If Jermichael Finley is a moron, every team needs a moron.
The Packers' 23-year-old tight end is the latest prototype in a long line of great athletes who possess the kind of size, strength and speed that blows up traditional coverage schemes. And with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, Finley could push the league's ongoing evolution of the tight end position to even greater heights some day.
Some critics want more from Finley, however. More as in less talking about the Super Bowl.
Packers Hall of Fame tight end and current radio host Mark Chmura recently called Finley "a moron" who "should shut his mouth." Other than the obvious pot-vs.-kettle irony in Chmura calling someone a moron, it seemed unnecessary for anyone from the Packers' past to rip such a promising young player for expressing some confidence, some swagger.
It's actually kind of refreshing. A week ago, a reporter from Minnesota who still can't believe he drove 10 hours total to watch a preseason NFL contest was talking to Finley about the Packers offense in general and Rodgers in particular.
"Does Rodgers have to win a Super Bowl to emerge from Brett Favre's shadow in Green Bay?" the reporter asked.
"He's A-Rod," Finley said. "Who is Brett?"
Beautiful. Confidence wrapped in a great quote.
"Not knocking Brett or dogging him or whatnot," Finley said. "But Aaron has already made a name for himself. He's one of those special quarterbacks, and we're just blessed to have him. He's looking pretty good, don't you think?"
Uh, yeah. In two preseason games, Rodgers' passer rating is 154.0. Perfection is 158.3. Rodgers has completed 20 of 24 passes for 275 yards, three touchdowns and no sacks.
The guess here is the Vikings will still win the NFC North. But it's also becoming more of a concern that on offense, the Packers are in midseason form while the Vikings are in pre-minicamp form.
Another big concern for the Purple: the 6-5, 247-pound Finley.
In limited preseason action, he has six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. Like a lot of teams down the stretch last year, neither the Browns nor Seahawks could match up with him. Seattle primarily used cornerbacks who were too small to keep him from catching four passes for 48 yards and a 12-yard touchdown in a 27-24 Green Bay victory Saturday.
"All you've got to do, and I'm going to tell you the truth here, is put the ball in the air and we'll be successful," Finley said last week. "That's just the Packers core right there. If we stay healthy, the sky is the limit."
The Packers were 4-4 and unable to protect Rodgers at the midway point of last season. But they also finished 7-1 and improved their pass protection dramatically. Part of the reason was the emergence of Finley as a quick-release option in the passing game.
Finley had a team-high 38 catches for 416 yards and four touchdowns in his final seven regular-season games. He added six catches for 159 yards in the team's wild-card playoff loss at Arizona.
After a good offseason in which he used a boxing regimen to improve his strength and conditioning, Finley is poised to make a run at his first Pro Bowl.
"He's really worked very hard throughout the offseason on his blocking and just being a complete tight end," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's having a very good camp, and with him being the starter now, he's going to have a lot more opportunities this year."
The Vikings got one of the earliest glimpses of Finley's potential in Week 4 last year. A third-round draft pick out of Texas in 2008, Finley had only 11 catches in 17 career games before catching six for 128, including a 62-yard touchdown, in a 30-23 loss at the Metrodome. A knee injury kept Finley out of the rematch at Lambeau Field.
Barring injury, Finley should move toward the top of the deepest crop of athletic pass-catching tight ends the league has ever seen together at one time. His goals are simple: To "bring a Super Bowl [title] back to Green Bay" and to make the Pro Bowl. He's not afraid to say it.
If that makes him a moron, bring me a hot tub full of morons.
Mark Craig • firstname.lastname@example.org