As it was reported yesterday, the Packers filled out their 90-man roster by signing Colt Lyerla, the troubled (there's that word again!), yet talented, former Oregon tight end. This morning, longtime Packers writer Bob McGinn took time from yelling at kids to get off his lawn to drop by Twitter. Needless to say, Bob is none too happy with the signing:
Thompson, McCarthy, Murphy/board, welcoming fans show they can bottom-feed with the best signing off on TE Lyerla. What price glory?— Bob McGinn (@BobMcGinn) May 20, 2014
Rest assured 31 other NFL teams raised eyebrows and wondered about leadership/direction in Green Bay after the signing of TE Lyerla.— Bob McGinn (@BobMcGinn) May 20, 2014
As you can imagine, things did not go well from there. There's certainly something to be said about the mob mentality and instant reaction that makes Twitter such a powder keg, but McGinn essentially tossed a Molotov cocktail into the crowd. Yes, McGinn's among the most well-connected (and respected) guys covering the league, but the backlash to his comments weren't without merit.
As others have brought up, the idea that Lyerla poses some grand risk to the integrity of the Packers franchise is just all kinds of dumb. Yes, Lyerla got into serious trouble, but signing him doesn't exactly make the Packers the football equivalent of the Portland "Jailblazers." Remember, this is an organization that's taken calculated risks before. And while a guy like Koren Robinson didn't pan out on the field, Johnny Jolly came back from the brink of football extinction to transform himself not only into a capable football player, but one of the leaders of the team in the locker room.
That's all Lyerla is right now - a very modest risk. And more than anything, it's a football related one. I could see if the Packers had a shaky locker room, but the previous risks taken by the team never resulted in anything worse than a guy being cut and a minute hit to the salary cap (which doesn't even apply here, since Lyerla didn't get any sort of signing bonus). Koren Robinson didn't drive 90 mph through a shopping mall. Johnny Jolly didn't start an international ring of purple drank dealers inside Lambeau.
That's what makes McGinn's big issue with it so puzzling. Granted, McGinn covers only the Packers, but there's more than a little self-righteousness in his comments when he brings up Lyerla but ignores other teams signing wife beaters, drunk drivers and collectors of illegal assault weapons. The idea that the Packers maintain a holier-than-thou attitude has been perpetuated for some time, and McGinn's moral grandstanding about the Packers being "bottom feeders" because they signed Lyerla isn't doing much to dispel that theory.
It would be one thing if they were throwing caution to the wind and had a track record of cautionary players blowing up in their face, but this is one signing, and an undrafted free agent at that. The Packers aren't selling their souls to win (especially considering Lyerla has a small chance of even making the final 53-man roster) and, lest we forget, the reigning Super Bowl champion Seahawks were heavily built with players whom, at one time, were considered character risks. It seems to have worked out okay for them. Besides, McGinn's colleague Tyler Dunne even noted that Lyerla's agent said that there were multiple other teams interested in trying out his player.
Ultimately, I understand some concern about Lyerla, but to argue that such a marginal signing represents some time bomb that could implode the team--or worse, cause a distraction(!!)--shows little faith in the team's leadership. Maybe other GMs did raise their eyebrows today, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were only because they thought Ted Thompson knew something they didn't. After all, this is the same GM who is still just three years removed from winning Executive of the Year and continues to have real football writers gush about him. As Thompson said last year - "Everything's fine."
Everything will be fine, Bob.