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Bright Lights and High Stakes Don't Phase Jared Cook in First Playoff Trip

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Bright Lights and High Stakes Don't Phase Jared Cook in First Playoff Trip

If there were ever one true mouthpiece to speak of a playoff drought, you likely wouldn't find it on the Packers sideline.

Until tight end Jared Cook came to Green Bay and bolstered the team's passing attack, giving quarterback Aaron Rodgers weaponry he hadn't been equipped with since the days of Jermichael Finley. 

Cook spent four years of his seven-year career in Tennesse and three in St. Louis, making the transition from the Titans to the Rams in 2013. He knew all about sub-optimal quarterback play, but little about postseason experience.

Now with the Packers, he earned his first berth in the playoffs as a 29-year old in his first season catching darts from the generational talent of Rodgers. He didn't mince words when questioned about the significance of this playoff trip a day following the Packers beat the Lions in Detroit to capture their fifth NFC North crown in six years.

Was it rewarding for Cook?

"Absolutely," Cook chuckled. "It's a little different because a lot of guys in this room have been there before. To them, this is minuscule compared to the overall picture — which it should be. We know the overall goal of which we're trying to reach."

The bright lights and high stakes didn't phase Cook against the Giants. A game in which he caught five of his nine targets for 48 yards en route to a playoff win at Lambeau Field. He also created a handful of separation down the left sideline on the Packers' first possession, only to have the pass be slightly underthrown. Otherwise, his box score may have been something far more extravagant. 

The following week in Dallas, however, is where Cook really shined and became the crucial playmaker the Packers needed.

It was just his second 100-yard game of the season in his second career playoff game. In Jerry's World, every fan packing AT&T Stadium saw Cook isolated in the end zone on a bootleg that led to Rodgers hitting him on target from three yards out. They saw another deep left sideline throw on a "go" route to Cook on the Packers' second drive — incomplete. 

But with 12 seconds left, the entire arena and roughly 62.4 million viewers across the world saw the Rodgers and Cook connection down the left sideline for 35 yards. A throw that would go down as one of the best in playoff history and a couple of field goal kicks that would send the Packers into the NFC Championship for the first time since 2014. Had it not been for the incredible throw rolling to his left, or for Cook being able to drag his feet towards the chalk and simultaneously make the catch, overtime may have been looming at the culmination of regulation.

The Green Bay Packers and overtime don't mix very well.

Cook's six-catch, 103-yard (and one touchdown) performance on Sunday would almost make you believe he's been there before. Despite only playing in 10 games this season and starting five of them behind fellow tight end Richard Rodgers — the owner of the team's first passing touchdown in Dallas, Cook never blinked.

Of course, "Big-time games," and "Big-time players" is why Cook game to Green Bay in the first place. Forget being a 6'5" tight end that can vertically stretch the field and provide another outlet for receivers to get open in the event of an injury to Jordy Nelson. Cook wants to win, and that's no secret.

Now, the bigger picture is coming into play.

"Words can't describe it," Cook said of the team's trip to the NFC title game. "It's been eight years just to get this far. I can't even put it in words, it's pretty awesome."

Heavy skeptics were everywhere to be found when the Packers first signed Cook in March when the team was rumored to be going after Martellus Bennett, Ladarius Green and Coby Fleener. Instead, general manager Ted Thompson and co. took their own approach rather than breaking the bank. 

They brought in Cook on a one-year contract worth $2.7 million with $825,000 guaranteed. It didn't bode over well considering Cook's history with not having the most reliable of hands. 

Cook had six drops with the Rams in 2013, five in 2014 and four in 2015. Since coming to Green Bay, he registered just two all season with a minimum of 51 targets — his fewest since 2010. His two drops were also his fewest since the 2011 season and he had his highest catch percentage (58.8) since 2013. 

His streak in the playoffs and cluster of substantial plays made in the regular season may be enough to net Cook a new deal in 2017, but right now, his focus is on completing the running of the table. Something the Packers as a whole have been focused on since November 23rd when Rodgers first proclaimed that they can do it. From 4-6 to the NFC Championship; it's something straight out of Hollywood.

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (15) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Razer's picture

Good on Cook for seizing the opportunity to play with a great QB and be part of a good organization. And good on TT for finding the perfect fit for the Packers.

Overall, this offense has finally found out how to use TEs and they are returning the results. I'll even give Richard Rogers credit for stepping up his game. The TEs made up the difference lost with the injury to Jordy Nelson. Great teamwork all around.

Nick Perry's picture

I'm not so sure it was the offense that needed "To find out how to use a TE" as much as it was TT finally getting one McCarthy could work with. Lets face it, Richard Rodgers is a nice option in the Red Zone or a TE who can get an occasional 1st down, but a field stretching or seam busting TE he's not .

I like Richard Rodgers, he's got probably the best hands on the team other than Nelson. Cook just adds that element to the offense McCarthy spoke about last year at the end of the season in his press conference. He wanted a big, fast TE to run down the middle of the field. Cook fits that mold.

I could see Thompson signing Cook to a 2 maybe 3 year deal and hopefully drafting a guy like Jordan Leggett from Clemson. I could also see Thompson letting him walk if he asks for a year to many or a few dollars to much. You never know with Ted.

Nick Perry's picture

Be nice if Leggett dropped to the 3rd round, I really like him. I haven't really started looking at the draft yet, but I like him. Howard will go to early and the Packers don't need to spend a 1st round pick on a TE. Plus I doubt TT would, not with needs at OLB and CB. Also would surprise me a bit if Ted goes for a WR in say the 2nd or 3rd round since he's always thinking ahead (Jordy getting older).

I think you're probably right about Cook..."Why would he want to leave"? But you never know with some of these players, though I think Cook really WANTS to stay.

pooch's picture

Ted Thompson ?? Give me a break Mike M had to go public on the need for a big tight end.He should picked up Vernon Davis and Cook without Mc going public

Bert's picture

Bottom line is that Ted went out and signed Cook not MM. I've been critical of Ted for not pursuing a few more low to mid-priced FAs to add experience to the roster. But he signed a "difference maker" in Cook at a very reasonable price. Gotta give credit where credit is due.

pooch's picture

Well i guess is not a g.m. so he cant go out and sign players

pooch's picture

Mike is not a g.m.

RCPackerFan's picture

Its amazing what a great QB can do for a player. Or even what Porous QB's does to a player...

Cook finally has a QB and supporting cast to shine. And he has done just that.

When the Packers signed Cook I was very happy about the signing. He brought something the Packers haven't had at TE since Finley left. A big fast athletic TE that can be a mismatch.

He has done just that. Since coming back from his ankle injury that robbed him most of the year, he has really helped turned the offense around. His presence is felt not only when he is thrown to but also when he isn't. When he is on the field he draws the attention of Safety's and other players which creates opening for the other WR's to work.

Signing Cook was a great move by Thompson. Hopefully Thompson (or whoever the GM is this offseason) will make resigning Cook a priority.

Razer's picture

... Hopefully Thompson (or whoever the GM is this offseason) will make resigning Cook a priority...

What do you know?

RCPackerFan's picture

I know that Wolf and Gutekunst are having 2nd interviews with the 49ers.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I hope Cook/Peppers have a good speech for the young players about what this opportunity means. It may never come again for some of them.

stockholder's picture

How many TE's had this team gone through! Somebody carried dumbbells. Players should not be compared to anybody! This team lacked speed at TE. Not Hands. Farve made the most of Jackson and Chewie. A-Rod is not Farve. Cook is not Finley. (Finley was a Find. ) There is no telling how long these players can stretch a defense. TT should have done better for A-Rod, and this offense. If history teaches anything the better player is always worth trading up for. TTs drafting shows to much investment in a pipe dream. The better player always catches on first. Much like Peppers and Cook have proven.

stockholder's picture

Rambling/ Rodgers is not in the Hall of Fame dude! A-Rod has done well. But until that 2nd ring goes on, he is not. Lot of stats to go yet. For your history on 2 players. Yes Chance! But how many extra picks made it for TT? He made up for his shortness by getting Cook, Peppers ,and woodson. TT did trade up for Mathews. But TT made the biggest mistake by wasting A-Rods window. Of course you don't know the meaning of dynasty. Champions! Pack it where the sun doesn't shine..

Savage57's picture

FinMe was a fraud, not a find, and both of the TE's you reference as benchmarks had average speed.

If you'd research FinMe's career stats, you'd realize he was a middling TE at best, and that's probably being generous.

The greatest plays he ever made occurred in the 6 inches between his ears.

Handsback's picture

Cook is a player that teased for years before he got the opportunity to play with a great QB. He's become a better player and now a real threat in the playoffs. He doesn't have the body control of the great ones, but his speed and size make him a weapon that Green Bay will need against the Falcons.

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