Donald Driver hangs up the cleats.
Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver announced on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" Thursday that he is retiring after 14 seasons.
"I'm going to officially put the cleats on the shelf. I'm going to walk away from the game," the four-time Pro Bowler said.
The Packers announced that he will take part in a formal news conference at Lambeau Field on Feb. 6 at 12 a.m. ET
Pro football says goodbye to one of its most beloved players in league history.
During his tenure in Titletown, Driver is among the best in franchise history. That's saying quite a bit when you consider the Packers have fielded receivers such as Don Hutson, Max McGee, Boyd Dowler, James Lofton and Sterling Sharpe.
Taken in Round 7 of the 1999 NFL draft, Driver panned out as one of the best gems in draft history. And his efficient numbers make a strong case for Canton, Ohio.
Donald Driver closes his career with 10,137 receiving yards.
He amassed over 1,000 receiving yards in a season seven times, and Driver accomplished that four-digit milestone in six consecutive seasons (2004-2009).
At the same time, the passing game in pro football is a two-way street.
Regardless of how effective a quarterback is, top-end passing numbers only occurs through dependable receivers such as Driver.
Donald stacked plenty of yards as a result.
Hauling in 743 receptions in 14 seasons, Driver caught 70-plus passes seven times.
Coincidentally, his six straight years of 1,000-plus receiving yards also happened with at least 70 receptions in that span.
Just like his first 1,000-yard campaign in 2002, Driver recorded 70 catches there.
So, clearly the guy enveloped reliability on an annual basis.
The more impressive aspect, though, is emerging as such in a cold-weather city that plays outside. Given that the NFL has evolved into a pass-happy phenomenon, relying on the passing game remains difficult barring rough weather conditions.
Still, Driver produced and that also earned him a few Lambeau Leaps.
To say the least, Donald Driver's career got off to a slow start.
That's also not too surprising, because he was the No. 213 overall selection and coming from an NCAA division I-AA (now FCS) school in Alcorn State.
From 1999 through 2001, Driver only caught 37 passes for 520 yards and three touchdowns: Scored a fourth time on the ground.
Once 2002 kicked off, however, his impact astronomically increased. Finishing with 61 receiving touchdowns, Driver had eight seasons with at least four touchdowns, five of which were six-plus scores.
Include the vast array of receiving targets Green Bay provided to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers and Driver's consistency sticks out.
Not to mention the Packers presented a solid ground game with guys like Ahman Green and Ryan Grant. So, the offense need not resort to a pass-first attack in comparison to the current approach.
Donald Driver averaged 13.6 yards per reception for his career.
That's an attractive number because Driver wasn't always going deep and making plays downfield.
The guy knew how to accumulate yards after the catch, make defenders miss in space, find the soft spot between underneath zones and move the chains on third down.
It's this kind of dynamic impact that ups a player's value to a team.
Driver constantly thwarted man coverage and his ability as a run-blocker helped set up the play-action. In turn, he could sell the run and break off routes to get open in short-yard situations and inside the red zone.
At his core, Driver proved to be a complete player throughout his career.
Donald Driver competed in the postseason nine times during his career.
He did not record a reception for the Packers in January of 2013.
[Postseason stats courtesy of ESPN.com]
|Donald Driver Playoff Statistics||Numbers|
|Yards Per Reception||14.3|
|First Down Reception Percentage||65.3|
Of all these numbers, Driver's first down receptions are the most impressive.
It's great for a receiver to haul in pass after pass. But it's moving the chains that significantly enhance one's impact. Driver recording a first down on 65.3 percent of his catches is unbelievable.
Regardless of the down-and-distance, forcing the defense to play another series really knocks the wind from an opponent's confidence. In short, this is what truly made Driver so effective each season.
It would be surprising if Donald Driver became a first-ballot Hall of Famer, especially with other receivers such as Cris Carter and Tim Brown not yet enshrined.
There are also other receiving greats in Hines Ward and Issac Bruce who recently hung up the cleats.
In time, though, it would not be surprising if Driver was strongly considered for Canton, Ohio. He was a complete player, helped with the transition of Aaron Rodgers into becoming elite and won a Super Bowl.
At the very least he deserves to be honored in the Packers' Ring of Fame.
As for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, let's check out his current rankings.
(Stats and rankings courtesy of Pro Football Reference)
|Donald Driver Career Rankings||Statistic||All-Time Ranking|
|Receiving Yards||10,137||No. 38|
|Receptions||743||No. 37 (tied with Andre Rison)|
|Total Touchdowns||62 (61 receiving, 1 rushing)||No. 130 (tied with 8 other players)|
Driver was also selected to four Pro Bowl teams and finished as Green Bay's all-time leading receiver in yards and receptions—James Lofton finished with more for career, but not as many in Green Bay.
Considering the Packers' immense amount of history, Driver's impact is worthy of NFL immortality.