The Packers have an elite standing in the NFL. They are one of the league’s 3 most popular brands every year. They enjoy a national fan base and competitive relevance almost every single season. Because of this, the “national” broadcast teams spend a lot of time doing their games. I’m talking about Gruden and Tirico. I’m talking about Michaels and Collinsworth, Simms and Nantz, and most often, Aikman and Buck. I understand and appreciate the public’s distaste for Aikman and Buck. They annoy me too, especially Aikman but this is not one of those articles.
What does annoy me specifically is that every time Jordy Nelson catches a long pass (which, by the way, happens like all the time) Aikman, without fail will mention Nelson’s “deceptive” speed. Nelson’s speed is never “elite” or “gamebreaking” it’s “sneaky” or “underrated”. It’s racist. It is flat out a racist comment, and someone makes it almost every time Nelson makes a big play.
I’m not going to stand up on a soapbox and say that the midwestern white guy is being “oppressed”. This is not racism in the sense that it’s a social commentary. This is sports. This is a game. Jordy Nelson’s life isn’t being negatively affected because he is white. In fact, I’m guessing for better or for worse it makes him a bigger star in the mostly Caucasian market in which he plays.
What I am saying is that it’s extremely lazy commentary. There is nothing about Nelson’s height, frame, or athletic tendencies that would say he would not be fast outside of the pigment of his skin. Paul Pabst of the Dan Patrick show pointed out this Sunday that Nelson is the Kansas high school state record holder for the 100 and 200 meter dash. That’s regular speed. That’s the type of fast that is fast no matter what your skin tone is.
It’s very possible that Jordy Nelson is the greatest wide receiver of the modern era whose skin also happens to be white. That’s great, but stereotyping Nelson as a white receiver is not a just credit to his talents. Nelson has been one of the very best receivers in football for the better part of the last 4 seasons. He led the league in touchdown receptions in 2011. He struggled with injury in 2012 but set a career highs with 85 receptions for 1,314 yards a season ago. He’s on pace to shatter those personal bests this season.
Not only is Nelson a fantastic receiver, he’s also always been a deep threat. Since 2010, his season long catches have been for 80, 93, 73, 76, and this season 80 yards. Nelson has been a reliable deep threat for Green Bay since entering the league and that is largely due to his natural, god given, freakish straight line speed.
Nelson has been Pro Football Focus’ number 2 ranked wide receiver in the league both of the last two seasons. In 2013, Nelson fell behind only Julian Edelman and Edide Royal in bringing in 70.8% of his targets, despite playing half the season with the likes of Matt Flynn, Seneca Wallace and Scoots Tolzien. Since 2011, Rodgers has a passer rating of 143.9 when targeting Nelson, which is, you know, insane. Pro Football Focus’s ratings are based off of an individuals performance in his own personal matchup, play after play after play. It has nothing to do with Nelson playing with an all-time great QB like Aaron Rodgers.
The argument that Nelson is not a top 10 wide receiver is now comical. The fact that he has zero career Pro Bowls is also just as comical. I’m not going to make the argument that he’s the best receiver in the league because I don’t think that’s probably true. What he is is one of the best 5 or 6 wide receivers in the NFL every single Sunday. And that’s WIDE receiver not just WHITE receiver.