MADISON | One thought popped into Jermichael Finley’s mind when he learned his former team, the Green Bay Packers, had taken a rare foray into free agency to sign tight end Jared Cook earlier this year.
“It’s because they [didn’t] believe in the guys [they had],” Finley told ‘The Zone’ during an appearance Friday morning on the Joe and Ebo Show. “I know the organization by now. Once they start mingling around and getting guys, that means they are not excited with the guys that are in the tight end room.”
Finley knows all about that room, having spent six seasons with the organization before a neck injury in Week 6 of the 2013 season ended his career. A big but athletic tight end that could stretch the field, Finley racked up 223 receptions for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns during his time in Green Bay. And to this point, the franchise has failed to find a suitable replacement.
“It’s just like a girlfriend,” Finley joked. “You never know what you’re missing until it’s gone.”
Enter Cook, whose body and athletic ability mirror Finley, as do his career statistics. Both guys averaged at least 12.5 yards per catch during their time in the league, while over the past two seasons Green Bay’s tight ends averaged a dismal 8.9 yards per reception.
“I think he brings a lot [to the table],” Finley said of Cook. “He spreads the field. He can get down the middle of the field. He’s a big target, and that’s what [quarterback] Aaron Rodgers loves.”
The South Carolina product missed a large portion of the offseason after undergoing foot surgery, though he should be ready to go when training camp opens later this month. That missed time could impact his chemistry with Rodgers, something Finley struggled with at different times in his career. The pair’s relationship fluctuated over the years and was impacted greatly by Finley’s willingness to speak his mind about Rodgers to the media.
When he signed with the Packers, Cook went out of his way to acknowledge that while he and Finley are similar players physically, their personalities are complete opposites. Still, he’d be wise to heed Finley’s advice in regards to Rodgers.
“It’s a must that you gain [his] trust,” Finley said. “You’ve got to get in the playbook. He’s a big classroom guy. He doesn’t like to get the field reps. He’d rather get in the classroom. Get the audibles down, two-minute drill down, no-huddle and all of that. You’ve got to get his trust on the playbook, because if you screw up one time, you may not see that ball again. You get in that dog house and it’s a brick [one].”
Taken one year after Finley by the Tennessee Titans in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Cook hasn’t been able to fully deliver on his potential. After four years in Nashville, he spent the last three seasons with the St. Louis Rams before being cut in February. After tepid interest at best on the free agent market, he signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Packers in late March.
Some have blamed Cook’s inconsistent play on the quarterbacks he’s played with over his seven seasons. Guys like Kerry Collins, Jake Locker, Austin Davis and Kellen Clemens don’t exactly inspire confidence in teammates. But now, with a two-time Most Valuable Player under center, that excuse is no longer available.
“Hopefully he can live up to this hype, because the Packers fans do not play,” Finley said half-serious. “They will run you out of this city faster than you got here.”