clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why Sidney Rice's Injury Isn't As Devastating As Everyone Thinks It Is

New, comments

Well, at least for the Vikings as a team, and not necessarily Rice the individual.  I mean, it's gotta suck knowing that the best QB in the history of the game is your QB and you're going to miss half the season.  I've been mulling this Sidney Rice deal for a couple of days, and I've come to one irrefutable conclusion:  It doesn't matter who the wide receivers are with Brett Favre as quarterback, somebody will step up and fill the void, and the Vikings offense will still be highly productive.  Let's take a look at Favre's career, examine who he's had to throw to, and then compare that to who he has to throw to this year.  Once we do that, I think you'll agree with me that the passing offense will be fine.

Really, it'll be okay.  But I will give you two choices.  Take the blue pill, you wake up in your bed, and you believe what you want to believe.  But take the red pill, stay in Wonderland, and I'll show you how deep the talented rabbit hole goes.  Remember, All I offer is the truth, nothing more.  After the jump, of course. 

First, let's look at some receivers Brett Favre has had to throw to over his years in Green Bay and Minnesota.  Let's start in Green Bay with Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, and Antonio Freeman.  In the early and mid 1990's Favre's two best targets were Sterling Sharpe and Robert Brooks.  Sharpe was a legitimately great receiver who had his career cut short by a neck injury.  Focus on Sharpe's and Brooks' stats from 1992-1994, which was Sterling's last season, and then Brooks' 95 season, and then Freeman from 1996 on:

Player

Receptions

Yards

Avg

TD

Sharpe

1992:  108 

93:  112

94:  94

1461

1274

1119

13.5

11.4

11.9

13

11

18

Brooks

93:  20

94:  58

95:  102

96:  23

97:  60

180

648

1497

344

1010

12.9

11.2

14.7

15.0

16.8

0

4

13

4

7

Freeman

95:  8

96:  56

97:  81

98:  84

106

933

1243

1424

13.3

16.7

15.3

17.0

1

9

12

14

So, what does the data tell us?  Well, a couple of things.  First, these were some very good Green Bay teams, and the 1996 team won the Super Bowl.  It also tells us that when there was an established guy that went down from an injury, another guy who was either okay or unproven the previous season stepped up and filled the void when a legitimate number one went down. 

In 1994 Sterling Sharpe had another Pro Bowl year in what was setting up to be a Hall of Fame career.  He had to retire because of a neck injury, and Robert Brooks, who had numbers which look a lot like Greg Camarillo, had a monster 1995.

In 1996, Robert Brooks, coming off a Sterling Sharpe year, only played in 7 games due to injury, and the previously unheralded Antonio Freeman, who had only 8 catches in 1995, filled the void with a line of 56/933/16.7/9.  Freeman took over the #1 spot and Brooks became the #2 guy in 1997, and then left the Packers a year or two later. 

Now, let's look at the Packers wideouts from the end of Freeman's career through 2004, and we'll add Bill Schroeder, Donald Driver, and Javon Walker, with the back half of Freeman's career:

Player

Rec

Yards

Avg

TD

Freeman

1999:  74

00:  62

01:  52

1074

912

818

14.5

15.5

15.7

6

9

6

Schroeder

 

98:  31

99:  74

00:  65

01:  53

02 (Det):  36 

452

1051

999

918

595

14.6

14.2

15.4

17.3

16.5

1

5

4

9

5

Driver

01:  13

02:  70

03:  52

04:  84

05:  86

167

1064

621

1208

1221

12.8

15.2

11.9

14.4

14.2

1

9

2

9

5

Walker

02:  23

03:  41

04:  89

05:  4

06:  69

319

716

1382

27

1084

13.9

17.5

15.5

6.8

15.7

1

9

12

0

8

So just like the Sharpe-Brooks-Freeman triumvirate, others stepped up to fill the void when a well known, go to guy was hurt or got traded.  As Freeman faded, Bill Schroeder stepped up with essentially three straight 1,000 yard seasons.  He then signed with Detroit and faded into oblivion.  Driver stepped in and filled the void for Schroeder, Javon Walker blossomed and then faded, and Jennings stepped up, albeit more with Aaron Rodgers than Favre, but his game was still elevated with Favre in 2006, his last year in Green Bay, with 632 yards on 45 catches. 

Now, let's look at what the Vikings had in 2009, Favre's first (then last, then first again, ha ha) season with the Vikings:

Player

Rec

Yards

Avg

TD

Bernard Berrian

07:  71

08:  48

951

964

13.4

20.1

5

7

Sidney Rice

07:  31

08:  15

396

141

12.8

9.4

4

4

Percy Harvin

No

Previous

NFL

Exp.

Conventional wisdom entering last season that Bernard Berrian was the unquestioned number 1 receiver, but who would complement him?  Then Berrian got injured, and everyone worried that there was no depth, talent, and ability at the WR position.  Rice was a bust, Harvin was too small and fragile to play 16 games, blah, blah, blah. 

Remember?

Yeah, I think the receivers seemed to figure it out last year in the absence of Berrian, who came back to have a decent year even with the multiple hamstring injuries.

So, let's look at the talent level and compare it to what Green Bay had in the mid-Aughts. First off, the I would take Harvin or Berrian over any 1,000 yard receiver the Packers put up from 2000-2006, except Donald Driver and Walker's 2004 season.  Secondly, the Vikings have more proven talent on their roster (Camarillo, Greg Lewis) than the unsung guys Green Bay had before they stepped up.  I mean, these guys were like Jaymar Johnson in their anonymity, and they literally came out of nowhere. 

No one saw the years Donald Driver, Javon Walker, Bill Schroeder, etc., had coming until they were forced in to contributing roles, and I bet if you could get them one on one, at least one of those guys would admit they didn't see it coming, either.

The injury to Rice is a serious one, and it will affect the Vikings.  Percy Harvin's migraines are a serious matter, and if they don't get them controlled, his availability could be in doubt from week to week.

But there is talent on this roster, and when you look at the history of the WR position on teams quarterbacked by Brett Favre, and then look at the ability of the players on the roster, someone will step up and come out of nowhere.

Of that I have no doubt.