The Green Bay Packers were eliminated from the playoffs in week 15, and so they remain idle during the penultimate round of the NFL’s postseason this Sunday.
Well, they’re not exactly idle, as the defensive coaching staff is still unsettled, but they’re at least not playing football any more.
Still, there are tangible Packers connections to three of the four teams still alive in the postseason. Neither NFC representative has any players who spent time on the Packers’ roster, but the head coach of the conference’s top seed does indeed have a history in Green Bay. Meanwhile, in the AFC, each team has at least two players on the roster who have spent time with the Packers in recent years, though one of them was part of a situation most fans would like to forget.
Here’s a look at former Packers or individuals with Packers connections who will be participating in this weekend’s games.
Despite all the jokes that Packers fans have made about the Vikings liking to pick up Green Bay’s leftovers, there are actually no players on the Vikings’ roster who spent any time with the Packers. Cornerback Trae Waynes is from Racine, Wisconsin, but that’s about all we’ve got. Therefore, we have to look to the coaching staff for some connections, and we found only one significant one:
Shurmur is the nephew of former Packers defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur. Fritz led the defenses in the mid-1990s when Mike Holmgren was the Packers’ head coach, and his 1996 defense was the best in the NFL as the Packers went on to win Super Bowl XXXI. Pat is expected to become the next head coach of the New York Giants when the Vikings’ season concudes.
The Packers connections in Philly start at the top with head coach Doug Pederson. During his playing career, Pederson served as the backup to quarterback Brett Favre for seven seasons over two separate stints in Green Bay, first from 1996-1998 and again from 2001-2004. Of course, Pederson did not start a game for the Packers, but he did compile a stat line of 46 completions, 77 attempts (59.7%), 398 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Pederson got his NFL coaching career underway under former Packers assistant Andy Reid in Philadelphia, then he followed Reid to Kansas City. Pederson spent three years as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator before getting the head coaching job with the Eagles.
ILB Mychal Kendricks
Although not a true Packers connection, rumors abounded in training camp that the Packers were interested in trading for Kendricks, an inside linebacker who has played in both 43 and 34 defenses. The rumored trade would have been a one-for-one swap of Kendricks for cornerback Damarious Randall, but the trade obviously did not take place.
Bonus Wisconsin Badgers connections: DT Beau Allen, RB Corey Clement, S Chris Maragos (on IR)
New England Patriots
DL Ricky Jean Francois
The lone member of the Patriots with a Packers connection is Jean Francois, who had two separate stints with the Packers this season. First, he signed a one-year, $2 million contract in March during free agency following his release from Washington, and he made the team out of training camp. However, the Packers released him after week one, only to bring him back a week later and keep him on the roster until November 1st.
The Patriots signed him a week later, then waived him in December before re-signing him after ten days back on the market.
All told, Jean Francois played in twelve regular season games this season, six each with the Packers and Patriots; his only start came for New England. His only sack of the year came in Saturday’s Divisional playoff win over the Titans.
DL Lawrence Guy
A 7th-round pick of the Packers’ in 2011, Guy never suited up on gameday for the Packers, being inactive for every game of his rookie year and ending up on the practice squad to start his second season. The Colts signed him off the Packers’ practice squad in 2012, and he has since played for four different NFL teams — the Colts, Chargers, Ravens, and now the Patriots. His best season came in 2015 with Baltimore, when he had 4.5 sacks, but this year saw him set a career high with 15 starts at defensive tackle for New England.
TE Martellus Bennett
Yeah, despite trying to block out Bennett’s saga in Green Bay from our memory, it still happened. Bennett is on injured reserve for New England, however.
Bonus Wisconsin Badgers connection: RB James White
OLB Lerentee McCray
The Packes signed McCray as an unrestricted free agent in April 2016, hoping he could provide some depth for the Packers on special teams and at outside linebacker. However, the team traded him to the Bills near the end of that year’s training camp for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2018, which it appears they will indeed collect. McCray played in 13 games for Buffalo, primarily on special teams, and he forced one fumble.
This offseason, McCray signed with Jacksonville, where he played in 13 games once again. He recorded 1.5 sacks and a pass defense in limited action on defense.
OL Josh Walker
A former backup for the Packers on the offensive line, Walker was active for the Packers in 13 games during the 2015 season as a versatile backup. He had spent much of the 2014 season on Green Bay’s practice squad, but was released at the end of training camp in 2016 on an injury settlement. He ended up on the Texans’ practice squad that October before being promoted to the active roster about two weeks later.
Walker was a roster cut at the end of Houston’s camp this September, but Jacksonville picked him up a few days later. He has primarily been a gameday inactive, suiting up just twice on gamedays this year but providing some valuable insurance on the offensive line.
Bonus Wisconsin Badgers connection: P Brad Nortman