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No One Wants To Be "That Guy"

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No One Wants To Be "That Guy"

No one wants to be that guy.  No, not just that guy.  That Guy.  The one that is expendable.  The one that you can live without.  The one you’re better off than when you had him.

No, not like Ahmad Carroll.  We knew we were better off without him shortly after he was drafted.  We never attached to Carroll, or thought we needed him in order to be successful.  He wasn’t That Guy.

That Guy is the one who believes he’s the epicenter of the team, the one that is the glue that keeps everything together.  He’s the one that has the stats to back it up, and manages to make his teammates, his fans, and sometimes, even his coaches believe that he actually is so integral to the success of the team, you can put up with nearly any crap he might dish out, because the thought of losing him is that frightening.

Sterling Sharpe was That Guy once.  Through sheer will and ego, Packer fans, his teammates, and even his coaches thought that he was indispensable to the Packers’ success in the early 1990’s.  Sharpe was a force of nature.  He was larger than life on the field, a demanding presence in the huddle, and a stubborn man who refused to play any public relations with the press.  He caught 90+ passes a year and was a very young Brett Favre’s security blanket, even if he wasn’t open.  He was still coming back to the huddle and demanding the next pass be thrown his way.

When Sharpe was forced to retire in 1994 due to a neck injury, everybody wrote off the Packers in 1995.  Sharpe was too integral to the offense, and any improvements that Favre made in his formative years would be lost as he would spend the season throwing to nobodies.  But those “nobodies”—Robert Brooks, Anthony Morgan, Mark Ingram, Mark Chmura, and Keith Jackson—opened up that Packer offense and skyrocketed the one-time interception machine and gunslinger into a league MVP.

The Packers went deeper into the playoffs that year than they had ever gone with Sharpe.  And when ESPN did a piece on the postseason Packers, they found Brooks, Favre, Bennett...all the players  talking about what a great environment they’ve thrived in without Sharpe’s ego hanging over them, how Favre enjoyed success passing to a receiving corp that worried more about who was open than individual statistics. They, they borderline mocked...Sharpe’s me-first attitude and how his departure opened up the team’s fortunes to new heights.

And then, Chris Berman cut to a response from an ESPN personality, who had been a wide receiver for the Packers the previous season before having his career cut short by a neck injury. was That Guy.

You could see the emotions across his face, in his body language...furious at the laughter at his expense, now powerless to exert his ego and convince them once again that his 112 receptions were the only thing keeping the team afloat.

This week, we may have seen a glimpse of That Guy again, a departure that isn’t particularly missed by the people left behind.  In a piece written for the Green Bay Press-Gazette about the new, young linebackers, Todd McMahon gives us some insight as to what the locker room has been like, and how it has changed.

"It's really like a library right now," starter Desmond Bishop said Wednesday, after the Packers held their final practice of the week before tonight's exhibition game at Indianapolis.

The release of Barnett, in particular, meant the end of a prolific but injury-marred run of eight years in Green Bay for the team's 2003 first-round draft pick, who also had a reputation for being one of its more vocal players. If he wasn't turning up the music in the locker room, Barnett would chatter away about any number of topics in the more confined meeting rooms.

"It's different not having Nick in the (position) room," inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said this week. "Nick was a piece of work. So, it's a quiet room this year. That's a relief."

It hasn’t been that long since Nick Barnett roamed the middle of our defense, calling the defensive adjustments and doing that Samurai dance after making a play.  Barnett was always the over-the-top one, selling  himself as the emotional leader.  Just a few years ago, he took some flack for doing his celebration dance in the middle of a rather joyless loss  to the Bengals.  Not surprising, he took his indignation to Twitter, resulting in the first of many self-imposed suspensions from the social networking platform.

This became a rather familiar sight over the past few years.  There always seemed to be a bit of controversy following Barnett, whether it was the ongoing issues with his Five-Six  Ultra nightclub in downtown Green Bay, losing its license (then closing for good) following numerous police calls and battles with the city.  Or, it could have been his arrest in 2007 at a different Green Bay night club due to an alleged altercation he was  involved in.  And, of course, this past February, his public petition to be included in the team Super Bowl pictures devolved into a public pissing match with Aaron Rodgers (and approximately his sixth self-imposed permanent Twitter ban).

Reading the comments from Moss, as well as divining what we know from his history, it’s not too difficult to see that Barnett’s departure may not only have been palatable by those within the organization, it may have been welcomed.

Barnett was a product of a different team, one of the last remnants of a regime long since vanished from Green Bay.  That team featured perhaps one of the hugest megawatt egos at quarterback, a kicker that publicly threw his holders under the bus, cornerbacks and wide receivers that refused to come back and play for their team, and a head coach, Mike Sherman, who seemed hesitant to rein all of these egos in.

This isn’t meant to say that a team full of egos can’t win in the NFL (see:  1990’s Dallas Cowboys).  Heck, Sherman’s regular season record is still mere thousandths of percentage points away from Mike McCarthy’s (though, I think we can all agree without looking up the statistics that the playoff records are nowhere near close).

But this is a different regime where large egos are merely tolerated at best, and jettisoned when possible.  The Thompson/McCarthy Era of “Packer People” was once believed to be a term that applied to the moral fiber of a player, but it is becoming more and more clear it defines the style of player this Packer team values, exactly what Desmond Bishop described:  students of the game who check their egos (and distractions) at the door.

There isn’t a player on the roster who has more justification to become an arrogant, egotistical jerk that might place his own fortunes ahead of the team than Aaron Rodgers, a Super Bowl MVP who has vaulted into NFL superstardom.  Yet he remains the affable, team-oriented everyman who continues to dress with his teammates in the main locker room.  No doubt, he learned from watching the titanic hubris of Favre lead to a meltdown he wants no part of in his career.

Barnett was one of the holdovers from that Sherman regime that saw veterans on the downslide or demanding  disproportionate salaries quickly shed in the new Packer order.  In 2007, Thompson chose to resign Barnett to a lucrative contract, perhaps in part to the belief that Thompson’s pick to replace Barnett, Abdul Hodge, wasn’t panning out.  You might also wonder if Barnett’s time in Green Bay was extended when Dom Capers arrived in 2009 with the 3-4 defense, adding to the need for another starting-caliber middle linebacker.

But of all the injuries the Packers suffered last year, none were more easily replaced than Barnett, and was in fact improved upon by Bishop.  Suddenly, the expensive, no-filter tweeter who disrupted meetings and the locker room was expendable.

And according to Moss and Bishop, the Packers feel like they came out ahead on the deal.  Addition by subtraction.  Yes, like Sterling Sharpe, Nick Barnett has become That Guy.

What lessons might we take from this fable?  Over the last few days on Twitter, I’ve heard multiple people complain that tight end Jermichael Finley hasn’t been his usual, filterless Twitter-self.  Fans miss his tweet-first, think-later daily monologues that sometimes landed him in hot water.

I say Jermichael Finley, who is in a contract year, doesn’t want to become That Guy.  Smart man.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (53) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Anthony's picture

Great article, tells a bit of history and a lot of things I never knew. When you were talking about "That guy" at the beginning, I THOUGHT you were going to say that Finley would be since he's been so confident recently (which is often wrongly defined as cockiness).

maxginsberg's picture

Perfect definition of "Packer People." Well done, C.D.

Bearmeat's picture

You know, I've been thinking of that term "Packer People" as it applies to Johnny Jolly. Goodell did NOT suspend Talib and Britt for the off field incidents they were in over the offseason.

So now I'm wondering what he'll do with Jolly. It seems a precedent has been set to not punish players for incidents during the lockout. IF he does reinstate Johnny, do the Packers take back "a quiet, good teammate" at a position of need, and in the meantime, put to bed the term "Packer People" OR do they cut him, watch a rival pick him up, and suffer for it?

maxginsberg's picture

I think Ted will do his "due diligence" on Jolly. ;)

Bearmeat's picture

What does that mean? Is that code for "we're bringing him back in?" Or for "He gone!"

Tommyboy's picture

I don't think there'd be much suffering. Besides, Jolly's been picked up for purple drank about a million times now, and this last time it was with the intent to distribute. This isn't just a fight at a nightclub, these are felonies. I'm not too sure Jolly's going to get out of his legal troubles within his playing careers time frame anyway.

Ruppert's picture

Great piece.

PackfanfromIL's picture

Good article, I enjoyed reading.

SpartaChris's picture

Awesome piece, CD. Hit the nail on the head too. It's no secret our linebackers improved dramatically with the loss of Barnett. Perfect example of addition by subtraction. And he sealed his fate the moment he became a distraction by taking to twitter to air his grievance about the Super Bowl photo, rather than go to his teammates.

I wish him luck and success in Buffalo, but I'm glad he's not a Packer anymore.

lebowski's picture

That whole Mike Sherman era just never felt right, thank God it's in the rear view mirror. Great article.

Oppy's picture

Rodgers was once asked why he hold his media interviews at his locker in the locker room as opposed to holding weekly press conferences in the conference room like his predecessor did.

He responded something to the affect that he hasn't even won a play off game yet, he hasn't achieved anything in this game yet, that it wasn't his style, and that perhaps he'd think about it after they won a super bowl.

Guess Aaron thought about it and decided that's a bunch of primadonna baloney.

Gotta love this kid. What a great guy to lead your team.

Jeremy's picture

I'm wondering if Favre needs to be included on this list with Barnett and Sharpe.

CD Angeli's picture

Favre might be the epitome of That Guy, but I do believe he actually creates his own separate category given all that went down. And, I steer away from writing articles featuring Brett. He's gotten enough attention already.

Jeremy's picture

He certainly has. I don't blame you for steering clear.

Dougie Smooth's picture

Great column, C.D. Just great. As a Packers news junkie, rarely do I read something and say to myself "I did not know that." What the crowded Packers beat needs is more color, just like this.

Brian's picture

Great article! Makes me wonder if Finley will fall into "That Guy" and if that is a part of the reason TT has drafted 2 TEs this year.

Idiot Fan's picture

Exactly what I was thinking throughout the whole article.

Oppy's picture

I don't see either TE which was drafted (Williams, Taylor) as being anything close to the type of TE that Finley is- they are not tall, lean, althletic, WR-TE hybrids like Finley.

Williams, while having great hands, is not nearly as fast and nowhere near the stature of Finley. Taylor is as close to a classic in-line TE as we have on the roster, although he has good hands as well.

If TT had drafted two more TE's in the mold of Finley or Quarless (Who is basically a Finley clone, for the record), I would be more apt to think that was TT's reasoning on drafting two more TE's.

Dougie Smooth's picture

Agree with Oppy. To view Finley as a TE isn't even the proper context for comparison. He's a TE/WR. Which is why I think they keep 5 TE before they keep 6 WR this year. Who knows, maybe MM decides to run spread no huddle all year and keeps an extra of each...

MarkinMadison's picture

Well, I don't think that's really the point. There is no doubt that as an individual Sterling Sharpe was a better player than all of those other guys. But Robert Brooks didn't replace him, the receiving corps as a whole did. So the question with Finley is can you get more production from the offense without "that guy?" We may have to find out.

Idiot Fan's picture

Exactly. We definitely don't have another Finley on the roster in terms of talent. The question is, will his personality turn him into THAT GUY? Tough to say. The fact that we already won without him may help him keep his ego in check.

Christine Nelson's picture

Great insight, great article. The Packers truly are a "team" and consider themselves as one. I look forward to reading more of you articles. You've got yourself a new fan. Living in Northern Minnesota I appreciate finding good articles to find on the Packers.
How can you not love them?!
Thanks again for the great article.

bryce's picture

Good piece. I loved Sharpe as a kid, but he was a ball-hog. I didn't realize that at age 8 though. Saying that Bishop is better than Barnett might be a little over the top, however. Hopefully it proves true very soon, but I don't know if we're there yet.

CD Angeli's picture

My response to that would be that if you can't measure a difference in play on the field, Moss's comments should register as a significant difference in the locker room. I think Bishop is a little more physical and more of what a traditional 3-4 MLB requires. Barnett was kind of a square peg in a round hole in the 3-4. And (knock on wood), Bishop has certainly been healthier.

Majik Man's picture

Your first few comments are exactly akin to what I wanted to add. Great piece, great read, and I, too, was a huge Sterling Sharpe fan as a kid. Like you said, you don't think about the "ball hog" dynamics when you're that young. I was hooked on the Packers with Majkowski's game winning pass to Sharpe against Chicago, and was at the game when he first broke Art Monk's record. Ah, growing old and the things you learn...

channel Don Hutson's picture

In a list of inflated egos whose contribution to the team was greater in his mind than on the field, does Brett belong?

I hope J-Mike is emotionally evolving, perceiving your human frailty with a major injury and rehab can accelerate that. Real greatness is a team thing and J-Mike can be a great part of a great Packer team.

By the way Holmgren probably belongs on this "That Guy" list too. Even if it took till the TT and MM years to recover.

Drizzle's picture

I have to agree with Sparta.. the day I, as a fan, decided we really would be better off ithout Barnett was when he went public with the Superbowl picture thong like he did... and I AGREED with him.
Wrong time/wrong way.

I decided Sharpe was that guy after his show popped up on NFLNet and he compared Larry Fitz film to... his film. Wow.

Brett probably does belong but the difference is Brett was indespensible and unreplaceable at one time just as Rodgers appears to be right now. He wasn't when he finally bolted but he was in 95-99 or so. Javon Walker is WAY more That Guy than Brett though.

Great read man. Loved it.

PackersRS's picture

Sterling Sharpe was a better WR than Fitzgerald. Not just production, he was the physical presence and incredible hands of Fitzgerald with better agility.

Fitzgerald rarely gets separation from CBs, but he's just so physical and strong coming to the ball that you just throw his way. Sterling was like that, but he got open more often, and had breakaway speed.

Nerdmann's picture

I always thought Barnett was a little soft. He was one of only a few of Sherman's high draft choices that really panned out. But I didn't feel like he earned his spot. Sherman kind of anointed him as a "defensive leader" his rookie year. Dude also had a tantrum every time they asked him to move outside.
"The Darren Sharper of MLBs."

Oppy's picture

Barnett was a very good MLB in a 4-3 when you talk about on the field, physical performance.

I always found his "Leadership" to be very calculated and contrived.. He never seemed like a natural leader to me, it always came off as a big act, and one that I never bought into. I found it cheesy and frankly, embarrassing. I never thought of him as "Packer People", either, and I think my posts over the years will back up these statements.

Regardless of Sharpe being a ball hog or not, he was the best WR I have ever watched play outside of Jerry Rice, and that is not hyperbole.. Say what you will, he was simply amazing.

..And while most fans memory of Sharpe is tainted with images of him being a primadonna because he refused to talk to the media (Something I would do myself, quite honestly), the single thing I will always remember about Sterling Sharpe outside of his sheer dominance was his bright, ever-present smile peering out from his helmet whenever he was lined up on the field.

Had Sterling Sharpe not had the neck injury, he would have gone on to most likely challenge or break many of Rice's records, and would have been a first ballot HOF'er. I can not say that about Barnett without falling over laughing.

tundravision's picture

Gotta tell you...I was the biggest Sterling Sharpe fan ever. I think that's why this whole morality tale has stuck with me, because I spent so much time defending him, even after he was gone. I'm the last person you have to convince that he was extremely talented and a joy to watch...and a sure-fire Hall of Famer like his brother with perhaps a few more years and a Super Bowl ring.

CD Angeli's picture

Must say, I am truly humbled by the kudos from many of you on my piece. Thank you very, very much. Makes the time put into writing more than worth it.

packsmack25's picture

Another pat on the back from me. You're doing great work, CD.

Church42's picture

You mention "kicker who threw their holders under the bus". I presume you're referring to Longwell? My memory is likely hazy, but who did he throw under?

tundravision's picture

My memory fades a bit, too, but when Matt Hassleback left he really gave it to whomever was holding for him. Any miss seemed to fall on them.

Did find this from Vandermause last year: "Crosby has not complained or pointed fingers at anyone. Unlike former Packers kicker Ryan Longwell, who didn’t hesitate to throw his holder under the bus after missed kicks, Crosby has taken the high road. He is determined to work hard with his holders, regardless of who or how many. "

packsmack25's picture

Surprised no one mentioned this, but Bill Simmons calls this the "Ewing Theory."

PackersRS's picture

Of course, it was Sterling asking for the ball that hampered the Packers. It wasn't Favre's imaturity...

The guy ran every route with intensity and focus, despite always being injured. Never refused to block. Always produced despite a QB that forced every ball his way (tendency that would resurge in his later years, leading to several game ending interceptions in the playoffs).

The media thing has clouded many minds. He did that since high school, because of focus. He never talked to the media before games, and that led to the media chastising him, and then he retaliated by refusing to talk to them period.

But this notion that the team got better without Sterling is utterly absurd.

Ruppert's picture

I was 24 years old at the time, and I may well have cried when it was announced that Sterling had to retire because of his neck. I agree 100% that the two best WRs in the NFL from 1988-1994 were Jerry Rice and Sterling.
His media thing never bothered me one bit. But when he decided to withhold his services just days before the 1st regular season game until he got a new contract, well...let's just say I found that rather annoying.

The fact that Sharpe became "that guy" is a testament to the genius that is Ron Wolf for putting the rest of that team together. They got better in spite of the loss of a HOF-caliber WR, not because of it.

And Barnett's departure could be a lot worse if Ted Thompson wasn't finding guys like Erik Walden on the street.

PackersRS's picture

Very well said.

The holdout thing also bothered me, but after his career ending injury I fully understood it. He was injuried all the time, he knew he wasn't durable. He had to have his money then.

PkrNboro's picture

Something else to consider about those people, or players, called "That Guy": it may not be strictly ego; it could be medical.

Many of the characteristics you described also apply to someone suffering from mania. And when someone has mania, they don't suffer it quietly, or alone -- it affects everyone around them.

I worked with a guy who knew everything and had done everything. Constant chatter, reading anything aloud (email, books, manuals, newspaper), one-side conversations with anyone and everyone.

One day it was MUCH WORSE and I made an inquiry: he hadn't taken his "pills". I checked into the one with the odd name and discovered it was a POWERFUL "serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor". When I googled it, I found that when people missed ***a dose*** there were extreme, and unpleasant, side-effects.

I don't think I got a bit of work done the rest of the day. A guy had gone from "full of it", to something much more serious -- possibly suicidal, or violent. I wondered if the employer should know? If so, should the employer alert co-workers as to what might occur if medications weren't taken? Where does privacy end and workplace safety begin?

If you've not encountered anything like this, reading these words may seem like a load of crap. If you have experienced something like this -- then maybe you can understand how sad it is when an inexplicable and bizarre event resolves to a mental illness. It's hard to explain, but it's like the laws of the universe are thrown out the window: you can't trust anything you've taken at face-value in the past.

tundravision's picture

Yep, I've had experience, and there's no doubt that there are instances where I suspect some folks suffer from something, whether it be bipolarism, schizophrenia, or even just a good old fashioned ADHD (which if I am correct, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamilia admitted to having, which explained to his teammates why he was so talkative and asked so many questions (sometimes repetitively) in meetings).

And sometimes, they're just me-first jackwagons.

fishandcrane's picture

JJudge not, that ye be not judged.

Some 22- 28 year old professional football players will struggle to meet the standards of perfect behavior set by and followed by CheeseHeadTV commentators.

BC_Cab's picture

Excellent post. My only thought about "Packer People" is...why is Brandon Underwood still on the team?

Kevin's picture

Javon Walker comes to mind. Maybe Mike McKenzie to a lesser degree. Can't think of anyone on the current Packers though other than Finley who might qualify

Ken's picture

Outstanding, C.D. I'm at least 98 percent sure the super bowl photo incident sealed his fate in Green Bay.

I've heard so many shady stories of Barnett out and about that it makes me puke.

that guy indeed.

Chris's picture

Interesting that it took Barnett's injury for Bishop to gain the starting spot. That seems to indicate that MM, like Sherman before him, was willing to put up with the whole 56 package as long as he was useful on the field. Which is, of course, exactly what happened with Sharpe under Wolf and Holmgren.

So I wouldn't be too quick to put the current management in an exalted position of wisdom and insight on Packer People. I mean, if TT and MM had such superior standards, why didn't they move sooner on Barnett? The answer, I think, is that this management will be like any management and hold on to guys regardless of their "issues" until their play or cost becomes too great. Further, I would suggest that holds whether or not a player is Packer People.

I do agree, however, with the notion of Finley being That Guy. He is, essentially, Nick Barnett, except that he is young, still productive and in possession of untold "upside." But, should he be injured once again, I would not be surprised if he joined Barnett, Sharpe and all the others in this club. On the other hand, if he makes it through the season and plays to his level of talent, they will make a play to retain him regardless of whether he is That Guy or not.

the dude's picture

In 2007, Barnett was arrested at Wet, in Appleton Not GB. I know that's irrelevant, but just wanted to clarify your accuracy.

BigSnakeMan's picture

It's funny. In the setup before you revealed the subject of your article, I thought you WERE writing about Finley. All points well taken, but I think they could apply to both.

TD's picture

In reference to calling out Brett Favre's ego - The Favre era ended in ashes, but his sins have been exaggerated greatly since he left. Few to no voices admonished Favre along his 16 year stay in Green Bay. Suddenly, his whole career is a sham. I have no regrets that Favre is gone. Maybe it's time Packer fans move on.

packsmack25's picture

I hated him from the 6 INT game on....

CSS's picture

There were plenty of rational voices that grew fatigued by his predictably poor December onward play for the better part of a decade, they were just usually shouted down by 'fans' that couldn't deal with criticism of an idol.

The Dong Slinger's picture

The Dong Slinger did no wrong. The Dong Slinger the greatest Packer of all time. The Dong Slinger the best NFL QB of all time. All hail the Down Slinger!

ppabich's picture

For this season specifically there is a very small chance that Finley becomes "that guy". The Packers won the Super Bowl without him, he knows this and the team knows this. If he starts acting up or asking for the ball, all somebody needs to say is, "Shut up. how many balls did you catch in the Super Bowl run last year?"

That being said calling Finley "that guy" right now is a bit like accusing Jim Thome of being a steroid guy. Just because he has attributes that correlate with the guilty, doesn't make it true.

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