The Wisconsin sports media does its all to serve the voracious appetite of Packers fans for news on the team. The competition for information and analysis was ramped up when Don Majkowski passed for 4,312 yards in that “Majik’’ season of 1989, and has remained that way through the glories and greatness of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
Rob Demovsky, now covering the beat for espn.com, has been a Packers reporter for 24 years. He was asked for 15 minutes of insight a few days before Green Bay opened this season at the ZygiDome on Sept. 13.
The questions included one that has been asked repeatedly since the first round of the NFL draft in late April: “Why did the Packers take the quarterback [Jordan Love] rather than get Rodgers another weapon in a draft alleged to be rich in extra-talented receivers?”
Demovsky’s answer was immediate: “The receiver they wanted was Justin Jefferson, but the Vikings got him four spots in front of them. Aaron Rodgers loved that kid.’’
The impact of the Vikings taking Jefferson at No. 22, as the Packers waited hopefully at No. 26, was not evident in that opener.
Rodgers shredded the Vikings with 32 completions for 364 yards, with 14 going to Davante Adams, and then making excellent use of a few developmental receivers, rather than first-rounders.
Kirk Cousins’ traditional surge in GT (Garbage Time) of games such as this resulted in two catches for 26 yards for Jefferson. The public and media cry as to why Jefferson didn’t get more action went mostly unheard again in Week 2, as Cousins’ contending status for the GT Hall of Fame took a hit during a humiliating defeat in Indianapolis.
Jefferson did get on the field enough to make three catches for 44 yards. Those few chances came as the Colts’ defense paid heavy attention to Adam Thielen.
Now comes a confession: There’s a certain haughtiness with which the Vikings carry themselves that has inspired overreactions to failure from a share of Twin Cities sportswriters.
We all miss the great Tom Powers as a St. Paul columnist for that reason, but it doesn’t mean others should stand back and avoid taking their shots after Vikings flops … even if we won’t be as funny.
And there was an urge to look at those first two weeks of Vikings offense and coordinator Gary Kubiak’s light use of Jefferson and cast a jaundiced eye back to April.
That’s when a goodly share of Vikings fans and media were complaining that they should have taken an offensive lineman, not a receiver, at the same time Packers universe was screaming that Green Bay should have taken a receiver, not a quarterback.
I kept remembering, though, Demovsky saying that Rodgers loved the Jefferson kid, and if he was good enough to impress a quarterback master coming into the draft — it might be a good idea to wait for a couple more clunkers to start the “Do we have another Laquon Treadwell on our hands?” line of second-guessing.
A modest of degree of patience toward Jefferson proved beneficial. Last Sunday, the Vikings offense exploded, and Jefferson and Dalvin Cook were reasons 1A and 1B (choose your order).
Jefferson had seven catches for 175 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown. Justin danced to the end zone, danced through the end zone, and the highlight appeared endlessly, here and everywhere else.
Another confession: When I heard “gritty’’ to describe Jefferson’s dance, I thought he was an old soul who had learned the “Nitty Gritty” from older relatives who watched “American Bandstand” in the 1960s. Turned out, it was “The Griddy,” a dance developed by classmates,in his honor as a football star at Louisiana’s Destrehan High School in St. Charles Parish.
On Friday, Jefferson was among the players in the Vikings’ Zoom Room. He was asked about the touchdown dance and said that, once he found out he would start in the amazing 31-30 loss to Tennessee, that he was charged up to score a TD and break out the Griddy.
And to break it out at the end of a 71-yarder: “It was perfect, I think,” Jefferson said. “I just did it, and all of the team was going crazy.”
The two-game wait with the Vikings was a blip in time for Jefferson. As a freshman at LSU in 2017, he whiled away with no catches and one rush for 4 yards. As a sophomore, Jefferson had 54 catches for 875 yards and six touchdowns.
As a junior, he produced these numbers to greatly assist Joe Burrow to the Heisman Trophy and LSU to the national championship: 111 catches (No. 1 in nation) for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The playoff semifinal vs. Oklahoma was played in the Peach Bowl and Jefferson had 14 catches for 227 yards. Presumably, that was one of the nights when Rodgers was watching and said, “I want that kid.”
Sorry, Aaron. Can’t have him. But Laquon Treadwell should be available.
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