McGinn Wrap, Part 7: The Green Bay Packers' offensive career arcs
Bob McGinn's look back at his four decades covering the Packers continues with an incredibly detailed, year-to-year look at the players you've watched for generations on offense.
In the past month we’ve revisited the A seasons, A-minus seasons and the F seasons for the players of the Green Bay Packers since my end-of-season grades started in 1991.
Today, we expand the review to cover all the yearly grades for veteran players on offense during their careers in Green Bay.
The 33 players listed forthwith were required to have spent at least eight seasons with the Packers in one capacity or another, and with at least one of those seasons falling within my 31 years of grading.
Although I was covering the team on a full-time basis from 1984-’90 for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, I didn’t do year-end grades. From 1986-’90, however, I did write brief summaries of every player on the roster, and some of those remarks will be found here.
As mentioned previously, I never looked back at a player’s grades from previous seasons. Each year was considered as a separate entity. The past didn’t weigh on my judgment of the present.
Therefore, in digging back through the grades, it was revealing to me what the year-by-year marks for the players said about the overall impact of their careers in Green Bay.
It’s good to remind readers again that, although the grades were strictly mine, they were based on season-long and then end-of-season discourse with Packers coaches and scouts as well as coaches and scouts with other NFL teams.
There probably isn’t a more accurate barometer of player performance in Green Bay from those 31 seasons.
The 33 players are listed alphabetically by position with their grades for each season since 1991 and excerpts from two of those seasons. There are no excerpts from A, A-minus or F seasons because those were detailed last month. In many cases, the selected excerpts included one from early in a player’s career and another from late in his career.
The excerpts were drawn from my summations in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (1986-’90) and my grades in The Milwaukee Journal (1991-’94), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1995-’16), BobMcGinnFootball.com (2017-’18), The Athletic (2019-’20) and GoLongTD.com (2021).
Davante Adams (2014-’21)
2015: D-minus. (“Fell flat on his face when presented with the chance to be a suitable replacement for Jordy Nelson … Dropped 12 of 96 targeted throws … Lacks the sped to outrun most cornerbacks and the quickness and route refinement to win consistently in the possession game … Offered next to nothing after the catch (3.0-yard average) … Missed 3 ½ of Games 3-6 with an ankle injury but maintained he was fine by midseason.”)
2017: B-plus. (“Day-in, day-out he was the team’s best player in training camp, and his striking development carried into what became his finest season … Almost impossible to reroute in the bump zone because of his extremely quick feet and much improved release … Capable of beating elite cornerbacks on the full route tree … Has suffered three concussions in the last 1 ½ seasons.”)
Randall Cobb (2011-’18, 2021)
2011: B. (“The rookie drafted in the second round emerged as the Packers’ best return man since Desmond Howard 15 years ago … Cobb bubbles over with confidence. He hates taking a knee on kickoffs or making a fair catch on punts. He’s almost too tough for his size … He averaged 18.1 snaps from scrimmage behind Donald Driver, playing more and more as the season went on … At this point, he looks like an effective slot.”)
2018: C-minus. (“Cobb does some good things every season. Without his nine-catch, 142-yard explosion in the opener, the Packers don’t beat the Bears in what turned out to be their biggest victory of the year … Strutting about in trademark fashion with his chest stuck out, he looks ready to conquer the world every Sunday. Alas, he has been in street clothes for too many of those Sundays in recent seasons … He still has some short-area quickness from the slot. As far as separating deep, forget that … Cobb isn’t old (28); he’s just beat up.”)
Donald Driver (1999-’12)
1999: D. (“Staged a training-camp clinic on how to make a team as a seventh-round draft choice. Deserves another look but odds and his own limited ability conspire against him.”)
2011: C-plus. (“It’s possible that he caught the Packers off-guard Monday by declaring that he wants to keep playing. Now they have a decision to make, and it must be handled with sensitivity … Driver deserves royal treatment, but he’s also 37 and due to make $5 million in 2012 … He played OK. He’s durable. He’s willing to take a lick. He still has value as a third-down slot receiver … Still, some defensive coordinators elected to cover him with just a linebacker or safety, no doubt because he was the lesser threat in their eyes.”)
Antonio Freeman (1995-’01, 2003)
1996: B-plus. (“Stunning success story. One of those unique cases in which a player performs better in the NFL than in college … Looks like the real thing. Possesses deceptive speed, extreme self-confidence and exceptional running ability after the catch … Led team with 11 touchdowns, 19 catches for 20 yards or more and 11 drops.”)
2000: D-plus. (“Just another run-of-the-mill receiver the past two years … Almost never caught a pass when he was isolated wide by himself on one side of the field. Needed coaches’ scheming (motion, slot, multiple receivers) just to get open, and even then didn’t separate easily against better cornerbacks … Deep dimension disappeared … Displayed a me-first attitude off the field that repeatedly disrupted the team and began to affect some young players. Basically, was telling his coaches and teammates to butt out and had to be benched for crucial last game after pulling one last brazen stunt … He returns for one reason: he’s too expensive to dump.”)
James Jones (2007-’13, 2015)
2007: C. (“Widely panned as a third-round pick (14th WR taken), he proved his worth immediately and held the No. 3 job all season … Lacks the speed to be a great player but should be solid if he can clean up his drops (eight in 88 drops) and stay grounded.”)
2015: C-plus. (“Saw 91.6% playing time at age 31 … Caught 57 passes in 18 games, dropped just five of 107 and led the NFL in average per catch (17.8) among the top 50 receivers. That’s a ton of production for seldom having routes designed to get him the ball … Tremendous low-ball and back-shoulder catcher … Mismatched by some top cornerbacks (see Arizona’s Patrick Peterson), stifled by others. However, he never stopped competing … Where would this sluggish offense be without his team-best 971 yards and soothing veteran presence?”)
Jordy Nelson (2008-’17)
2010: C-plus. (“Started the season as the No. 4 receiver but finished with more snaps than James Jones … Became more confident in his routes and ability. Still, dropped way too many (10 of 92) … Played as well as he ever has in the playoffs.”)
2017: D-minus. (“The only judgment, at 32 and in his 10th season, is that Nelson has hit the proverbial wall … By far his poorest season. Aaron Rodgers’ injury was just a convenient excuse … He couldn’t beat press coverage or separate downfield. He also developed a disturbing habit of falling down for little or no reason when the ball arrived … Late in the season, his hands and blocking deserted him, too … There’s no reason to bring Nelson back for the final year of his contract at $9.25 million base salary.”)
Bill Schroeder (1994-’01)
1995: Traded 8-12-95.
1996: On Packers’ practice squad.
1997: D. (“A big, powerful, aggressive athlete with terrific speed … From afar, opposing scouts admire what they see. Up close, he is hard to coach and be around. Has so much to learn but thinks he knows it all … If he becomes more humble and admits to shortcomings, still might salvage his career.”)
2000: C-plus. (“Clearly, the Packers would prefer not having to start him despite his catching 139 of Brett Favre’s passes for 2,050 yards in the last two years … Improved his hands to an adequate level through repetition and hard work … Shows burst with ball in the air and a knack on shallow crossing patterns, but isn’t a natural after the catch or courageous venturing into no-man’s land.”)
Mark Chmura (1992-’99)
1997: B-plus. (“One of the game’s premier tight ends … Consistent. Knows his way around linebackers, runs routes by the book … Weight-room effort and desire have transformed him from a rather weak college H-back to a strong, tough-guy, conventional tight end … In their dreams the Packers would prefer a tight end with another step of speed, but he has everything else.”)
1999: Incomplete. (“His value was never more evident than once he was gone … Turns 31 in February but still dead set on making comeback from cervical spine damage … Many liability and team issues yet to be resolved.”)
Bubba Franks (2000-’07)
2002: B-minus. (“Gets better each season … Dropped just one of 76 passes, a drastic reduction from his first two seasons … Never misses a game or practice … Good point-of-attack blocker against bigger people and sustained better on the back side, but still needs to finish each block with more grit … Excellent red-zone threat but declining average after the catch reflects limited speed and elusiveness.”)
2007: C-minus. (“Due a $500,000 roster bonus in mid-March and a $3 million base salary in ’08, a steep price to pay for a role player … Was back to being his old reliable self after a horrible season … Still, he missed eight games with a bad knee, isn’t getting any faster and doesn’t contribute on special teams.”)
Ed West (1984-’94)
1989: NG. (“Career-long quest for laurels hits Pro Bowl first alternate … One mean blocker.”)
1991: B. (“Of this you would find little argument among his teammates: he was the best run blocker on the team … Playing time reduced by Jackie Harris, thus his reception total (15) was his lowest since ’86 … Extremely tough, conscientious and, this year at least, durable.”)
David Bakhtiari (2013-’21)
2013: C-plus. (“The Packers’ first full-time rookie starter at left tackle since Mark Koncar in 1976. Both were Colorado Buffaloes … Bryan Bulaga’s blown knee Aug. 3 opened the door and Bakhtiari never looked back … Playing virtually every snap, he maintained his poise, played hard and wouldn’t back down against a who’s who list of elite pass rushers. Only Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah and San Francisco’s Aldon Smith knocked Bahktiari around and made him look bad … Bright, willing and doesn’t make excuses … Needs to get bigger and stronger.”)