How Greg Jennings Tarnished His Packers Legacy and Became the NFL's Newest Diva

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IAugust 8, 2013

Greg Jennings should be remembered in the decorated history of the Green Bay Packers as a receiver who caught important touchdowns from both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, was a vital component to the franchise's fourth Super Bowl title and still possessed all the charisma of a star without the diva personality that so often goes along with pass catchers of his talent. 

Instead, Jennings is using his unsurprising exit from Green Bay this offseason and the platform now presented with the Minnesota Vikings to cloud that legacy. Once beloved for his seven years with the Packers, Jennings has no one to blame but himself for the new reputation he is currently constructing as a scorned and bitter ex-teammate. 

The new Vikings receiver threw his latest barb at the Packers Wednesday during an interview with KFAN's Paul Allen and Ben Leber (via Joe Nelson of KFAN). 

Asked whether the Vikings were "championship worthy," Jennings went off on an unsolicited rant about how the Packers "brainwash" their players. 

"And when I came over here...I was kind of brainwashed," Jennings said. "There's no kind of to it. Being over in Green Bay you're brainwashed to think that anyone in the division is just tiers below."

Jennings wasn't done.

"Everything that you know in Green Bay is like 'the best, the best, the best, the best, the best', and it's like total brainwashing," he said, still without prompting from the interviewers. "I think you don't open your eyes to see what other teams have to offer unless you are in that position, and I was afforded this position."

While Jennings later complimented the way Packers coach Mike McCarthy handles training camp practices, the surface damage—whether it came with malicious intent or not from Jennings—had already been done. 

Taken as a single event, Jennings' "brainwash" comment could be easily skimmed over. In reality, what NFL team doesn't brainwash their players into believing they are superior to the competition, especially direct rivals? Maybe brainwash wasn't the perfect word usage, but it's fairly easy to see what Jennings was trying to say, especially as a seven-year veteran who previously knew no other team than the one situated in Green Bay. 

But considering the totality of his smear campaign against the Packers this offseason, and the unsolicited nature of his most recent comments despite pleas from his coach to stop, Jennings has only the man in the mirror to blame for the media backlash he's created. 

Yet his fall from grace has been but a finger snap in time compared to the other legacy he built in Green Bay. 

Drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft, Jennings rather quickly teamed with Donald Driver to create one of the best 1-2 receiving combinations in football.

As a first-year player, he hauled in Favre's 400th career touchdown pass and was named to the NFL's all-rookie team. A year later, Jennings caught a team-high 12 touchdown passes, including Favre's 420th (tying Dan Marino's career record) and 421st (record breaker) score. Three game-winners (San Diego, at Denver and Kansas City) and Rodgers' first career touchdown (at Dallas) also came via the hands of Jennings that season. 

In 2009, and just months after signing a new $26 million contract extension with Green Bay, Jennings caught a 50-yard touchdown from Rodgers to knock off the Chicago Bears in Week 1 at Lambeau Field. The iconic score helped wipe away 10 losses of disappointment from the year prior. 

His finest season as a pro came one year later, in 2010. Jennings hauled in 76 passes for 1,265 yards and 12 scores, and he was later named to his first Pro Bowl. More importantly, he helped the Packers reach the NFL's summit, as he caught two touchdowns, plus one of the biggest third down conversions in recent championship history, during Green Bay's 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. 

At the time, Jennings seemingly had it all; the stats, a Super Bowl ring, the accolades and rare stability and greatness at quarterback. And while some receivers transform into reincarnations of Terrell Owens when in the presence of such wealth, Jennings avoided the diva lifestyle while still keeping his Hollywood smile and infectious personality.

Somewhere along the way, everything changed. 

In 2011, Jennings took a backseat as Jordy Nelson erupted for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns. Last season, Randall Cobb used Jennings' eight-game absence due to injury to claim his share of Rodgers' targets. The second-year receiver led the team with 80 catches, while quickly becoming the new golden boy of the Packers offense. Fellow receiver James Jones caught an NFL-high 14 scores. 

Eventually, cracks in the Jennings persona started to show. 

In December of last year, Jennings' sister took to Twitter during a Week 17 loss to the Vikings to bash the Packers, and Rodgers in particular. 

From claiming the Packers were avoiding Jennings, to calling Rodgers the most overrated quarterback in the NFL and directing his brother to leave Green Bay as soon as possible, the receiver's sister left nothing about her opinion of the franchise to the imagination. 

The since deleted tweets could be easily attributed to an emotional family member making a mistake on social media. But looking back now, it's certainly possible she had someone in the Packers locker room feeding her these uncommon opinions.

Since signing a five-year, $45 million deal with the Vikings this offseason, Jennings has waged a verbal assault on seemingly everything about his former club. 

In an interview with Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in June, Jennings refused to call Rodgers by name, referring to him instead as "the guy they have now."

He also said he would pick Favre over Rodgers if given the choice of the two decorated quarterbacks, which is defensible as a stand-alone argument. However, the timing of his claim was certainly suspicious, and Sansevere's original question didn't even ask Jennings to pick between the two.

A month later, Jennings came after Rodgers for a second time. On this occasion, he questioned what the elevation of the Packers quarterback to elite status meant for the rest of the team during a sit down with Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A lot of times when you have a guy who creates that spotlight for himself and establishes that and takes a lot of that, it becomes so-and-so and the team,” Jennings said. “It should always be the team.”

Taken in full, the quote comes off as stunningly callous, especially for a receiver who once played with Favre, who arguably demanded more spotlight than any player in recent NFL history.

Later, he wondered aloud if Rodgers' stature as one of the top quarterbacks has made him immune from personal accountability.

Even the way the Packers do business came under Jennings' fire. As told to Wiederer, Jennings now feels a sense of freedom in Minnesota that lacked under the micromanagement in Green Bay.

"It’s not a free-for-all. There’s structure,” Jennings said. “But there’s liberty. You can breathe. It’s like, ‘OK, I can do my thing.’ You know what you need to do, you get it done. Whereas [in Green Bay], everything was more cookie-cutter... It’s just different. In a good way. And not knocking what we did there. Because obviously it was successful. But here, no one’s walking on egg shells.” 

Including the playoffs, the Packers have won 80 total games since 2006, or Jennings' first NFL season. Regardless of cookies or eggs or any other food descriptor Jennings wants to use to broad stroke how the Packers operate, the system has proven over and over to work at the highest levels. 

And while players do respond differently to certain types of management, nothing about the way Jennings played in Green Bay suggests that coaching style deterred from his individual success on a football field. 

Sensing that his new receiver was becoming too much of a sideshow, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier attempted to put a stop to Jennings' incessant ramblings about his former team, per Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press

"We're the Vikings and we want to talk about us, what we're trying to get done," Frazier said following a one-on-one meeting with Jennings. "That's where our focus has to be. There's so much work to be done, and we don't want to be looking at what's happening with other teams, other teams' players. We've got to focus on us. He's good with that." 

Frazier's plea apparently fell on deaf ears. 

The unsolicited comments and prodding have continued. Even Jennings' apology to Rodgers felt half-hearted. 

Per Rob Demovsky of ESPN, Jennings attempted to offer a public offering to the Packers quarterback following Frazier's gag order.

"I don't really recall saying anything negative about Aaron or anyone over there, but hey, I apologize," said Jennings, who admitted he hadn't talked to Rodgers personally about any of the comments. 

The statement seemed to do very little in terms of mending a fracturing relationship between both the two players and Jennings and the Packers fanbase. 

In all likelihood, a handful of offseason comments won't detract historically from all the good Greg Jennings accomplished as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Nor should it. He was an elite player at a time when the Packers enjoyed a treasure cove of success. 

However, his petty and continuous comments have certainly clouded his legacy in the present. Instead of taking the high road for his exit from the Packers, Jennings has instead done everything in his power to claim Favre's former title of public enemy No. 1 in Green Bay.


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