So Jeremy Fowler of ESPN is now reporting that there is a “slightly growing sense” around the NFL that Aaron Rodgers will play for the Packers this year. Former Packer AJ Hawk, who spent a week socializing with the quarterback, says he feels Rodgers will be under center for Green Bay. Even the redoubtable Adam Schefter is now saying any movement of the three-time MVP will likely be after this season.
So let’s assume that QB12 reports to camp next week, or at some point. What do you suppose the atmosphere will be like in that building? Can Rodgers and the other players, and the coaches, and especially the front office, just pretend the drama of the past four months never happened? Will they all immediately resume being one, big happy family?
What’s the old expression….you can’t unring a bell. While it’s true that Rodgers has never stated publicly that he wants out of Green Bay, or that he wants General Manager Brian Gutekunst fired, the fact that he hasn’t denied any of it is tantamount to confirmation. He has let it fester out there to the embarrassment of the organization. If he were to report and sit down for his first media session and say “It was really all a big misunderstanding”, would you believe it? It’s gone too far for that.
On paper, with Rodgers playing quarterback this season, the Packers have to be one of the Super Bowl favorites. This team is loaded with talent. If the defense can improve a few small steps, and if the injury bug is kind, Green Bay looks pretty dang hard to beat. But they won’t be playing in a vacuum. The media circus surrounding Rodgers will be unrelenting.
I can picture every week Adam Schefter, or somebody like him, will be “breaking” a story about some incident or revelation regarding Rodgers’ relationship with teammates or the front office. Trade rumors will be rampant. Every time the quarterback has a bad game, or even a bad play, will he be accused of tanking deliberately in order to force a trade?
As one might expect, so far the other players are one hundred percent in support of their signal caller, at least publicly. Ditto for the coaches. They just want to win, and Rodgers gives them the best chance to do that. But one can’t help but wonder if everyone in the locker room will be walking on egg shells, terrified to do or say anything that will tick him off. What happens the next time Matt LaFleur decides to kick a field goal on 4th down and Rodgers disagrees?
Then, of course, there is the personnel aspect. Rodgers told ESPN’s Kenny Mayne that “It’s just kind of about a philosophy and maybe forgetting that it is about the people that make the thing go. It’s about character, it’s about culture, it’s about doing things the right way.”
Let’s not be coy. That was a direct shot at the front office. Rodgers was saying he wants to have a say in who gets cut and who doesn’t, in the very construction of the team. We can debate if that is smart, but the reality is, he has demanded it. Will the coaches and front office really consult him about their roster moves? Or will they dismiss his input? And if they do, what will his reaction be?
Schefter did say something recently that does make sense. He said that star quarterbacks around the league, including Rodgers, have “Brady envy”. They see how management lets Tom Brady call the shots in Tampa Bay, and they want the same power. I believe that’s true. The question is, do you really want to relinquish even a small part of control over the make-up of the team, just to keep your star player happy? After all, if it blows up in your face, you’re the one getting fired, not the quarterback.
“I love my teammates, love the coaching staff, love the fan base in Green Bay” Rodgers told Mayne, adding that it’s been “an incredible sixteen years.” It could be even more incredible if Rodgers and the front office handle this thing maturely and correctly. Swallow their pride and work together to make 2021 a special season. They’ve got the horses to do it.
What a shame if personalities get in the way.
Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.