You know that NORAD Santa Tracker that goes off every Christmas? The one where you can actually see Santa circumnavigating the world on his annual trek to deliver gifts to every girl and boy?
News coming out of Peterson Air Force Base is they are now constructing a NORAD Ted Thompson Tracker, that will follow Thompson on his journey to apologize to every Packer fan in the world for not playing Aaron Rodgers this week.
You certainly get the impression that Packer Nation believes they are owed such an explanation, given the wailing and gnashing of teeth that arose across the Twitterverse on Wednesday when head coach explained it in typical McCarthy-ese (using the term “organization” nine times).
Even sitting down to enjoy the Christmas “Let Me Be Frank” production at the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay yesterday, the cast slipped in an Aaron Rodgers reference, an answer to what the most terrible news the little elves could ever possibly hear over the holidays. It earned a well-deserved laugh that seemed to repeat, as the audience got the joke, then got the joke again, then got it one more time.
But, let’s be clear. For any Packer fans out there entertaining thoughts that Aaron Rodgers is going to play again this season, your chances of being correct are slim and none.
“But he’s the starter!”
So are Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb.
“He’s getting paid a lot of money!”
Yep. A ton. A salary-cap choking amount, too. Would hate to be on the hook for a pro-rated amount and not have a top-flight starting quarterback.
“Brett Favre would have played.”
Maybe. But that was a different time, when players went back in to the game with a concussion.
“But he spent all week with the first-team offense!”
Did you ever stop to think that they weren’t just evaluating Rodgers? They were also evaluating how well the present first-teamers would keep Rodgers healthy and upright, particularly the offensive line.
Look, if the Packers are playing in essentially what might be a play-in playoff game next week, maybe they’ll evaluate. But I think the decision to shut Rodgers down was made a few weeks ago. You know, when we all were saying to shut him down for the season because the Packers were plummeting out of the playoff race. Hard to go back on that decision because both the Lions and Bears elected to oblige us by sucking more than we have.
Making the playoffs is a tremendous carrot to dangle in front of the coaching staff and in front of Ted Thompson. But what will the Packers (or Bears, or Lions) be able to do with that playoff spot? Matt Flynn, now a newly minted folk hero in Green Bay in not even a handful of starts, is 2-1-1 in the last four games he’s played. However, the combined record of those opponents presently stand at 25-33-1, and the Steelers roll into town this afternoon sporting a 6-8 record.
As exciting as it might be, we have no idea how the Packers are going to do against the Seahawks or Saints. And if the Packers host a game, they would likely be hosting the Panthers or the 49ers, two teams that run a read-option offense that has has beguiled the Packers for years.
Exactly how much do you risk your multi-million dollar man to scrape out a win in this situation?
Ask Mike Shanahan.
Last season, Robert Griffin III burst onto the scene as the NFL’s most exciting and promising rookie quarterback. He impressed by snagging the NFL Rookie of the Year campaign, passing for 3,200 yards, all while posting a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. While hanging his hat on a 102.4 passer rating, he also rushed for 815 yards and seven touchdowns while leading the Redskins to the playoffs.
And then, the knee.
Htoli Ngata delivered the first blow that should have frozen Washington fans in their seats, hyperextending his knee and causing him to sit out in the season finale. But, like we are starting to feel right now in Green Bay, Hog Nation rose to demand that their starter play in the Wild Card game against Seattle.
It’s the playoffs. You have to play. This is the most important game in the world. How can you not WANT to play in this game???
Unfortunately for Griffin, two people agreed with those fans: head coach Shanahan and Griffin himself. Griffin proclaimed to the world his desire to play, saying, “I’m a warrior. I’m a beast. I do all these things, I can push through adversity.” Typical words from a 22 year-old kid who knows nothing of his own mortality, thinking he will be able to do what he does forever and nothing out there could stop him. While regrettable, it’s still forgivable.
Shanahan has no excuse, however. A veteran coach with two Super Bowl rings, he has to know exactly what situation his team was in. They were a 10-6 team and a long shot to make it all the way anyway…but nooooooo, we had to win this one wild card game.
The risk was foolish. A short-term advantage while risking the long-term promise of what might be a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback, especially one that relied so much on the knee that was already injured?
It was clear that Griffin was hobbling during that playoff game against Seattle, but the die was already cast. After Shanahan and Griffin himself declared they were in 100% and it would take an army to sit him down, it was just a matter of time before Griffin injured himself to the point where he’d have to be take out.
Now, instead of rehabbing a hyperextended knee over the offseason, RGIII is still recovering from a torn ACL and LCL. And yet, Shanahan still insisted on putting him in the starting lineup THIS season, only now to “bench him” after a miserably disappointing season in which it was clear this was not the Robert Griffin III of 2012.
Arrows are being slung with regularity in Washington nowadays, with Shanahan taking his share of them. But this once-beloved quarterback, who inspired an entire fan base by declaring (Favre-style) he’d play through any pain to win a game for them, is now a disappointment.
“Robert Griffin III isn’t teachable.”
“Robert Griffin III isn’t a team player.”
“Robert Griffin III was a victim of his own swagger and needed to be humbled.”
It’s the way football fans are, I guess. Last season, when he was passing and running his way to amazing victories, he was poised. He was wise beyond his years. He was worshipped and glorified.
But now, when he’s unable to perform at the level THEY EXPECTED HIM TO, he’s now a cocky, uncoachable, selfish player.
Mike Shanahan set Griffin up to fail. Period.
And now, despite so many of the same (though tempered) claims from Aaron Rodgers that he’s ready to play, and desperately wants to play, and Packer Nation WANTS HIM TO PLAY, the “organization” won’t let him. And the organization owes Packer Nation an explanation as to why.
Let’s just say that I’m glad that the Packers organization has a much longer memory than many of their fans, and that they know a good thing when they have it.
If the Packers are destined to win a Super Bowl this season, they’ll be doing it with Matt Flynn taking the bone-jarring hits from the turnstiles along the offensive line.
But how important is this game today? A 7-6-1 Packer team taking on a 6-8 Steeler team, a faint whisper of the Super Bowl matchup that took place in Dallas a few years ago?
Would you be happy knowing that, like RGIII, we valued the outcome of this game more than the long-term promise of a franchise quarterback? Would you look back on this game, as Washington fans must look back on that Seattle Wild Card game, and really think it was as important if the cost was Rodgers’ long-term health?
The “organization” might be unpopular right now, and if Rodgers comes back next season and picks up right where he left off, they might never get their redemption in the eyes of the fans waiting for Thompson to climb down their chimney with charts, graphs, and a fruit basket.
But that’s the point. The best decisions made are the ones that prevent terrible decisions from haunting you for the rest of your life.
Just ask Robert Griffin III about that.
C.D. Angeli is a lifelong Packer fan and feature writer at CheeseheadTV. He is the co-host of the weekly Packers podcast Cheesehead Radio and is the good cop running PackersTalk.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TundraVision.