The Simpson have gotten a lot right in their 34 years on TV, but one of their most prescient points came in the Hank Scorpio episode, in which, upon moving to a new town, Bart Simpson’s wisecracking finally catches up with him and gets him booted from his new school’s general population, and relegated to the “Leg Up” remedial class. Surrounded by circles of paper and safety pencils, and frustrated with the simplistic lessons being offered, Bart questions his new teacher on how these students are expected to “catch up” to the regular students while being taught at a far slower pace. The teacher has no answer. After last Thursday’s stunning Davante Adams trade, I feel like Bart asking my school teacher (Brian Gutekunst) how in the hell we are supposed to catch up to the other students (NFC contenders) by getting worse. I would expect Brian’s answer to echo that of Bart’s teacher. But I can speak more freely than Mr. Gutekunst can, and, quite honestly, there is simply no replacing Davante Adams.
In last week’s article I posited the idea of trading a few picks to Seattle to procure the talents of their musclebound behemoth DK Metcalf, the massive push that could finally propel Green Bay over this NFC Championship Game hump we eternally find ourselves high-centered on. Little did I know that seven short days later I would praying for this hypothetical trade to go through, but, instead of Metcalf complimenting Davante Adams prodigious talents, he would be replacing them. Not ideal. Over the last several days, I have seen a great number of Packers pundits peddling ridiculous comparisons to teams of Green Bay yore, while seemingly failing to acknowledge the massive elephant sitting on their living room coffee table–This isn’t the past. This is right now. And, previous NFL landscapes have almost nothing in common with the iteration of the league in which the 2022 Green Bay Packers must compete. A popular notion in the aftermath of this ground-leveling Adams trade points to Green Bay’s improbable run to the NFC Championship game in 1995, the year after the Packers legendary receiver Sterling Sharpe retired, a year in which Green Bay coped with this catastrophic loss by doubling down on their defensive unit. An obviously allusion to the path the 2022 Packers may soon travel. What this argument leaves out is the fact that the 1995 Packers squad still had Antonio Freeman, Robert Brooks, and Mark Chmura to soften the blow of Sharpe’s departure. Now, I like Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, and Robert Tonyan, but the mere suggestion that any of these players currently are passable doppelgangers for Freeman, Brooks, and Chmura should be grounds to have your driver’s license removed because you clearly lack the sound decision making and reasoned judgement necessary to be trusted behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Another argument that has been making the rounds on the Bird App recently is the belief that Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur will just “figure it out”. Aaron Rodgers is the most talented quarterback I have bore witness to in my four decades on this Godforsaken rock. He has made chicken salad out of chicken excrement more times than I can count. He has also had the good fortune of taking the field with a coterie of the best receivers the NFL has had to offer over the last decade and a half. From Greg Jennings to Jordy Nelson to Randall Cobb to Davante Adams, while Rodgers hasn’t always been spoiled with the greatest depth at wide receiver, he has certainly been blessed with at least one prodigious, Hall of Fame level pass catcher each season. Sure, the Packers could draft a receiver in the first round of this April’s draft, but Rodgers is notorious for being pretty rough on rookie receivers (just ask Adams himself), and, while there have certainly been outliers over the last several years as NFL offenses have become more user friendly, rookie receivers tend to take a little more feet-wetting than most other positions before becoming game ready.
Same argument holds true for Matt LaFleur. Every stop on Matt LaFleur’s path to the Green Bay has been dotted by two things–Eye brow tweezers and top shelf receiving talent. This will be the truest test of LaFleur’s offensive acumen. Do I trust that these two wunderkinds can get in the kitchen and cook up some stop gap measures this year to nickel and dime the Packers to a competent offense? Absolutely. Do I think these two prodigious talents can mitigate the loss of 100 plus catches and 150 premium targets? No. Don’t be ridiculous.
The third and most prevalent argument amongst shell-shocked Packers fans this week has been the fact that Green Bay is 6-0 without Davante Adams under LaFleur’s reign. That’s a cool stat, right? A fun fact to throw at your buddies after tipping back a couple Frampaars at Ned Kelly’s on a Friday night? Start pulling this stat’s loose knits though, and this argument falls apart like an Old Navy sweater. For instance, three of these six games were played against historically bad passing defenses (2020 vs Atlanta, 2019 vs Detroit, and 2019 vs Oakland). These passing defenses weren’t just bad–they were the suckiest sucks that have ever sucked. Another of these games was against New Orleans in 2020. Fun fact about this game–New Orleans was missing it’s top three receiving options in that showdown. Another fun fact about that game–Drew Brees played the entire game without his right arm. True story. Drew Brees’ right arm fell off of his body in the spring of 2020 (probably covid related), and he played the entire 2020 season with a painted on arm like one of the toy soldiers in The Santa Clause 2. The only win amongst these half dozen that was worth a damn was last season’s showdown in Arizona against the Cardinals. And, were it not for Rasul Douglas’ last second heroics, that game would have been a loss. One last tidbit about these six games–Four of the teams we beat missed the playoffs. The other two failed to win a single playoff game. It’s not like we were beating the 2007 New England Patriots without Adams. 6-0, though! An awesomely misleading stat!
One thing I have not seen mentioned in the ensuing aftermath of Adams departure is this–Of the 24 teams to make it to the divisional round of the playoffs over the last three years, only 1 has done so without a Pro Football Focus Top 25 rated receiver. That team–The Baltimore Ravens. Twice. The bad news–The Packers don’t have anything even approaching a Top 25 receiving option. In all honesty, they don’t have anything truly approaching a Top 50 receiving option. The Adams trade leaves the Packers receiving cupboard bare. Actually, that is being too kind. Our current receiving options are more akin to an empty space on the wall where a cupboard once sat, an area that you have been too lazy to paint over and now are left with a discolored mess that you have sheepishly tried to cover with a cheap clock, but the clock doesn’t quite cover the abomination completely, and now everyone that comes over to your house quietly judges you because of it. A short run down of all the receivers currently on the Packers roster–Randall Cobb, a guy who is only in the league because he is best friends with Aaron Rodgers. Amari Rodgers, a guy who is only in the league because his dad is Tee Martin. And Allen Lazard, who is a competent third option on a good team, but has not shown the chops to be a player you could build your offense around. Could we trade for somebody? Tyler Lockett? Diontae Johnson? The aforementioned DK Metcalf? Sure! Will we? I doubt it. Quick–Name me the last big trade, besides giving up Adams for 75 cents on the dollar, the the Packers front office has made? Waiting. Waiting. Still waiting. The Packers are not the type to make splashy trades. They are Toyota Camry drivers. Not Tesla owners.
Maybe Green Bay could add a starter in the draft? Ok. The last time the Packers drafted a wide receiver in the first round, Aaron Rodgers was just enrolling at Butte College. And Aaron Rodgers fiancee was just enrolling in fifth grade! Spending premium draft capital on receivers is just not something Green Bay does. And, judging by league averages, your chances of landing a rookie who is ready to start in their first season is roughly a 50/50 proposition. Drafting a receiver who turns into a bonafide star as a rookie? That’s about a 5% chance. Hell, Davante Adams is quite possibly the best receiver in Packers history, and it took him two full years to turn from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly.
I have no doubt Green Bay is going to draft a receiver in the first two rounds of this year’s draft. They may even draft two. The harsh reality of our current “All In” approach is, with a 38 year old quarterback, and a huge salary cap balloon payment coming in the next 12-24 months, the Packers don’t have time to wait for some greenhorn’s balls to drop (horrible analogy when you are talking about receivers!). For every JaMarr Chase there are 4 Jaelen Raegors. That’s what makes last week’s trade so hard to swallow. And, why I feel our front office baffling got outfoxed by the adult version of the kid from Problem Child. I get Adams wanting to go play with his BFF. I get Adams wanting to play closer to home. But, this idea that Davante limiting his options to just the Las Vegas Raiders negatively affecting the trade package we could request is a false narrative. The Raiders weren’t going to balk at the Packers requesting Darren Waller or Hunter Renfrow to be shipped back in return. They were getting the best receiver in football, for Hell’s sakes. They weren’t negotiating from a position of power–the Packers were. You don’t sell your house for a 30% discount just because the prospective buyer grew up in the neighborhood. Just look at the Laremy Tunstil, Jamal Adams, and Jalen Ramsey trades as reference points. Players at the peak of their position, especially at a position as premium as wide receiver, should cost an arm and a leg. The Packers got back a foot and a few fingers. Had we received a first round pick and Waller or Renfrow, I would still be apoplectic, but I could see the reasoning. A first and a second? And not even a top 15 pick, at that? <Insert Biz Markie “C’mon” gif here> Hell, the Kansas City Chiefs just traded Tyreke Hill for five draft picks. FIVE!!! Maybe that is why Green Bay doesn’t trade very often–they don’t seem to be great at it.
So, here we are again, taking half measures. All foreplay. No thrusting. The new Packer way. In the Simpsons episode I referenced earlier, Homer finds great success working for Hank Scorpio. Money. Power. Respect. A town with 4 hammock stores. He has it all. Yet, his family is miserable. So, Homer acquiesces to his family’s wishes and moves them back home to Springfield, back to their comfortable rut. And, Hank Scorpio buys Homer the Denver Broncos as a thank you for his help (Homer’s dream is to own the Dallas Cowboys). As Homer turns his back on the disappointing gift, the camera pans to the newspaper on the Simpsons doorstep. The headline reads “Scorpio Takes Over the Eastern Seaboard”. It takes guts to rule the world. It takes brass balls. If they ever make another Simpsons movie, maybe Brian Gutekunst can voice Homer Simpson. And Les Snead can voice Hank Scorpio.
Timothy Preece has been a Packers fan since 1991 and currently lives in Utah because he makes bad decisions. You can follow him on twitter at @LegitimateTimP.