for the next six months. That’s six months to reflect on how a team that lost twice to the Redskins during the regular season could go on to knock off the mighty Packers in the playoffs and keep rolling all the way to the Lombardi Trophy.

Depressing.

It’s hard to find a silver lining, but if you’re searching for one, take a few minutes and look over the Packers roster. It’s pretty good. Go ahead and cross off some of the players you think won’t be around next season, and it’s still pretty good. This team is going to contend again next season, and probably for the next couple of seasons after that. At least Packers fans have something to look forward to.

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks at AllGBP.com evaluating and grading every player on the Packers roster. Those report cards are done now, and it’s time to put this season in the rearview mirror.

To get started, I put together a full roster stock report based on each player’s status heading into next season. To categorize each player, I used my own opinion mixed with how I think the Packers view that player.

For example, Donald Driver played well in the playoff loss. If the Packers beat the Giants and hosted the NFC Championship, I’d probably list Driver as rising in that week’s stock report. But since the Packers season is over, and I don’t think Ted Thompson brings Driver back, I put Driver in the falling category.

You get the idea, so without further delay, here we go:

Rising

QB Aaron Rodgers
Finding motivation is never a problem for Rodgers, but the Packers early playoff exit should give the MVP even more incentive to come out fired up in 2012.

LB Desmond Bishop
Watching Bishop motor his way through games was one of the few enjoyable aspects of this season’s defense.

T Bryan Bulaga
Bulaga took a step forward in 2011 and might take a giant step sideways to play left tackle next season.

WR/KR Randall Cobb
Thanks to Cobb, kick and punt returns became fun again.

13

February

Packers: Donald Driver Situation Puts Pressure on Ted Thompson

Donald Driver

Packers WR Donald Driver is willing to take a pay cut to stay in Green Bay.

Speaking a day after his team had lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Round, Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver wasn’t having any of the speculation that he may be retiring after 13 NFL seasons.

And without actually saying it, Driver made it seem clear that continuing his career in another city had become a viable option.

“If the Packers don’t want me, I’ve got to go somewhere else and play,” Driver said. “I don’t have a choice. I’m not ready to hang the cleats up.”

That sound-byte from Driver probably caught Packers GM Ted Thompson a little off guard. A fair number of observers had envisioned 2011 being the 37-year-old’s final season.

The plot added another twist last Friday.

At a breakfast banquet in Milwaukee, Driver said that he’d be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Packers in 2012, a statement that seemed to contradict his earlier feelings on wanting to play elsewhere if the Packers weren’t willing to keep him.

Driver is scheduled to make $2.6 million in base salary in 2012, plus a $2.2 million roster bonus due in March and another $200,000 workout bonus. Altogether, Driver’s cap number stands at $5 million. One of the main driving points for the potential release of Driver has been his cap number, and there’s likely no scenario in which he plays for the Packers next season at that price. Restructuring that $5 million number would seemingly make it easier to keep him on the roster.
However, Thompson is now in a tough spot. Every coin has two sides, and that premise applies here.

On one side, Driver is a respected team leader who worked his way up from the poverty-striken streets of Houston to the sandy beaches of four NFL Pro Bowls. Losing him would be an unquestioned blow to the Packers’ well-established locker room and the state of Wisconsin, where Driver has committed countless hours to improving the Green Bay community and state as a whole. Driver also proved there is still something left in the tank, catching six touchdowns during the regular season and being arguably the Packers’ most productive receiver in the playoff loss to the Giants.