Archive | March, 2013

Jennings signs with rival Vikings

16 Mar
Wide Receiver Greg Jennings

Former Packers receiver Greg Jennings signed with the Vikings Friday. Jennings spent seven seasons with the Packers. Credit: common.wikimedia.org

Packers fans can stop holding their breath. The Greg Jennings sweepstakes is over, although it didn’t have the result Packers nation was hoping for. The former Packers wide receiver has signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

Jennings hit the free agent market as one of the most coveted receivers available. He was hoping to sign a lucrative deal worth upwards of $10 million a year, but, in reality, the market was softer than Jennings had anticipated. The first day of free agency saw former Steelers receiver Mike Wallace sign a 5-year, $60 million deal with the Miami Dolphins. No surprise there.

Jennings was looking for Wallace-type money, but no offers hit the table. He was forced to lower his asking price, which allowed the Packers and Vikings to enter the conversation.

How fitting? Even when they’re not playing against each other on the football field, the Packers and Vikings find a way to keep their rivalry going.

This isn’t the first time the Vikings have taken advantage of the opportunity to get their hands on some of the Packers’ sloppy seconds, so to speak. Ryan Longwell, Robert Ferguson, Darren Sharper and some guy named Brett Favre found their way to Minnesota after their respective careers in Green Bay. Will the Favre haters please stand up? Now sit down. It was four years ago; time to get over it.

The Vikings had no depth at receiver before signing Jennings, especially after shipping Percy Harvin, their playmaker in the passing game, to the Seattle Seahawks. The move to trade Harvin left Jerome Simpson as the team’s potential No. 1 receiver. Yeah, he’s the guy who flipped over a defender on his way into the end zone as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals just over a year ago. What has Simpson done since then? Good question. The Vikings were desperate for a possession receiver. Hello, Jennings.

The Vikings met with Jennings for two days, starting on Thursday. He went out to dinner with Head Coach Leslie Frazier, General Manager Rick Spielman, Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave, Assistant General Manager George Paton and defensive end Jared Allen. No deal appeared imminent. They most likely spent their time watching Jennings “Put the team on his back” on YouTube (picturing him in a Vikings jersey, of course) while sharing a few laughs and a beer. All jokes aside, there had to be something brewing for Jennings to spend the night in Minnesota.

Friday, Jennings reached an agreement with the Vikings on a five-year deal worth $47.5 million, with $18.5 million guaranteed. Jennings was Minnesota’s best remaining option at receiver. They couldn’t let him get away, and they didn’t. That being said, spending a sizeable chunk of change on a 29-year-old receiver with an injury history isn’t necessarily what I would consider a bargain, especially after a season in which Jennings only played eight games.

Jennings will get plenty of touches in Minnesota. He’ll score some touchdowns, too. But when his name shows up on the Vikings’ injury report for the first time, forgive me if I greet Vikings fans with “I told you so.”

With many explosive weapons on the Packers’ offense – Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, to name a few – Green Bay was not prepared to engage in a bidding war with Minnesota. It wasn’t realistic to expect the Packers to spend a lot of money on a guy, who, in all honesty, would be the Packers’ third- or fourth-best receiver on the roster.

Jennings was the guy in Green Bay for many years. We’ve seen what he can do when he’s healthy, but there comes a time when a player and organization have to part ways for the best of both parties. That time was now for Jennings. Don’t be surprised if the Packers are better off without him.

Jennings said the quarterback would be a major factor in determining which team he would sign with. That tells us one thing: money talks. Aaron Rodgers is a better quarterback than Christian Ponder, no questions asked. The Vikings signed former Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel to a one-year, $4 million deal.

That makes the Vikings better at quarterback, right? Not at all. It’s a waste of money.

The only thing it does for Minnesota is encourages a quarterback competition, during which Jennings will be forced to work on his chemistry with two quarterbacks, instead of arguably the best one in the NFL.

Jennings is in a better financial position now, but I don’t see him being in the position to win a Super Bowl during his next five years in Minnesota. There’s simply too much firepower in the NFC for the Vikings to compete.

After all, Jennings already has a ring. Why not strive for a bigger pay day?

The Vikings can keep winning the Packers’ free agents. The Packers will stick to what they do best: winning football games.

It’ll be difficult to hate a role model like Jennings, which is why I won’t. Fourteen games of the season I won’t be disappointed if Jennings succeeds. But when he plays against the Packers twice each year, I’ll be wearing my Donald Driver jersey, knowing that’s what Jennings could have been.

How do you think Jennings will do in Minnesota?

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Steven Jackson to the Packers?

11 Mar
Running back Steven Jackson

Steven Jackson is a free-agent running back who could be a great addition to the Packers backfield. Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

A great deal of speculation is taking place about the future of former Rams running back Steven Jackson. The Giants, Falcons and Broncos are considered potential teams to land the 29-year-old when free agency kicks in Tuesday. But what about the Packers? They, too, are a favorite to sign Jackson.

Jackson wants to be signed by a contender. In that case, is there a better destination than Green Bay? Maybe not, but given Packers General Manager Ted Thompson’s history of rarely signing free agents, I’m not too sure the Packers will sign Jackson, although there are many reasons to do so.

Every educated Packers fan knows the team’s current running back by committee system hasn’t been particularly successful.

Cedric Benson

The Packers signed Benson in free agency last year, but he ultimately missed most of the season after suffering a left foot injury in week five against the Colts. He is currently a free agent.

James Starks

Following the Packers’ impressive Super Bowl run in 2010, many people thought Starks would be the Packers’ running back of the future. Those expectations were short-lived. Starks has proven to be unreliable, and injuries have cost him a number of games.

Alex Green

Green, who was drafted by the Packers in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, has been given his fair share of opportunities but hasn’t necessarily been the player the Packers were hoping for when they selected him 96th overall.

DuJuan Harris

The Packers signed Harris late last season, and he was perhaps the most successful running back on the roster, considering his first game was in week 14. That’s not too bad for a guy who was working at Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Arlington in Jacksonville, Fla., when the Packers signed him. He’s a competitor and runs awfully hard for a back who stands at 5 feet, 7 inches tall. That being said, I’m sure the Packers would prefer to feature a better option in their backfield than a former car salesman. Jackson could provide just that.

Steven Jackson

Jackson turns 30 years old in July, a dreaded age for most running backs, but he said, “I still have a lot left in my tank. I still have a lot left to offer to a team.” He would be an ideal addition to the Packers’ injury prone, unreliable backfield. A two or three-year deal would give the Packers more time to find their future running back. Jackson has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his last eight seasons. The Packers haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ryan Grant in 2009.

In a pass-first offense featuring one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, Jackson most likely wouldn’t have 1,000 rushing yards for a ninth straight season, but he would be a formidable runner to close out games for the Packers. They haven’t been able to do that lately. Jackson can run, catch and block effectively, something that characterizes an elite running back. I’m sure Rodgers would be thrilled to have a player with that much versatility in the backfield. After all, the Packers need to do something to keep their franchise quarterback upright. Addressing the running back position is one way to take some pressure off of Rodgers and keep opposing defenses honest. The Packers abandoned the run far too many times last season.

Money Problems

The price must be right if the Packers intend to sign Jackson. With $21 million in salary cap room this year, the Packers have options, but future blockbuster contracts with Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive lineman B.J. Raji could be hurdles for the Packers in free agency. Rodgers’ contract will likely top Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s 6-year deal, worth $120.6 million. Matthews might average around $12 million per year, with Raji not too far behind.

Keep or Cut?

The Packers have additional decisions to make regarding a couple of their highest paid players, linebacker A.J. Hawk and tight end Jermichael Finley. Hawk is slated to make $5.45 million this season. Finley’s contract will pay him $8.25 million. Finley made it clear a week ago that he is not open to taking a pay cut to remain with the Packers, but a few days ago, his agent, Blake Baratz, said Finley hasn’t ruled it out completely. With the almost certain departure of wide receiver Greg Jennings looming, the Packers may be reluctant to part ways with Finley, even if he isn’t willing to take less money to remain in Green Bay. If the Packers choose to cut both players or manage to restructure their contracts, that may give the team enough money to make a deal for Jackson, while also securing the future of their core players.

Thompson’s free agent acquisions have come few and far between. His signing of Charles Woodson is the most notable in recent – or not so recent – memory, back in 2006. Thompson is all about building the team through the draft, and it has worked out rather well over the years. The Packers remain a perennial Super Bowl contender, and Jackson might be the missing piece to winning another Lombardi Trophy.

Would you like to see Steven Jackson wearing a Packers uniform next season?

Story time not only for kids

5 Mar
Truman Capote

Truman Capote sitting comfortably. He is one of the most well-known narrative journalists. Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Everyone loves a good story. Or so we’re told. There once was a time during the 20th century when people adored narrative journalism – with its long stories, character development and various scenery. It changed the perception of the journalism industry for readers and writers alike. Change; it is an all-too-familiar word in journalism, and perhaps it is the reason narrative journalism is becoming a dying art form. Let’s hope not. Journalists like Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson and Gay Talese made a living by using their unique storytelling abilities. Magazines and newspapers, particularly the New York Times and the Washington Post, featured stories with elaborate detail and development.

Then, the journalism industry changed yet again, paving the way for digital journalism and online news consumption, ever changing the way readers obtained their information. Sites such as buzzfeed.com, Gawker and huffingtonpost.com are taking away narrative journalism’s thunder, featuring shorter, simpler stories that are more reader-friendly. In today’s society, clicks and online traffic determine the success of an online news outlet, thus essentially making long-form narrative journalism a thing of the past. The shift to digital journalism is jeopardizing the future of narrative journalism. Outlets do exist for readers to get their hands, or eyes, on narrative journalism stories, but the revenue is not there.

In “The Sequester Is Terrible For Traffic,” McKay Coppins, a staff writer for buzzfeed.com, says there is little demand for the recent sequestration headlines, simply because people do not understand the concept and do not want to spend their time reading about it.

Sam Stein, political editor for the Huffington Post, says, “I’d give you a quote about the traffic generated by sequestration stories, but will anyone click on your sequestration-related story and read it?” Coppins included in his article that “a poll found that just 27 percent of Americans have heard a lot about the mandatory spending cuts to take place next week.” As it relates to narrative journalism, today’s readers do not want to engage in a lengthy, lack-luster story that might do nothing but confuse them and waste their time. For example, a scoop about Paul Ryan blaming spending cuts on President Obama received around 4,000 page views, whereas a story about how government contractors are responding to the cuts received nearly half as many views.

“The biggest problem, though, is that the sequester fight basically defines the kind of political story that is only of interest to the people who are paid to be interested,” said Gabriel Snyder, editor of The Atlantic Wire. “There are lots of people interested in politics. There are far fewer interested in political theater.”

If the interest is not there, people will not want to consume news, let alone pay for it.

“It’s clear we need a new business model when it comes to media, but it’s been unclear what that model will be,” says NPR Planet Money’s Zoe Chace in the story, “Can Andrew Sullivan Make It On His Own?” This is the center of conflict for digital journalists. Sullivan is attempting to reach out to his followers to earn enough money to keep his blog going. No one knows how to make money online. Of course, money is generated by clicks, but what leads to those clicks?

“You can get even more viewers, more traffic, volume, volume, volume… and how do you get volume? Two words: celebrities and sideboobs,” says NPR’s Robert Smith.

Will readers pay for online news stories? That is the million dollar question, no pun intended.

In “OurBlook Roundup: Journalism Will Survive in Digital Age” by Sandra Ordonez on pbs.org, Ordonez gathers quotes from journalists trying to solve the industry’s problems. As it relates to journalism in the digital age, some journalists believe the style of reporting has changed.

“To date, newspapers have, for either the strangest or most inexplicable reason, chosen to either downplay or ignore their strengths: Reporting and writing. Newspapers have a virtual monopoly on those two attributes. ‘Aggregating,’ and its tedious synonyms, is not reporting nor is it writing; it’s cutting and pasting,” says Bruce Austin, professor and chair of the Department of Communication at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Austin makes a valid point. In today’s digital age, many reporters are taking content from other journalists and pasting it onto their sites in hopes of their content receiving more clicks and more revenue. There is not nearly as much original reporting as there was many years ago, and the digital format is to blame. Journalists today may be lacking the creativity and/or the raw ability that journalists possessed in the past. Narrative journalism is a great example of those two characteristics, but it seems to be fading away.

In his blog post, “Verification doesn’t threaten narrative journalism,” Director of Community Engagement & Social Media at Journal Register Co. Steve Buttry discusses his own journalism experiences and reflects on narrative journalism.

“Verification in narrative doesn’t have to grow from suspicion, just from a commitment to learning the story and getting the facts right, even those details,” Buttry says.

In this respect, narrative journalism may indeed by in trouble. Because of the digital age, journalists place less emphasis on getting the facts and details right, which Buttry says are important components in narrative journalism.

“See, here’s the point about narrative journalism: Your first job is to learn the full story, wherever it takes you,” Buttry says.

Buttry talks about the Manti Te’0 hoax and how that presented a great opporunity for narrative journalism. Many writers did not take advantage of it.

“Narrative journalists learn and tell stories, and the sportswriters who swallowed the story of [Te’o’s] girlfriend’s death didn’t bother to learn the story of the girlfriend they thought existed and as a result failed to learn and tell the story Deadspin told about their gullibility,” Buttry says.

While the future of journalism appears to be strictly digital and much lies in question, there is always room for quality storytelling. After all, there are many stories waiting to be told. It is just a matter of finding a journalist dedicated enough to present them.

What are your thoughts about narrative journalism itself and its role in the digital age?