There’s an interesting dichotomy to being an NFL team fan every year. Each season, you want your team to put itself in the best position to win a championship. But to do so, the team must make sacrifices, often getting rid of fan favorite players. This creates an interesting source of cognitive dissonance in the minds of fan: do you root for your team as a static entity or as the players that make up that team?
Last week, the Green Bay Packers allowed Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews to walk and sign with the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams, respectively. Most of us saw the departures coming. The Packers have a new general manager and head coach, and the team is getting younger and faster across the board. Both Cobb and Matthews suffered from injuries that sapped them of playtime and potential. All-in-all, moving on from these players was the right choice for the Green Bay Packers.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck to see them go.
Randall Cobb is one of my favorite Packers of the last decade. He was responsible for some of Aaron Rodgers most memorable plays and was a vital aspect of the otherworldly offenses of 2011 and 2014.
In 2011, in his first-ever NFL career game, Cobb put up a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. At the time, not only was it an NFL record, but more spectacularly, the play was against orders from coach Mike McCarthy.
Against the Giants in the Wildcard Round of the 2016 playoffs, Cobb was the recipient of another of Rodgers’ famous Hail Mary’s. This gave the Pack a nice lead going into halftime. Cobb also casually scored two more touchdowns in that game, because he’s a generous guy, and the Packers advanced to the Divisional Round.
Just last year, in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears, the stage was set for a magical comeback. Aaron Rodgers returned to the game after getting injured and threw three fourth-quarter touchdowns. The final nail in the coffin: a 75-yard touchdown by Randall Cobb, Bane of the Bears. The Packers won 24-23, and the game will go down in history as one of Rodgers’ finest.
Even among all of these other spectacular plays, my favorite catch of all time was against the Chicago Bears in Week 17 of 2013: “The Dagger.” The combination of Rodgers and Cobb both coming back from injuries and making playoffs after an overall disappointing season has always stuck with me, and the commentary was top tier.
Overall, Cobb finished his career as a Green Bay Packer with 470 receptions (sixth in team history), 5524 receiving yards, and 41 touchdowns. #18 was one of Rodgers’ favorite targets and was a player that gave his all every time he was on the field.
Cobb was not only a great player, but a man of great character, beloved by teammates, fans, and the state of Wisconsin. I don’t have insider knowledge, but the way Cobb is discussed and embraced by teammates is special, and Rodgers’ Instagram tribute to him is a sign of true friendship. Randall Cobb is a textbook example of what “Packers’ people” means.
Alas, Cobb’s production was robbed by injuries and he lost much of his quick step that made him such a threat in the slot. It makes sense that the Packers chose to move on, and I think all of us know that. The goal of everyone in the building at 1265 Lombardi is to win championships, and that means making tough decisions. Fan favorites won’t be around forever, and football is a ruthless business. But I don’t think it’s being stuck in nostalgia or being afraid to move on to say we’ll miss players like Randall Cobb. We can acknowledge it was the right decision while still being sad about it.
Being a fan of the Green Bay Packers means being a fan of the intangible idea of the Green Bay Packers, but the players are what makes that idea a reality. As excited as I am to see where Brain Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur can take this franchise, I’ll always appreciate the players that got us to this point.
Thank you, #18.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.