What does the best quarterback in the NFL do when he is in the biggest game of the season, is already missing super stud Jordy Nelson, last weeks spark plug Davante Adams, promising rookie Ty Montgomery, red-zone threat Andrew Quarless, Randall Cobb goes down with an injury and his one remaining veteran wide receiver is covered by one of the top shutdown corners (Patrick Peterson) in the league?
Simple. He makes another one.
Yep, right there on the spot facing the best team in the NFL, with the 5th overall defense, he chooses to make Jeff Janis, the 7th round draft pick out of the DII school, Saginaw Valley State University, into the hero.
Up until this point, Janis who had hauled in just 4 catches for 95 yards over 19 games in his two year career, had failed to earn Rodgers trust.
“Jeff will have some great days and some days where mentally he’s making too many mistakes,” Rodgers said. “The talent and athleticism is there. We just need to see from all those guys battling for those two spots just some more consistency.”
Those words shocked and confused Packer fans who had been pulling for Janis to get his chance. The 24 year old receiver looks similar to Jordy Nelson but is bigger and faster.
Packer wide receiver coach Alex Van Pelt 0ffered a form of explanation. “Aaron has to come to trust you, and then he’ll throw the ball to you more often. And when you get to Sundays he may feel more confident throwing it in your direction.
Nelson had to go through the same process. In 2010, he was 4th on the Packers receiving depth chart, waiting patiently behind Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones when the Packers made it to the Super Bowl.
That’s the same faith Janis has been hoping for, and fortunately for him he was able to remain humble just long enough.
“I think the biggest thing with Aaron is he wants us to be mentally on the same page,” Janis said. “He knows physical mistakes are going to happen, like dropped balls and things like that, but mental errors are unacceptable to him. So I think that’s where I’m really trying to take a step.”
At this point, having his worst season since his rookie year, with critics telling him he was washed up and worthless, and facing a defense that had embarrassed him just two weeks before, Rodgers had no choice but to place his whole confidence in his 7th string receiver.
The results were amazing.
Even with the defense focused on him, and the referees turning a blind eye on an obvious interference call, Janis was totally undeterred as he ripped through the Cardinals for 7 catches, 145 yards, 2 TDs and the “catch of the year,” in a year filled with highlight catches.
But you can rest assured that this won’t be the last you hear of him. Next year, he will be in a line up full of healthy receivers, including Jordy Nelson. The only difference, is this time, all eyes will be on him.