The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The story of "Turd"

I think that based on Sunday's performance against the Bears, it is worth recounting the origin of one Robert "Turd" Ferguson.

Since I was a little kid the Packers have had a habit of passing on University of Wisconsin players in the draft, often in favor of lesser talent. In the event that they have picked a UW player (Randy Wright, I'm looking in your direction) they have often been disasters (Mark Tauscher being a recent exception). In 1985 the Packers passed on Al Toon (whom Danny recently defeated in a triathlon). Al was a very good receiver and probably would have helped, but the Packers did get the excellent left tackle Ken Ruettgers instead so it is hard to take issue with the pick (well, except for the fact that the greatest wide receiver in history went 9 picks later). It did, however, start a trend.

In 1992 the Packers selected highly touted midget Terrell Buckley from Florida State in an effort to lull the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions into a false sense of security. You see, the Lions possessed giant receiver Herman Moore, and the Vikings had a rather tall fellow named Jake Reed along with a few guys named Carter. By drafting Buckley the Packers hoped to make the Lions and Vikings so overconfident that they would just stop trying. Unfortunately the strategy backfired and led to Herman Moore averaging about 800 yards per game.

A few picks after the Pack picked T-Buck (who is so despised in Green Bay that his name has become a pejorative, as evidenced by reference of former Packer anti-hero T.J. Rubley as T.J. Buckley), the Eagles selected cornerback Troy Vincent from Wisconsin, who is not a midget, and who went on to play in several Pro Bowls and anchor one of the best defenses of the 1990's.

Fast forward a few more years to 2001. Again the Packers have an opportunity to draft a standout Wisconsin player, WR Chris Chambers. He would eventually fall to number 52, and the Miami Dolphins. Instead the Packers selected the raw and unproven Robert Ferguson, out of Texas A&M. This is also the draft in which the Packers squandered a first round pick on Jamal Reynolds (Note: Between Robert and Chris, excellent DT Kris Jenkins and shutdown corner Fred Smoot were taken. Six picks after Chambers was taken Travis Henry was drafted. All could have been Packers. In the third round the Packers selected Bhawoh Jue (#71) and Torrance Marshall (#72). Both have been disasters (Jue had several key penalties against the Bears). They missed the opportunity to draft Steve Smith (#74), and Kevan Barlow (#80). But I digress.).

Ferguson did not manage to get on the field his first year save for one game. He caught no passes and had no impact. They could have used him. The primary receivers in 2001 were Antonio Freeman, well into his free fall, Bill Schroeder, and Corey Bradford. Donald Driver was on the bench, but still a year away from his breakout season.

The Pack still managed a successful year, but were steamrolled in the playoffs by the Rams. You may remember this game as Brett's 6 interception performance, but the play of the wide receivers contributed greatly to all but 2 of them.

Chris Chambers, on the other hand, was forced to catch passes from one Jay Fiedler, the greatest QB in NFL history to graduate from Dartmouth. Despite this noticeable handicap, Chambers caught 48 balls for 883 yards (18.4 yards/catch) and scored 7 TDs. After a slower (and injury plagued) 2002 he rallied to post 963 yards and 11 TDs in 2003.

Imagine replacing Ferguson's first year with Chambers'. Would the Packers still have lost to the Rams? Without the turnovers in that game (mostly caused by WRs) it was fairly close. The Packers are often credited with exposing the Rams system in that game by beating up on their WRs, a strategy that may very well have led directly to the Patriots Super Bowl victory.

A little more offense may have changed history. But that is just one of the reasons that Robert is "Turd." He runs routes incorrectly. He drops balls. He misses downfield blocks. And, in truly frustrating fashion, he shows flashes of brilliance. In the preseason he was catching bombs. He made a nice play for the lone Packer TD on Sunday. But then in the big moment, he let's you down.

Against the Bears on Sunday he managed to get behind the defense at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Brett hit him in the hands in stride. It would have been a huge gain (maybe a score) and would have immediately shifted momentum back to the Pack. But he dropped it.

He does this every week. He'll make a nice play and I'll casually mention to a friend that maybe it's time to drop the "Turd" label. Invariably on the next play the label comes racing back.

So he remains Robert "Turd" Ferguson, for which I have to thank Burt Reynolds (OK, Norm MacDonald). After all, Turd Ferguson is a funny name:

Alex Trebek: Mr. Reynolds has apparently changed his name to Turd Ferguson.

and

Alex Trebek: Burt Reynolds?
Burt Reynolds: That's not my name.
Alex Trebek: (disgusted) All right - Turd Ferguson?
Burt Reynolds: Whaddaya want?
Alex Trebek: You buzzed in.
Burt Reynolds: That's just your opinion.
Alex Trebek: I hate my job!

(PS: There were plenty of goats in this game (AHMANNNNN!!!!!) but we'll get to them later, along with the increasing problem of NFL runningbacks driving up the cost of healthcare in America.)

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