Charles Woodson: A Poster Boy for Packer Ageism? — Part 2

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Raiders strong safety and NFL Hall of Fame shoo-in Charles Woodson (top) shows his athletic prowess with a pick of Chargers QB Philip Rivers last season, after the Packers determined he was over the hill for their youth-oriented roster. Courtesy news great.org
Woodson, with Tracy Porter (above, in 2014), remains a vocal and action-oriented team leader. Courtesy gallery hip.com

Noting that a posting from last November about football great Charles Woodson is among my most frequently viewed posts lately, I decided to update the piece, for your consideration, in honor of Woodson, one of my four favorite Packers ever.1 My revised post starts with a story about the Packer-Bears game this Thanksgiving.

“We won this game early in the week in practice … with our preparation,” (Bears cornerback Tracy) Porter (above, with 2014 Raiders teammate Charles Woodson) said.

“This one came down to the final minute even after Porter’s interception. The Packers gained possession at their 20 with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining and drove to the Bears 8 with 51 seconds left. They called for four straight passes, and four straight times the defense held.

Porter put a gold star on his night on third-and-goal by slapping down a lob to James Jonesin the end zone. On fourth down, Rodgers rolled right to extend the play. He fired for Davante Adams, but rookie Bryce Callahan contested the throw, which sailed through the back of the end zone.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/ct-tracy-porter-interception-aaron-rodgers-spt-1127-20151126-story.html

That was Chicago Tribune reporter Rich Campbell’s description of perhaps the most sickening and ignominious second half of any Packer game this season — letting a lead slip away away before half time, then pissing the game away, on Thanksgiving Day. Bear fans everywhere gleefully stuck a fork in the dead Packer turkey’s rump.

I raise this unpleasant but perhaps instructive memory, because Woodson mentored Porter last season when they were teammates in Oakland. That includes instilling the young cornerback with his deeply savvy knowledge of the Packer offense. “Preparation” was the key to the Bears win, Porter said. He seemed to toy with the Packers, including Rogers, and was, in effect, Charles Woodson in a different guise.

Woodson is possibly the most gifted player to ever roam the Packers secondary, which is saying plenty if you think back to Darren Sharper, Leroy Butler, Willie Buchanon, Willie Wood, Herb Adderley and Emlen Tunnell, who played with the Packers late in his storied career. Not to mention Don Hutson, who played defensive back as a two-way player, but who’s an NFL legend as a dominating wide-receiver who opened the door to the NFL realizing the potential of a wide-open passing game.

Tunnell was a comparably great player to Woodson, I think, but he played most of his career with the Giants, and his last three with Green Bay. He ended his career with a NFL record 79 interceptions (since surpassed by Paul Krause), which he returned for 1,282 yards and 4 touchdowns, and 16 fumble recoveries, along with another 3,506 return yards and 6 touchdowns on special teams.[3]He was elected as the first African American in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.[3]

Woodson’s stats stand as an interesting comparison, which I won’t get into deeply here. But Woodson is sixth all-time with 65 career interceptions and 11 “pick sixes,” which is second all time. And he’s tied with Darren Sharper and Ron Woodson for most career defensive touchdowns, at 13. He has 139 passes defensed, and 20 quarterback sacks, along with 800 career solo tackles and 996 combined tackles.

Maybe one of the last NFL two-way players ever, Woodson started on both sides of the scrimmage at Michigan where he won a rare Heisman Trophy by a defensive player, and led the Wolverines to a national championship in 1997. And remarkably, Woodson also has 253 receptions as an offensive receiver in the NFL.

He was named AP Defensive Player in the Year with the Packers in 1997, and was absolutely crucial to the Packers winning the Super Bowl in 2010. But the longtime shutdown corner back lost a step as all players do over time, and was evolving into a mastermind and skilled safety.

And this is the supreme athlete that Packer GM Ted Thompson decided to toss in the old-man heap, from which Woodson’s first team, the Raiders, gladly snatched him up. In his third season back with Raiders this year, at age 39, he led the NFL in the early part of this season with five interceptions, better than any of the Packers current defensive backs have done all season. Check out the “old man” on this wide-ranging interception with the Raiders: http://www.nfl.com/videos/next-gen-stats/0ap3000000541140/Next-Gen-Stats-Charles-Woodson-s-interception

Had he stayed in Green Bay, he would’ve played safety better than anyone the Packers have installed at that position since he left. A sometimes uncanny playmaker, Woodson forced three fumbles in his first season back with the Raiders.

Even playing with a bad shoulder against the Packers last week, he had a forced fumble and made a terrific tackle behind the line of scrimmage, which unfortunately re-injured his shoulder. Yet he was back in the game shortly afterwards. His skill set and knowledge of the Packer offense allowed the Raiders to play him as a single deep safety so they could crowd the box and effectively shut down the Packer running game, which had trampled the Cowboys the previous week. And Woodson has two more games to add to his career totals.

Getting back to the magnificent Emlen Tunnell, Woodson was far more important to the Packers, helping them to their first Super Bowl in 2010 since the Butler-Brett Favre-Reggie White-led Packers of 1996, an all-around juggernaut who dominated the league all year. That was unlike the 2010 Aaron Rodgers-led Packers, a team that — with a modest 10-6 season record and a sixth seed in the playoffs — heroically put on a late-season charge with a stunning blast through the playoffs to beat the tough-nosed and talented Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. As with most Super Bowl champs, a huge part of the story was the defense, led by Woodson. That thieving, opportunistic group had four Pro-Bowlers — Woodson, Clay Matthews, Nick Collins, and Tramon Williams, and also young nose tackle B. J. Raji, in his only great year as a Packer.

When Woodson retires at the end of this season, figure on him being one of the quickest inductees to the NFL Hall of Fame in recent history.

My first blog on the possible Packers ageism was prompted by a friendly debate with a good friend, but I’m not here to play “I told you so,” rather to honor Charles Woodson.

I know Culture Currents doesn’t have lots of sports fan readers. But I still invite anyone to weigh in on Woodson — and the possible Packer ageism topic — which relates to another mature cast-off picked up by the Raiders, receiver James Jones, who — after leading the Raiders and receptions last year — came back with the Pack this season and helped salvage the team’s foundering passing game, after the loss of Jordy Nelson.

Some people say Jones was over the hill two seasons ago, especially with Davante Adams “poised” to take over. How well has that worked out?

Here’s my initial post:

My dear fellow blog readers I invite you to weigh in on this, and I should be able to tabulate the votes given this blog’s meager readership.

I recently began a good-natured debate with my good friend Ed Valent,  a gentleman and an unassuming scholar, who enjoys the verbal joust and, especially, jest. 

After we began our little debate, I sent him the news of 38-year-old Packer cast-off Charles Woodson winning the AFC defensive player of the week award for his nine tackles (two for losses), quarterback sack and one pass defensed in the Raiders’ huge upset of the Chiefs recently.

I just don’t know if Ed knows how much of a loser he is on this issue. I’m talking about a loser like hairy, socially-award Rob Lowe who just has cable for his worldview, or at least for sorry-ass NFL “packaging” in his stinky-pizza man cave.

Put a cheesehead on Ed and he’d be Abert Einstein. For now, he’s Albert the Alleycat.

Sticks and stones aside, and seriously (somewhat, considering the state of the world), what do you think about this issue? It matters to me most pointedly because of the ageist subtext, but also as a green-as-Kermit-the-frog-doing-Irish Whiskey-shots Packer backer who, like Kermit, doesn’t know he’s just as ugly as the Rob Lowe of your choice.

Ah, but like Kermit (and Rob for the ladies) this proverbial Packer Backer is just as lovable as the Packers. 

Here’s the e-mail response which prompted my response (and invitation). And it goes without saying, Ed, you’re invited to defend your position further, if you so chose.

Ed sed: “If it were up to you to you, Favre would still be QB for the Pack.”

I wrote: “Ed, my man, 

You can punt jokes all you want to avoid the specificity of the issue which hurts the team. Here I’m talking about the team’s mistake over Woodson.

(And yet, James Jones still is also a better third receiver than any they have right now.)
Thus, their Super Bowl chances will continue to be hurt by a policy of excess youth — mark my words — though I hope I’m wrong.
Each personnel case should be judged on its own merits — not on a clearly ageist hiring and firing policy. Thompson has a decent personnel track record but it’s still too policy driven — or blindered, not knowing the man’s soul.
And the Pack is consistently well over the salary cap for a variety of reasons that make such indiscretions usually unnecessary.
But then, I admit I’m a fan who’s interested in the team’s truest best interests – to win, not squirrel away money like a  Scrooge.
To paraphrase Waylon Jennings, I don’t think Vince woulda done it this way.
Kevernacular (Bleeds Green like Kermit.)
So what do you think?
Do the Packers err on the side of an ageist, youth policy by not being more savvy about veteran team leaders who can still play, like Charles Woodson and James Jones?
Try not to bring Battered Batman Brett into this — if you can help it.
Please, vote and/or comment below,
1. Yes.
2. No.
3. I’m thinking, I thinking!
4 Better yet, comment, please!
____
My other favorite Packers are cornerback Herb Adderley, wide receiver James Lofton and safety LeRoy Butler.

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