Has Davante Adams Won His Last Division Title in the NFL?

What was once nearly automatic for Adams may become scarce

Davante Adams - All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons [image cropped]

Has Davante Adams won his last division?

We promise this isn’t sour grapes about him leaving town; it’s a serious contemplation.

Adams was a part of five division championships in his eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, including each of the last three seasons. That’s quite the accomplishment, especially for a star player on that team. That level of success can start to seem automatic, that’s just human nature.

His tenure with the Las Vegas Raiders begins this fall. For reasons we’ll get into later, we don’t see him winning another division title for quite some time, if at all.

We suppose another question has to be asked alongside another one.

Is it possible to take winning for granted in the NFL?

Most players, fans and talking heads would respond with an emphatic, “hell no.” However fans and players of the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers may, on occasion, take winning for granted. Of course the Packers haven’t won as many Super Bowls as the Patriots in recent years, but Green Bay’s 12 division titles this millennium are second only to New England’s 17 division titles.

No, we aren’t saying all Packers fans fall into the “Entitled Town” trap, but again, human nature has a way of creating unrealistic expectations.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 10 division titles this century, along with a few recent Super Bowls, have them on the edge of this discussion, too.

Davante Adams took less money to go to the Raiders. He left a team that is led by a four-time AP MVP quarterback. He left a team that goes to the playoffs nearly every year.

Division titles in Green Bay, although not celebrated like they are in Minnesota, still mean something. Even if they feel commonplace, they do mean something.

Will Adams ever be able to feel that again? Did he, possibly, take winning football games for granted? He seems to have a good perspective on life, so we aren’t saying that as if it’s a fact. It’s merely a question.

     Let’s get this out of the way now:

No one can blame Adams for leaving Green Bay.

We certainly aren’t blaming him. We understand putting proximity to family above anything else when making big decisions. Of course playing with your college best friend sounds good. It makes all the sense in the world that he wants to play for the franchise he grew up rooting for. A wide receiver trading snow for a dome? Make sense. We even understand wanting to live in Vegas (with all the money he has). Some of the best restaurants in the world will now be in his backyard and his native California is a short flight away.

But at what cost?

Is all of that worth playing for a team that almost never wins its division? The Raiders have only gone to the playoffs twice in the last 18 years.

The past isn’t always an indicator of the future, but sometimes it is.

The Raiders’ distant past is littered with success. The franchise has a great and memorable history. Think of the names like Lester Hayes, Marcus Allen, Ken Stabler, Bo Jackson, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw. We can keep going with names like Howie Long, Jim Otto, Tim Brown, Ted Hendricks and Jack Tatum. What a collection of greats!

We didn’t even mention the most famous Packers/Raiders crossover: the incomparable Charles Woodson.

And then there’s John Madden, the King of Raider Nation. It’s a franchise that has clearly been absolutely blessed with all-time greats. Greats that helped the team win three Super Bowls and a boatload of division titles. “Just win baby” was a way of life for Al Davis’ squad.

But that was the past. The distant past.

Today, NFL teams only go as far as their quarterback can take them.

Do you really see Derek Carr joining the list of all-timers above?

We don’t, honestly.

Even adding in Adams’ greatness, and we do mean greatness, we don’t see this Raiders team making the playoffs this year or in the near future.

Carr has only topped 30 touchdown passes in his career once and hasn’t been named to a Pro Bowl in the past four years. He’s 31 years old and has played in just one playoff game.

The quickest way to make the playoffs in the NFL is by winning your division — so let’s take a peek at the AFC West.

What did we say about NFL teams only going as far as their quarterback can take them?

You have Patrick Mahomes (26 years old) leading the Kansas City Chiefs.

You have Justin Herbert (24 years old) at the helm of the Los Angeles Chargers.

And now you have Russell Wilson (33 years old) under center for the Denver Broncos.

The Chiefs are going to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders for awhile. The Chargers are one of the fastest ascending teams in the league and the Broncos went 7-10 with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew freaking Lock at quarterback last year.

All three of those teams are going to have their eyes set on winning the AFC West. All consider themselves contenders — and they should.

Did the Raiders get better by adding Davante Adams?

Of course!

But will they beat Mahomes’ Chiefs, Herbert’s Chargers and Wilson’s Broncos to win the division crown?

Nope!

After we started working on this piece ESPN released their ranking of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks for 2022. They polled from all corners of the league: executives, coaches and players to come up with this list.

It’s probably of note that Aaron Rodgers is No. 1 on the list. Following two-straight MVP seasons, yeah that checks out.

But what’s more interesting to us, in the context of this piece, is who else made the top 10. Patrick Mahomes was listed at No. 2, Justin Herbert came in at No. 7 and Russell Wilson followed him at No. 8.

Derek Carr didn’t make the list (no surprise there).

The AFC in general is the stronger conference right now in terms of teams and quarterback play. So not only did Adams go to a division that is much harder to win, he went to the conference that is much stronger from top to bottom.

We see the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs winning their divisions in 2022. That leaves the Patriots, Ravens, Browns, Titans, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders competing for just three Wild Card spots.

From our vantage point the Raiders are, at best, the fifth best team in that group. So, no playoffs is the logical outcome.

Davante Adams would go from being in the playoffs almost every season, winning his division three years in a row to completely missing the playoffs. That would be quite the shock to the system.

But what happens if he misses the playoffs for the next three or four years? What happens to his legacy (yes we know it’s a team sport) then?

What if Davante Adams won his last playoff game?

Seems like a crazy, hyperbolic question at first. But think back to all the young quarterbacks in the AFC and the rising teams in each division. Again, Carr is 31 years old and his teams haven’t won a postseason game yet. It’s unlikely that his very best years in the league have yet to come.

What if we’ve seen the last of Adams in a winning fashion in the postseason? Unlikely, but the fact that it’s even a question in our minds has to say something.

Another question we have is this: Did Carr use his relationship with Adams to secure his newest contract with the Raiders? Or did the Raiders use Carr’s relationship with Adams to lure him to Vegas? Carr was only signed for three years, so it’s not like the team is overly committing to him.

Perhaps they both used each other. Which, oddly, makes the most sense. But if we had to guess, Adams plays in Vegas longer than Carr. We’re clearly not sold on the recent Carr hype (no one tell his famously-objective brother).

What of Canton?

Did Davante Adams cost himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Imagine Aaron Rodgers throwing to him for another two to three years. Imagine him breaking Don Hutson’s franchise receiving touchdown record that has stood for over 75 years (which he was on pace to do). Imagine him winning a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2022. There’s a lot to imagine.

But imagine if the Raiders fall to the bottom of the AFC West for the next half-decade. Imagine if Carr isn’t as adept at getting him the ball in crucial situations. Imagine if Adams doesn’t put up the numbers in Las Vegas because Carr isn’t as accurate as Rodgers?

There’s something about players that spend their entire career with one franchise that makes their legacy stronger. There’s also something to be said to own all of the franchise records by the time you hang up your cleats.

Neither of those things were enough to keep Adams in Green Bay. But when his case for The Hall comes up, there will, inherently, be a little less meat on the bone.

“He was phenomenal for the Packers, but Don Hutson, who played in the 1930s and 40s, still caught 26 more touchdowns than him — in the exact same number of games played (116).”

It’s an interesting thing to ponder.

We believe that Adams will, likely, have to put up at least two more First Team All-Pro seasons to get into Canton. There’s a backlog of great wide receivers, including Sterling Sharpe who should be in, and Adams will have to bolster his individual achievements to leapfrog a few guys.

Which quarterback would you rather have throwing you the ball if you needed to be named First Team All-Pro multiple times in the coming years? Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr?

Yes, that question was rhetoric.

Adams will look to be like Charles Woodson, a proud Cheesehead and proud son of The Black Hole. Woodson was named First Team All-Pro twice as a Packer and once as a Raider. Likewise, Adams was named First Team All-Pro twice as a Packer. Will he garner that honor as a Raider? Time will tell.

We sure hope he does.

Woodson found his way to Canton by playing for both historic franchises. We sincerely wish that for Adams. It would be a shame if his seemingly Hall of Fame career turned into a really, really good career that didn’t finish as strong as it went from 2016-2021 (particularly the last two seasons).

Adding Packers to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is always exciting. If he does make it, he’ll have to put up at least another five great seasons or at least another three transcendent seasons. Maybe he can put up the necessary numbers in Vegas, it almost seemed like a certainty he would have with Rodgers in Green Bay (if Rodgers doesn’t retire).

That caveat sure looms large, huh?

Such is life in Green Bay. We’ll gladly take the “will he, won’t he” final few seasons following all-time great quarterback careers. A necessary trade-off, it seems.

What if the Packers Start to Decline?

Decline, at some point, seems inevitable.

However we are bullish on the team’s roster and team-building philosophy moving forward. Just because a day will come when 12 is no longer in Green Bay doesn’t mean collapse will follow.

But it might.

What if the Green Bay Packers have won their last division of the Aaron Rodgers Era and miss the playoffs more often than not over the next half-decade?

That certainly is possible.

Think about what happens if Rodgers gets injured, retires or his play falls off a cliff right as the rest of the NFC North start coming around. The Detroit Lions are getting better. The Chicago Bears have hopes that this rebuild is actually going to take. The Minnesota Vikings, well, they always find a way to be a pain in the ass, don’t they? The NFC North could be harder in the next five years than it has been in the previous five.

If that’s the case then sure, Adams may have made the right decision in terms of getting to the postseason. We don’t see the future playing out exactly like that, but we definitely understand it’s possible.

Although it seems impossible that the NFC North will be more competitive than the AFC West in the near term.

But if Rodgers retires following the 2022 season, which he might, then maybe Adams’ production would have faltered even if he stayed in Green Bay. These are the unknowns that we’ll never be able to prove.

Adams cited Aaron Rodgers’ inability to fully commit to another three years in Green Bay as another reason (perhaps a minor reason) why he chose to move on. Which makes sense to us.

All of this is said acknowledging that Adams was still a star when he played without Rodgers. Just as Rodgers has put up phenomenal numbers without Adams.

They made such a great duo because neither player needed the other, but they still complemented each other perfectly. It is sad that we don’t get to see this connection moving forward. But life went on when Donald Driver and Greg Jennings moved on. Life went on when Jordy Nelson retired.

Life will go on once again — all eyes on you Christian Watson.

Davante Adams is getting older. This also has to be mentioned. He will turn 30 years old this season. There’s certainly an argument that Adams moving on was the best thing for the Packers’ roster. Not the wide receiver room, no doubt, but the roster in general.

Receivers Once They Leave Green Bay

This isn’t the only time in recent Packers history that a high-profile receiver has left the Packers.

Another player that comes to mind is Greg Jennings. No, Jennings wasn’t nearly the player that Adams is, but when he left Green Bay we had one thought:

Jennings just traded a lifelong legacy for short term money.

Did we blame him? Of course not, go get your money whenever you can. However had Jennings taken less money to stay in Green Bay for the rest of his career, he’d be a beloved name in the state of Wisconsin.

Now we aren’t saying that Adams will get the Jennings treatment in his post-career days (he definitely won’t). But Adams won’t get that same adored career-Packer treatment that guys like Donald Driver enjoy to this day.

Sure, not many guys start and finish their careers in Green Bay (or any NFL team for that matter), but Adams could have if he wanted.

There is precedent for an all-time great wide receiver to have tremendous success with the Packers, then go to an AFC team and continue to build a Hall of Fame resume.

We speak of James Lofton, of course.

Lofton was the NFL’s premier deep threat in the 1980s. Twice he led the league in yards per reception and he averaged over 70 receiving yards per game in six consecutive seasons (1980-1985). He was one of the best players in the NFL despite his team’s obvious shortcomings.

He left Green Bay following the 1986 season (just before turning 31) and found enough success with the Raiders and, more notably, the Bills to lock in his candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The man put up a 1,000+ yard receiving season at the age of 35. I mean, come on.

But make no mistake, he got to Canton by way of Green Bay.

Adams will look to do the same. Put up astonishing numbers in Green Bay, then head to the Raiders to put the finishing touches on his resume for The Hall. We don’t see him ending up in Buffalo though.

For the sake of the comparison, Adams was named First Team All-Pro twice in Green Bay and was invited to five consecutive Pro Bowls. Lofton was named First Team All-Pro once and Second Team All-Pro three times as a Packer. He also was named a Pro Bowler seven times, including six straight seasons.

Lofton was named to one Pro Bowl squad after Green Bay (in Buffalo). It will be looked as as a complete failure if Adams only matches that with the Raiders.

We’ll take the over.

Adams finding individual success won’t shock us. His ability to create separation, run perfect routes and catch the ball in big situations is what makes him the player he is. He’s as smart as he is dedicated. Hell, he’s currently the best receiver in football.

But will he win another division title in his career?

Looking at his and his team’s situation, we’ll once again say no. As crazy as that sounds.

Still, the fact remains, Davante Adams is an all-time great Green Bay Packer. He always will be. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward and are thankful we got to root for him for eight fun years. We honestly don’t think we are, but we hope we’re wrong about him not winning another division title in the NFL.

Either way, thanks for the memories, 17.

 

Go Pack Go!

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