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Vikings' Jennings made critical error

C.D. Angeli, Packers contributor

Greg Jennings, Aaron Rodgers. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Vikings' Jennings made critical error

CREATED Oct. 30, 2013

Greg Jennings made a critical error.  No, it wasn't shooting his mouth off last summer when he signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

Jennings was perfectly within his rights to toss some barbs at the Packers, whether it was in jest or not.

It's not the first time that a player fired some shots back across their shoulder upon their departure from their previous team. 

It's part of the game, and when you're talking about a game that fans are just a little angsty about being too soft in the wake of the concussion settlement, it's actually kind of fun.

The raw nerve, of course, was the fact that Jennings went to the Vikings....THE VIKINGS...just like Brett Favre....FAVRE!!!

He had the audacity to besmirch Aaron Rodgers....AARON RODGERS....who had to suffer the agony of replacing Brett Favre. Had those elements not been in place, this never would have been a story to begin with.

But Packers players, from Darren Sharper to Ryan Longwell, have crossed the Mississippi before.  They've even talked a little smack about their old team when they did.

The world didn't end. For some reason, the Favre Betrayal appears to have soiled that exit route for Packers players for all time.

Apparently, someone forgot to tell Greg Jennings this important bit of information.

But, I still don't blame him.

In fact, in retrospect, the impact of Favre going to Minnesota was an incredible journey.

The righteous indignation from Packers fans gave Vikings fans something to cheer about, which is a rarity in itself.

The four Favreageddon games were record-setting and the NFL's marketing arms dream.

When the Packers finally defeated Favre at Lambeau, on their way to winning a third Super Bowl ring, it completed a story of vindication and victory for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.

You can't script this stuff.

Nothing Jon Gruden can gush about on Monday Night Football can replace the true, raw emotions such a once-in-a-lifetime set of circumstances can bring.

I was at both Favreageddon games at Lambeau, and even in the loss, the electricity in that stadium could have powered Green Bay for months.

I still place that loss as a game I'm glad I attended more than several ho-hum wins I've attended.

So, when Jennings decided to throw a little dirt back at Rodgers and his old team, I just smiled and circled the date on the calendar.

Unlike most fans, I relished the thought of seeing Favre prove himself against his old team, and was looking forward to seeing how Jennings would try and make good on his word.

But then, he made his critical mistake.

Maybe it was because he realized that his trash talk had gone too far.

Maybe it was because he realized his team had no chance to win, and he wanted to save face.

Maybe he simply felt he had betrayed friendships that he now realized he valued and missed.

For whatever reason, he walked back the comments.

He apologized, in his own way. He tried to make it "all better" and just make it another game.

Thus, he removed any hope of true competitiveness his team might have enjoyed against the Packers on Sunday.

His team got beat, 44-31, in a game that wasn't even that close.

Early in my career, a friend asked me to coach a junior high basketball team with him.

My team, the eighth graders, were low in numbers and skill. His team, the seventh graders, were the groups that comes along once in a generation.

I endured a season without a win, while he flew through a season without a loss.

In one game, his boys jumped out to an early lead. Soon, it was 10-0. Then 20-0.

 The opposing team had only seven players, and by the third quarter, two of them had fouled out. By that point, the point margin was in the forties.

Used to being on the other end of that kind of score, I urged him to put in his reserves, which he did.

However, it didn't change the momentum of the game and soon his team was in the sixties, while the other team still hadn't broken ten.

I then learned a lesson that I will always remember.

I asked him to call off the dogs. Just run a prevent offense and let the clock run out.

He looked at me and said, "You never coach a team to go backwards. It's disrespectful to them, and its disrespectful to the other team."

As I looked, the bottom five guys on his roster were getting some valuable playing time, but moreso, the opposing team, now down to four players, was still standing on the court, playing until the final whistle or until they ran out of players.

They may have been frustrated and embarrassed, but they weren't backing down.

Jennings mistake was backing down.

He took the submissive position, and in turn, enflamed his opposition even more than they would have been meeting for a mutual smackdown.

The Packers came ready to play, despite the decimating injuries.

Aaron Rodgers may have not been having a season resemblant of his 2011 MVP campaign, but on Sunday night, he was as laser focused as we have ever seen him.

In backing down, Jennings dishonored his own teammates, desperately trying to cling to any shred of pride they had on their home field.

Jennings disappeared that day, and the Packers made the rest of the team follow suit.

While Leslie Frazier certainly deserves a hearty hand in the blame, he has been taking a back seat to No. 15 since Jennings arrived in Minnesota, and Sunday night continued the trend.

No team can win going backwards, and the more Jennings backpedaled, the more he backed up and over his own teammates.

C.D. Angeli is a lifelong Packer fan and feature writer at CheeseheadTV.  He is the co-host of the weekly Packers podcast Cheesehead Radio and is the good cop at Follow him on Twitter at @TundraVision.