In 2009, Jermichael Finley was the “it” tight end. Like the Ipod Mini, he was poised and primed to lead a new generation of tight ends. That season, Finley was setting records as if his life depended on it. His first 100-yard game came on October 5th against the Vikings while he went on to lead the team in targets during the second half of the season. Finely’s most impressive performance of that season came on January 10th in a 54-41 playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals. During that game, Finley caught 6 passes for 159 yards, which was (and still is) the 2nd most yards gained by a tight end in an NFL playoff game.
The expectations for Jermichael Finley were extremely high after his 2009 season. He was expected to be the top target of the Packers offense in 2010 and was on pace to achieve that goal until he suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Washington Redskins. Then, in 2011, Head Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that he was excited to finally integrate the big tight end into the offensive scheme. Fans were excited to see him get back on the field and fulfill the unspoken promises of another phenomenal season.
Finley has not lived up to the expectations of his coaches, teammates, or the Green Bay Packer fans. Since his 2010 injury, Finley has caught a bad case of “butterfinger” syndrome. In 2011, he had a drop rate of 17.69 percent. At the line of scrimmage Finley seems off-rhythm and out-of sync with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. This season, he only has 28 receptions for 265 yards with one touchdown. Worse, his drop rate has increased to 20 percent.
If this were baseball, analysts would conclude that Finley has been in a slump, a very very long slump. Just like in baseball, there are many reasons why the slump has lasted so long.
First, Finley has lost the trust of his quarterback. Finley has admitted that there is a lack of chemistry between him and Rodgers. To try to improve this, he has met with Rodgers every Saturday for 45 minutes and plans to continue to do so every Saturday.
“If I was the quarterback, I wouldn’t throw it to the guy who’s off-rhythm right now either. So I’ve got to get that trust back.”
The main problem though with Finely is that he is overthinking the game. Overthinking, while it may seem like a silly diagnosis, is actually a very real problem in sports. When an athlete begins to overthink, their skills and techniques begin to change. In Finley’s case, this involves the way he catches the ball. Since his injury in 2010, Finley has been trying to catch passes with his body. Before, Finley did not have problems catching a ball away from his body while in traffic. Now, though, Finley appears overthinking his catches. This causes him to drop not only the difficult balls but also easily catchable throws as well.
Whether or not the problem is physical or in Finley’s head, he hopes that this game against the Arizona Cardinals will jump start his season and get him back on track to being the player everyone expects.
“Everybody has a coming-out game in a season where they get comfortable and start rolling. So I’m hoping it’s this game once again. They have similar, same guys so I have to come out and play my type of ball.”