Money or Attention? Jennings craved each more than winning
By Mike Vandermause, Green Bay Press-Gazette
~GREEN BAY – Former Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings never will admit it publicly, but he made a big career mistake when he signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
His team is buried in last place in the NFC North with a (1-6) record. The quarterback situation in Minnesota is a jumbled mess with no apparent relief in sight. The Vikings are ranked a lowly No. 25 in total offense (316 yards per game), and Jennings is averaging a pedestrian four catches and 54.5 yards per game.
Meanwhile, Jennings’ former employer again sits atop the division standings with a (5-2) record, has an MVP-caliber quarterback in Aaron Rodgers directing an offense that is ranked No. 2 in the NFL (435 yards per game).
Not even the contract Jennings signed with the Vikings, which pays slightly more than $9 million per year, can make him feel better about his plight. That’s because the Packers offered Jennings a new contract early last season for more money — around $10 million per year.
So Jennings is bringing in less cash than he could have had, playing for an inferior team and seeing the ball less often in his new surroundings.
There’s not much to like about his situation, but he had no choice but to put on a happy face when he spoke with Wisconsin reporters this week in advance of Sunday’s Packers-Vikings game at the Metrodome.
When asked if he missed catching passes from Rodgers, Jennings replied: “No man, God has blessed me to move on from that. I’ve embraced my situation and my role here and my teammates here.”
As career moves go, Jennings’ decision is akin to giving up a cushy job at Facebook for a position at MySpace.
“It’s been a challenge, but life throws you a lot of challenges, a lot of adversity, a lot of curveballs, and it’s been no different,” Jennings said. “It’s something that has been a humbling experience.”
The worst part for Jennings is that he had a choice in the matter. The Packers made him a respectable, if not exorbitant, offer last year, but he hedged his bets thinking he could command a lot more money on the open market.
As it turned out, Jennings overvalued his talents and is stuck playing for a dog of a team.
Maybe the Vikings can turn their disastrous season around and become a contender again. Maybe they will one day find a credible NFL quarterback. Maybe Vikings coach Leslie Frazier will reclaim some job security with a few more wins.
But at this point those are pipe dreams in Minnesota, while in Green Bay success is an everyday reality.
Jennings has to be kicking himself — privately, of course — for giving up so much in deciding to leave the Packers. He apparently didn’t realize how good he had it.
Jennings was a perfect fit in the Packers’ offense, played a key role on their Super Bowl championship team three years ago and would have enjoyed success for years to come with Rodgers slinging passes his way.
The problem for Jennings was that he wanted a bigger slice of the receiving pie and knew he wasn’t going to get it in Green Bay.
It’s human nature to want more, so Jennings shouldn’t be labeled a villain. But by seeking a brighter spotlight individually, he finds himself on a sinking ship.
Jennings’ derogatory comments about Rodgers during the offseason produced big headlines, but something he said in March after signing with the Vikings about the Packers’ quality and depth at the receiver position was very telling and slipped under the radar.
“We all can’t be as successful as we want to be individually with so many guys around,” said Jennings on radio’s “The Jim Rome Show.”
“I believe this with all my heart: not one guy over there can really maximize their potential because of the depth we had.”
Jennings sounded like he was starving for attention. It wasn’t enough that he was one of the pieces to the Packers’ high-powered offense. He desired a higher profile.
Last year, receivers Randall Cobb (80 catches) and James Jones (14 touchdowns) played starring roles, and the year before Jordy Nelson led the team in catches, yards and touchdowns. Plus, tight end Jermichael Finley was always around to gobble up receptions.
It’s almost as if Jennings felt like just another guy amidst all that talent. He definitely held his own and made major contributions to the offense, but with so many other receiving options around him, he was forced to share and apparently figured he would never be the go-to receiver.
Jennings made a point during the offseason of saying he was a team-first player. If that was the case, he would still be in Green Bay, catching passes and winning games.
As it is, he finds himself in Minnesota, where the offense sputters and losing has become a way of life.
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