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Green Bay Packers: Assessing the Impact of Donald Driver's Retirement

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 12:  Wide receiver Donald Driver #80 of the Green Bay Packers runs on the field prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on January 12, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2013

On Thursday morning, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver announced his retirement on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning.

It wasn't a great year for "Double D"—heck, it wasn't even a good year for him. If nothing else, Driver was a professional, and no professional receiver wants to finish his career with eight catches for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Clearly, this prolific offense didn't miss him this year, in which case it's unlikely to miss him going forward—at least on the field.

Really, the passing of the torch began back in 2007 with the emergence of Greg Jennings (another potential departing Packer in 2013), who was right behind Driver in yardage (920 vs. 1,048) and far ahead of him in touchdowns (12 vs. two).

By the next season, Jennings was getting more targets and catches, while Driver settled comfortably into the No. 2 spot.

Over the last few seasons, the emergence of Jordy Nelson, James Jones and most recently Randall Cobb have reduced Driver's role significantly as Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy spread the ball out more and more.

So as far as making sure the offense stays productive, losing Driver won't hurt all that much—even if the Packers also lose Jennings.

Clearly, the last few years Driver had also lost a step or three, and again, you could see the end was coming.

One thing that Driver brought to the table, which isn't as easy to replace, is a strong, positive presence in the locker room. We've watched teams systematically remove (for reasons which are never clear) their leadership only for them to collapse and their players to snipe at each other in the press and in the locker room.

Luckily, the Packers have also prepared for this over time. Driver leaves a locker room with a veteran group in charge—people like Rodgers and Nelson on the offensive side of the ball and Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson on the defensive side.

Driver definitely helped teach many of the players left behind how to conduct themselves on and off the field, how to overcome adversity and battle back when things are tough.

So Driver leaving shouldn't hurt the team on the field or off.

Of course, none of this reduces what the 37-year-old has meant to this franchise over the course of his career. From a statistical standpoint, Driver was an incredibly talented receiver who topped 1,000 yards in seven of his 14 seasons (a Packers record), including six in a row at the height of his abilities.

Driver is also the team's all-time leader in catches and receiving yards, and he holds the Packers record for consecutive games (133) with a catch.

He was a leader off and on the field and a good ambassador for the franchise in and out of the NFL.

Driver's legacy will be a positive one and it won't be too long before he finds his spot in the Ring of Honor.

His time is past, though, and while Packers fans might miss seeing him in a jersey on the sidelines, the Packers have set themselves up to move on without him.

 

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