Mr. Rodgers Does Not Like His Neighborhood.
Last Thursday, the NFL world was taken by storm by reports of Aaron Rodgers wanting out of Green Bay. Since then, the future Hall of Famer, and the 2020 MVP, has been reported to have told teammates that he will not play another snap for the Packers and that he wants general manager Brian Gutekunst fired. He has also reportedly considered retirement, possibly to take up a role as the host of Jeopardy. This news has taken the league by surprise, however, as Rodgers and the Packers are fresh off of back-to-back 13-3 seasons and NFC Championship game appearances. So what led us to the point where the face of the Packers franchise reportedly wants nothing more to do with them? The rifts began earlier than you may think.
For most of Rodgers’ career, the head coach of the Green Packers was Mike McCarthy. The Packers enjoyed success with that duo, winning a Superbowl during the 2010 season, winning the NFC North five times in a six-year span, and Rodgers winning two MVPs in 2011 and 2014. However, outside of the 2010 season the Packers never reached the Superbowl again, despite having arguably the best quarterback in the league during that stretch. The rifts began to show during the last couple of seasons, with it ultimately ending in McCarthy being fired after a 20-17 loss to the Cardinals in 2018. In fact, the rift between Rodgers and McCarthy reportedly always existed, with Rodgers holding a grudge against McCarthy, who passed up on drafting Rodgers in 2005. However, while the Packers kept on winning, the animosity between them was put aside.
Things started to change, however. The Packers began to be less successful, with playoff loss after playoff loss, and ultimately the 2018 season when McCarthy was fired. Reports of Rodgers being unhappy with McCarthy became public, with accusations of stale playcalling, missing team meetings, and in Rodgers’ eyes, an overall lack of commitment to the team. For Rodgers, firing McCarthy meant the organization chose him over their coach, and as a result, Rodgers would have more input on team decisions. Before the 2018 season, Rodgers had signed a four-year 134 million dollar extension, and with that commitment, Rodgers expected to be given input into team decisions. This isn’t unheard of either. Tom Brady in Tampa Bay has had a lot of power over personnel decisions, and Russell Wilson was reportedly given input into the offensive scheme before the 2020 season. However, the Packers had something else in mind.
Before the 2019 season, the Packers hired Matt LeFleur as their head coach. The young play-caller was a discipline of the Sean McVay-Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, having worked with Shanahan in Atlanta. It didn’t take long for rumblings of a rift between them to show up. It was reported that LeFleur did not want Rodgers to be audibling plays at the line of scrimmage, to where Rodgers responded to the media with this quote:
“I don’t think you want to ask me to turn off 11 years (of recognizing defenses). We have a number of check with mes and line-of-scrimmage stuff. It’s just the other stuff that really not many people in this league can do.”Aaron Rodgers in 2019
It was clear that there was a sort of power struggle going on, where Rodgers rightfully believed that with his gifts and experience, he should be given more insight into the team decisions, such as plays called on the field. Another thing Rodgers wanted, was more input on roster decisions.
The Brian Gutekunst Hire
Enter Brian Gutekunst. At the end of the 2017 season, long-time general manager Ted Thompson stepped down as general manager. He chose Brian Gutekunst to succeed him, as he stayed on in a senior advisor role. Rodgers had already been reported to be upset with decisions made, such as letting receiver Jordy Nelson and linebacker Clay Matthews leave the Packers after the 2017 and 18 seasons. Rodgers believed he should be consulted on these sorts of decisions, as the face of the team, and as an exceptional quarterback. There have even been reports of the Packers releasing receiver Jake Kumerow after Rodgers praised him as being a “death knell” to their relationship.
This rift did not just become public either. The cracks have been there for a while. Ben Baldwin on Twitter shows one example of Rodgers seemingly being unhappy with the power he had in the Packers organization here:
However, while these signs have been here for years now, despite what Rodgers has reportedly said publicly, there is one obvious incident that likely caused the final blow to the Packers-Rodgers relationship.
The Divergence Between Rodgers and the Packers
It is no secret that Rodgers hoped for the Packers to draft a receiver in the 2020 NFL draft. The draft was said to be one of the best receiver classes of all time, and Rodgers had publicly stated that he would have loved the Packers to draft one in the first round. The Packers did not draft an offensive skill player from 2005 when they drafted Rodgers. While they have done a great job surrounding him with offensive talent, with a top-tier o-line, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and recently Robert Tunyan, the one thing missing was a 2nd receiver in the offense. The Packers knew this and knew what Rodgers wished for them to do. And they made a move that would anger Rodgers beyond anything else.
The Packers traded up in the first round to draft his replacement. And Rodgers was not even told in advance. By drafting quarterback Jordan Love last year, the front office showed that they ultimately had all the power in the organization. This was likely the nail in the coffin for Rodgers, who just wanted some input into how things were run. This move is why he wants Gutekunsk fired, as he fully believes now that there is no partnership between them.
The Final Straw
It likely doesn’t help either that the Packers continued to show their unwillingness to listen to Rodgers during the 2020 season. The Kumerow incident happened in August of last year. The Packers could not trade for Will Fuller, despite Rodgers reportedly wanting them to do so. And ultimately, the NFC Championship game was a culmination of all this. Down by eight with 2:09 remaining in the game, the Packers opted to kick a field goal on fourth down, instead of trying for a touchdown and two-point conversion. Rodgers once again had no say in the decision, and it was likely made by LeFleur on the field. The final straw in the Packers’ stubbornness to have Aaron involved, in what looks to be Rodgers’ last game as a Packer. At least we got a great Jeopardy moment out of this.