Yes, beloved ex-Green Bay Packer John Kuhn scored 3 TDs for the New Orleans Saints this past Sunday. As with any number of Cheeseheads across the nation, seeing Kuhn out there doing his thing warmed my heart. It didn’t matter that he’d swapped his green and gold for black and gold. I found myself letting out the instinctive call of my people: KUUUUUUUUUUHN.
However, as fun as all of that was, the Packers Twitterverse loves any reason to complain. Immediately folks were tweeting about how obviously bone-headed the Packers were for not bringing Kuhn back this year. I mean, here he was scoring 3 TDs! What more evidence do you need?
Yes, it is true that Kuhn now has 4 TDs on the year for New Orleans, but the Packers didn’t let Kuhn walk because they were convinced that he had no gas left in the tank. The Packers let Kuhn walk because football is not anything like fantasy football. Kuhn’s success on another team does not translate in any direct way to his value to this team.
Last year, the Packers kept two fullbacks, veteran Kuhn and the rookie Aaron Ripkowski. Most teams do not even keep one fullback on the roster, but the Packers kept two because the fullback position is important in Mike McCarthy’s offense. Kuhn’s role would take time for the 22 year old Ripkowski to grow into.
With that being said, a replacement had to be made nonetheless. Coming into 2016, John Kuhn is now 34 years old. The Packers, not wanting to be caught with their pants down, needed to begin grooming someone before it was too late. Ripkowski fell to them in the draft, and they made the move to play for the future.
At cut-downs in 2016, the Packers struggled to pare down a roster that was bursting with talent. With Ripkowski seemingly ready to take on a bigger role in the offense, it simply didn’t make sense for the Packers to once again keep two fullbacks, especially with one them turning 34 before the season even began. It was a tough move for the fans to stomach and likely even tougher for Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy, having developed personal relationships with Kuhn in his nine seasons with the Packers. From a football standpoint, however, the decision was likely pretty easy.
It’s not as if Ripkowski has failed in his new role as starting fullback either. While Ripkowski might not be called upon to touch the ball as often as Kuhn was, Rip brings other talents to the table. He certainly has the potential to be a better, stronger run blocker, if he hasn’t already surpassed Kuhn in that department. And with the bruising Eddie Lacy, the Packers are not exactly hurting for a big body in short yardage situations.
So while it’s natural to cheer Kuhn on and hope that he has several more years ahead of him of punching TDs into the endzone, the fact of the matter is that whether or not he does has no bearing on the success of the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are a perennial playoff team because they draft and develop for the future. When older players like AJ Hawk lose a step, fans want Thompson to have already made a move. And yet, when Thompson does make a move, some fans will choose to complain if that older player finds any success after his departure. You can’t have it both ways.
Not everyone can be pleased, but you can ensure that your football team is constantly prepared for the future. The Packers have done that. Thompson and McCarthy have always looked forward with this team, and that is what has lead to its continued success. So while Kuhn scored something close to 20 fantasy points on Sunday, if you ask fans of the 1-4 New Orleans Saints whose roster they’d rather have, if they’re being honest, I’m sure that most will say Green Bay.
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.