GREEN BAY – Now that Donald Driver has danced his way to stardom everybody wants to know: Will the Packers save the last dance for him?
Interest in Driver, and affection toward him, is at an all-time high.
Driver’s compelling appearances on “Dancing With The Stars” enthralled a national TV audience that extends beyond Packers’ fans. Viewers of all walks were captivated by Driver’s charm and won over by his amazing life.
Imagine this: After 13 NFL seasons, 735 catches and 59 touchdown receptions, Driver has become an overnight sensation.
The 37-year-old’s victory on “DWTS” is especially engaging because it comes at a time when Driver’s “day job” hangs in the balance.
What will the Green Bay Packers do?
Will they keep him? Will they cut him?
If they keep him, some will suggest he’s a charity case. If they cut him, others will say the Packers’ GM and head coach weren’t loyal.
In fact, neither would be true.
If the Packers’ Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy elect to keep Driver on the 53-man roster, rest assured it won’t be due to any sentimentality. The Packers didn’t become a team of the present, and future, by making uninformed, emotion-based decisions. If they can cut a player as likeable and skilled as Nick Collins, they can cut anybody.
On the other hand, if Thompson and McCarthy elect to cut Driver, it doesn’t make them disloyal or ungrateful or villains.
It means they are doing their jobs.
Some fans are so focused on expressing “their opinion” that they haven’t taken the steps to form an opinion worth hearing. That said, if the Packers ultimately waive Driver, all it will take is a few wins to wash away the discord.
The simple fact is this: If Driver didn’t bring value to the Packers, rest assured he would have been cut yesterday.
Furthermore, now isn’t the time to make this decision.
What happens if – God forbid – there is a catastrophic injury at receiver?
What happens if the collective receiving corps continues to be thwarted by a case of the drops?
What happens if Diondre Borel and/or Tory Gurley flinch in the spotlight? What happens if they simply aren’t good enough? They wouldn’t be the first.
What happens if the tight ends and/or offensive line suffer a major setback? What happens if Jermichael Finley doesn’t dominate, or if Jeff Saturday grows old overnight? What happens then?
Donald Driver is what happens.
He brings value in so many ways. Occasionally, it’s because of the things he doesn’t do.
He doesn’t groan and moan if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t throw him the ball. He doesn’t gripe about his contract – in fact, he is willing to play at or near the veteran’s minimum salary. He doesn’t make it about him.
What he does is lead by example.
Whether he can still play at a level high enough remains to be seen, but that’s nothing new. Every year the challenge is great.
When McCarthy talks about the 2012 Packers being “the most talented and experienced” team he has coached it is because of players such as Driver. When McCarthy talks about “the great competition” he also is talking about players such as Driver.
Veterans like No. 80 will be pushed, or pushed out.
It is the way the best NFL teams operate. It is how the Packers operate.
So the question remains: What will be Donald Driver’s fate? Will the Packers save the last dance for him?
The answer is fairly obvious.
If one of the Packers’ young receivers proves to be as good as Driver, the veteran will be waived. If Driver sustains any setbacks in training camp, he will be waived. If his play remains clearly better than any of the contenders, or mitigating circumstances demand it, he stays.
My best guess is a young receiver emerges and the offense remains powerful though Driver-less for the first time since 1999. Translation: The Packers play in the Super Bowl and Driver plays in Cleveland.
Chris Havel is a Packers News expert and national best-selling author. His latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ Player Autograph Parties the evening before home games.