Why Don't the Packers Want Ryan Grant?
by Mike Conklin
August 10, 2012
Editorial Note: This post is a departure for Packerpedia in that it is based mostly on speculation rather than fact. Take it for what it's worth...food for thought.
Shock waves were sent through Packer Nation on Friday, when it was reported that Cedric Benson was in Green Bay getting ready to sign a deal.
It was the kind of thing that you had to read again. And again. It just didn't make sense.
What was not a surprise is that the Packers were looking to pick up a veteran running back. So far their ball carriers have not been overly impressive in camp, and for a team that should be a championship contender it makes sense to fortify the position. But the running back they did choose to pursue definitely raised some eyebrows.
Cedric Benson does not fit the Packer profile we have come to expect. While he has been productive with 1,000 yard seasons the past three years, it is questionable how much tread is left on the tires. He will turn 30 later in the season, and has averaged a hefty 298 carries each year since 2009. The former Bear and Bengal has averaged a pedestrian 3.8 yards per carry for his career, and in the last two years has fumbled the ball 12 times. Benson has also been arrested four times in the past four years.
If the Packers were going to sign a veteran running back, it seems like a better fit would have been to bring back Ryan Grant. He is almost exactly the same age as Benson, has many fewer carries throughout his college and pro careers, knows the offense, secures the ball well, and has been a model citizen.
So why did the Packers choose Benson over Grant? On the surface, it just doesn't seem to make sense. Many fans wondered what Grant must have done to upset the Packers.
Is it possible that Grant is not in their plans because he embarrassed the Packers earlier in his career? Could they still hold a grudge?
Back in 2008, the Packers hired Russ Ball to replace Andrew Brandt as Vice President of Football Administration and to deal with player finances. One of Ball's first tests was when Ryan Grant held out for more money after his breakout season, even though he was only a restricted free agent and had no true leverage. It just so happened to be great timing for Grant, because all this happened right around the same time as the Favre un-retirement debacle. The Packers were clearly losing in the court of public opinion at that time, and Grant and his agent Alan Herman were able to effectively hold Russ Ball and the team hostage. It got kind of ugly back then, when the Packers offered what Grant and Herman considered a lowball offer.
"It's insulting," Alan Herman said at the time. "I can't believe after 5 1/2 months, after the Packers said to us that this was a unique situation, that the Packers take care of their own, that we would get in a situation as unreasonable as this. I've never seen anything like that in my 24 years in the business. He (Grant) was as mad as I've ever heard him. He's really angry."
“I have really nothing to say to the Packers at this point because I’m so astounded,” Herman added. “I can tell you that I will not be calling Russ Ball. When he’s got something that resembles making sense, I’ll be happy to talk to him."
Those are strong words, even from an agent. And the words are striking in that they were pointed directly at Russ Ball.
With the Favre firestorm going on at the time, Ball and the Packers didn't have much choice but to finally cave in to their demands. Grant took them to the cleaners, and was re-signed to a lucrative contract. The Packers likely were embarrassed by the whole ordeal, and would have been justified if they felt Grant was overpaid. That was certainly proven to be the case in hindsight.
From the outside looking in, one gets the feeling that the Packers front office members are a loyal bunch, and they take care of their own. It likely did not set well within 1265 Lombardi Avenue when Russ Ball was publicly attacked like that. Although Ted Thompson is the person that is most in the public eye when it comes to personnel issues, Ball is an important cog in the Packers machine and is greatly valued within the organization.
During the recent Family Night scrimmage, team president Mark Murphy was interviewed during the television coverage. He was asked about all the upcoming player contracts that will need to be addressed in the near future. Although we did not have the opportunity to transcribe the interview, Murphy's response was matter-of-fact. He stated that "Ted and Russ have a plan."
It was a surprising and revealing comment, because the way the statement was presented it sounded like Russ Ball was just as much of a part of the decision making process as Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. And upon further inspection, comments by Thompson and McCarthy would support that hypothesis. Both speak glowingly of Ball.
“The first thing that needs to be said is that Russ Ball is a good man,” Thompson was quoted in the team media guide. “He is a tremendous help to all of us here with the Packers, and his influence is felt throughout the organization. He does a lot of valuable work that often goes unnoticed by many. Russ is also a steady hand and a valued friend that we all come to for advice. He represents the Packers proudly, and we are fortunate to have him with us.”
"Russ manages the cap but his people skills are second to none," said McCarthy, who also worked with Ball in Kansas City and New Orleans. "He has so much more on his plate than I think people realize. He gives Ted the ability to be a GM and for me to coach. He is as involved as he (can be) in the personnel part of it. Russ will get mad at me for saying all this. He's a very humble person and respects the chain of command as far as Ted out there. But he's outstanding."
Mark Murphy even went a little further, calling him the "unsung hero of our Super Bowl."
Given how strongly the key figures on the team feel about Ball, plus the fact that he is apparently heavily involved in the decision making process, is it possible that the ugly events that transpired four years ago between Russ Ball, Alan Herman, and Ryan Grant still have a lingering effect?
It is a point worth considering. There must be a reason the Packers chose Benson over Grant, and on the surface one can not help but wonder if it is more than just football related.
Photo Credit: NFL.com