12

October

Focus on Finley – The Playmaker

"The Playmaker"

It was just a week ago that Jermichael Finley was upset about not being thrown the ball enough in the Denver game. Here were his comments:

“For sure, they took me out of the game. I don’t know what I came out with, but hopefully we can go back and dial something up for the double teams. We’ve got to have something for it. We’ll have to go back, not being selfish or nothing, but go back and dial up something so you can get your playmaker the ball in games like that when it’s close.”

From reading that quote, one would think that he was totally ignored in that game. Not having seen the game live, it’s certainly the impression that I had. But looking at the game stats told a different story. Finley had been targeted 6 times but caught only 3 for completions.

Fast forward to the Falcons game, which I did see live. Finley appeared to me to be a big part of the game plan. He was thrown to 7 times and caught 4. He did not always display the excellent hands he possesses. In fact, Finley had a particularly egregious drop at the goal line just before the second half, which cost the Packers 4 points. Here it is:

 

Five out of the seven times Finley was thrown to in the Atlanta game, it was on a third down. Here’s the breakdown:

1st Q, 4:21:  3rd and 2, complete for 24yds.
2nd Q, 0:18:  3rd and 12, incomplete (drop at the goal line)
3rd Q, 6:26: 1st and 10, incomplete
3rd Q, 1:57: 3rd and 10, complete for 22 yds.
3rd Q, 1:03: 2nd and 10, complete for 7 yds.
4th Q, 11:27: 3rd and 11, incomplete
4th Q, 6:18: 3rd and 2, complete for 24 yds.

The 22 yard gain in the third quarter was a particularly important play. It was a tight 15-14 game at that point, and Finley’s catch and run kept the drive alive and put the ball in Falcons’ territory. Just a few plays later, Greg Jennings would take the ball to the house to put the Packers safely ahead for good. An excited Finley felt the importance of his catch, doing a rather amusing dance after the catch. Here it is:

 

17

December

TGIF: Green Bay Packers New Go-to Guy; Jermichael Finley

As the 2009 Packers season plays out, and yet another football lands in the hands of the Packers #88, I’ve adopted a new twist on a popular acronym:

TGIF – Thank God It’s Finley…

Packers GM Ted Thompson’s 2008 draft will never be featured at the top of his resume. Jordy Nelson, Brian Brohm and Patrick Lee were the first three picks of that draft. While I like Nelson, and think he will develop into a very useful receiver, Brian Brohm was a certified bust from day one and Patrick Lee is just one more injury away from being called the same. But Thompson did uncover a hidden gem in that draft. In the third round (pick 91) Thompson selected a young underclassman from the University of Texas.

After less than two full seasons, it’s not a stretch to say that Jermichael Finley could turn out to be the steal of the entire 2008 draft.

Finley played only two seasons at Texas, and after only 26 games, he was already the 3rd all-time receiving tight end in Texas history. A father of two children, yet essentially still a kid (Finley turned 21 just before the 2008 Draft), Finley felt the need to move on to life’s next challenge.

The Packers first took notice of Finley a week before the NFL combine. Said tight ends coach Bob McAdoo, “When you start watching guys, obviously you look for things you can’t coach, and I think he has a few of those qualities. He’s someone who was intriguing the minute you turned the tape on.”

Finley did not do particularly well at the combine, running only a 4.82 in the 40 yard dash. That and his limited experience scared off a lot of NFL teams, but not the Packers. They went into the draft prepared to take him with the second of their two second-round picks, but when Brian Brohm and Patrick Lee “fell into their laps” (collective groan from Packers fans…), the Packers plans were sidetracked. Luckily, the Packers found Finley still waiting for them in the third round, and now a lot of other NFL GMs are kicking themselves.

As a rookie for the Packers, Finley’s athleticism and potential was apparent to everyone. But at 21 years old, Finley was the youngest player on the Packers and at times, appeared overwhelmed by the whole experience. His immaturity showed as he made some some ill-advised comments to the media, complaining about passes not being where he wanted them.