Jermichael Finley thought he was in trouble with the head coach. Big trouble.
About a month ago, following the New Orleans game in Week 4, Finley was pulled out of a meeting and sent to Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s office with a message that the coach had a surprise for him.
“I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ When I go up there, it ain’t good,” Finley said with a laugh.
It turned out McCarthy just wanted to show him some film. Namely, the highlights from the 2009 NFC Wild Card playoff game in Arizona, when Jermichael practically took over the contest, beginning with a 44-yard catch just after the two-minute warning in the first half.
He added gains of 33 and 38 yards in the second half on his way to six catches for 159 yards, a whopping 26.5-yard average, all in the final 32 minutes of regulation as the Packers rallied from a 21-point deficit to force overtime.
He broke the Green Bay Packers playoff record for receiving yards in a game, and he nearly reached the league playoff mark for tight ends (Kellen Winslow, 166 yards, 1981 AFC Divisional). It was a performance McCarthy referred to on Friday as one of the most dominant he’d ever seen from a tight end.
“He said, ‘Look at this. Finley the beast,’” Finley recalled, before describing what was going through his mind as he watched.
“I thought it was pretty sweet he called me up, first of all. But what goes through is just like, (shoot), what happened? Where did it go? I’m the same person. I don’t know where it went.”
A lot has happened with Jermichael Finley since then – a season-ending knee injury in 2010, a bout with the dropsies in 2011 and now a hunger for more opportunities in 2012.
McCarthy’s objective wasn’t just to take a trip down memory lane, but to show Finley what that type of performance actually looks like.
Finley was plucking the ball out of the air with his strong hands, outmuscling defensive backs for position, showing explosion after the catch. It was all there, sprinkled in with other plays where Finley let the ball get to his body and when he was more hesitant, to illustrate the difference.
“It was revealing,” McCarthy said. “He was a bigger man then, just the way he caught the ball in that game compared to the opportunities he’s had this year. It was a good video for him to see on a number of different levels, from confidence, and technique things in there that he and I talked through.”
Finley has admitted before and did so again on Friday that when he drops a pass or two he reverts to body-catching the ball, and it’s a two-fold problem. Not only can it lead to more drops, but it also greatly reduces the chance for yards after the catch.
McCarthy made reference to fundamentals again on Friday, and that’s where it starts. Finley hasn’t found the old him yet, and he’s the first to admit it, but he isn’t giving up, playing through a shoulder injury the past few weeks.
Statistically speaking, the meeting with McCarthy has yet to get Finley over the hump, but it has alerted him to what he needs to do to get back to where he was, and it’s caused him to pursue a better relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“It’s opportunity, getting that trust back from A-Rod,” he said. “If I was a quarterback, I wouldn’t throw it to a guy that’s off rhythm now either. I have to get that trust back.”
He’s having regular meetings now with Rodgers on Saturday nights at the team hotel, after all the official team business has concluded. He says Rodgers asks him how he wants the ball thrown, while Finley says he’s asking the QB what he needs to do for him.
It appeared they were getting in synch last Sunday, when Finley had a 20-yard catch-and-run down to the Jacksonville 5-yard line on the Packers’ first scoring drive. But he had just one more catch the rest of the game.
The next game brings the Arizona Cardinals to town.
The Saturday night meetings with Rodgers will continue, but Finley doesn’t anticipate another one with the head coach. McCarthy made his point, and even though Finley says he doesn’t think about that three-year-old Arizona game much and he “can’t live in the past,” time will tell if it was worth watching one last time.
“It got me pumped. It got me jacked up,” Finley said. “Everybody has a coming out game during the season where they get comfortable and start rolling, and I hope it’s this game once again.” Additional coverage - Nov. 2