The stories concerning the signing of Desmond Bishop by the Vikings vary widely from what news source you’re getting it from. The reaction from Packers fans has been typical. As has been the case with the Spielman Era, each of the Fab Five of former Packers that came over to Minnesota have all been vilified by those with the rare GNG (Green-N-Gold) Negative blood type.
As with his four notable predecessors that Spielman and the Vikings invested in, none of them were the high-profile free agent raids made in recent years. In each instance, the player was available because the Packers said they weren’t interested in “moving forward” – an NFL colloquialism of
“Hit the road, Jack, and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.” If it was a relationship, the Packers always made the decision that they “wanted to see other people.” Dump City, Population You.
For the reasons of clarity, Robert Ferguson is included in the Gang of Five. Much like the Vikings scorched-hand policy of trying to make something out of former Bears receivers (Bobby Wade, Devin Aromoshodu and Hollywood fashion plate Bernard Berrian come immediately to mind), Ferguson earned the hushed nickname Turd Ferguson – a tip of the hat to a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Norm McDonald as Burt Reynolds was looking to fluster Alex Trebec (Will Farrell). From the perspective of Vikings fans, the comparisons and the hushed nickname were appropriate. He was a swing and a miss.
Darren Sharper was the first Packer to make an impact, and in a strange way may be the reason why the Vikings traded back into the first round of the 2011 draft to take Harrison Smith. Even the most jaded of Packers fans couldn’t deny that Sharper was a defensive difference-maker when he donned purple (and subsequently won a ring for his un-penalized role in the Bountygate scandal). Unlike guys like Madieu Williams, Sharper didn’t look to knock down passes, he looked to intercept them and bring them back for a score. Since his departure the Vikings have lacked that defensive component. Smith provided the first spark of reigniting that torch. That’s what Sharper did and he did it well.
Ryan Longwell was a similar story of a team falling in love with unproven talent – yip-victim Mason Crosby. Longwell was a technician of the highest order, whether it was with one second left on the clock or breaking the nose of an inattentive EMT at training camp. The guy was money. His only problem was that Blair Walsh had a stronger leg. For his time in Minnesota, Longwell held up more than his end in terms of consistency and production.
Favre sent the animosity off the charts – Def-Com type stuff. But let’s not forget that the Packers offered Favre $20 million to walk away from the game on their terms and be a charity golf tournament faceplate for the next decade. They underestimated Favre’s love of the game. He still wanted to play. As it turned out, between the Jets and the Vikings, he cashed in about $55 million in three years, not 20-in-10. Red McCombs would be proud of that type of return on investment.
The Packers fan response was to exile him to the Jets – getting him out of the NFC and assuring that, other than a Super Bowl, they wouldn’t see him until the Jets would meet the Packers in 2010 – by which time he would likely be done anyway. They were buying what they thought were two years for him to “pull a Unitas/Namath/etc.” and finish his career on a sorry note. They didn’t understand the saltiness of a Mississippian scorned. They learned a harsh lesson in 2009.
Jennings was an exception to the others only in that he wasn’t cut by the Packers and clearly sent packing. Green Bay simply allowed him to move on to free agency and go away thanks to NFL Darwinism. A team in need will offer him more money than the Packers have budgeted (a.k.a. nothing) and he will go away due to natural selection. The Vikings were a team in clear need of a veteran wide receiver and their jump to grab him made sense at too many levels – not the least of which being that, with the pick acquired for disgruntled Percy Harvin, the Vikings were able to afford both Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson as a replacement plan. Jennings hasn’t proved anything in purple yet, but, once again, Packer Nation can’t legitimately be salty because the team wasn’t going pay market value when it already has Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones. It’s an embarrassment of receiver riches that made Jennings expendable.
So it is with Bishop. The Packers didn’t feel it was necessary to step up and make sure he remained in green and gold. Instead of paying him what they agreed to two years early, they released him when they couldn’t find a trading partner. Bishop traded green for purple. He wasn’t the first. If the Packers remain short-sighted on the value veterans have, he won’t be the last. But Packers fans really have no right to proclaim Bishop to be a Judas to the fan base. He didn’t pack his own bags. They were packed for him – as they were with Favre, Sharper, Longwell and, rightly so, Ferguson.
If Bishop lives up to expectations, an off-putting head capsule of Favre, Sharper, Longwell and Bishop might be a Mount Rushmore the Minnesota Legislature might want to station at all borders between Minnesota and Wisconsin – Welcome to Minnesota, may your stars be with us.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.