So much has been said and written about the Rodgers situation – not only from the local media but by every national pundit and rumor-monger in the land – that you might think everything possible has already been said on the subject.
I’ve drafted two pieces on the situation in the past ten days, and discarded both of them as being too redundant or too obvious. I do think however, that too little attention has been given to certain aspects of the topic. Below are some ingredients in the mix that seem to have been under-reported.
As an aside, congrats to TP’s Paul Edwards for his June 1 posting. He provided several fresh takes on the rift situation, and I wholly agree that we are approaching “the precipice” of this drama. Mark down June 8 on your calendar.
Jordan the Unknown
While Packers fans and observers might not have a clue about Jordan Love’s NFL prospects, the people who count (Packers’ coaching staff and front office), and who are in a position to know, must be reaching some preliminary conclusions as to whether Love might become an NFL franchise QB. We’ve got three years of film of him as Utah State’s starting QB: that’s 1,125 pass attempts and 170 rushes. Jordan also did all the tests at the NFL Combine, so we know of his athleticism. Furthermore, the Packers did hold a virtual meeting with Jordan prior to the 2020 draft.
By the way, Jordan’s Wonderlic (Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test) score of 27 was the fifth-highest among the QBs who took that test in 2020 – ahead of guys like Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, and Tua Tagovailoa.
If I recall correctly, when the announcement was made that the Pack had chosen Love with the 26th overall pick, the team’s draft room was ecstatic – I believe that Mark Murphy, Brian Gutekunst, and maybe even Matt LaFleur all reacted with glee over the pick. The choice obviously came after ample research, not as a last-minute stab-in-the-dark. The front office was high enough on Love that they traded a fourth round pick to assure that they’d get him. We should not ignore how highly the team’s entire draft apparatus regarded Jordan.
Aaron Jones’s Take
One first-hand observer who has shared his thoughts on what he’s just seen from Love is none other than Aaron Jones. Here’s what he said the other day:
“You can tell he’s just a lot more comfortable out there, even from communicating in the huddle to the command of the huddle to just everything. He’s had a year under his belt, he’s had time to watch and learn, so you can tell it’s a little bit different from what it was before. He’s going to continue to grow, and I’m happy to be here working with him.”
Interestingly, Jones in 2020 faced a similar situation to that of Rodgers: with its second –round pick, the Pack selected massive running back A. J. Dillon, as the heir apparent to Jones. This Aaron didn’t need his ego massaged or feel the need for vengeance against the front office. It’s also noteworthy that, like Rodgers, Jones turned in maybe his best season with Dillon waiting in the wings.
Days after Jones showed up in Green Bay for the OTA’s, here’s how he greeted the press: “This is home. I love my coaches, my teammates, the community, the system.” How’s that for a contrast? How’s that for being a team player?
At any rate, the preseason games will be the best indication yet as to what NFL future awaits 22-year-old Jordan Love. You might recall that Aaron didn’t start a game until he was 24, and though he started every game that season (2008), the team finished at 6-10. Patience, people, there’s plenty of time for Jordan to fully develop, and my hunch is that Blake Bortles might well surprise people in the meantime.
The Retirement Non-option
The media continues to suggest that Rodgers might sit out the season, or that he might retire and maybe become the host of “Jeopardy.” Let me repeat: even if Aaron sat out the 2021 season, the Packers would retain rights to him for another three years.
If we’ve learned anything about Rodgers, we know that this prideful man is motivated to leave a legacy of being among the best ever to play the game. For a guy this driven, walking away from the game while still in his prime – especially on the basis of feeling “disrespected” – is unthinkable.
Don’t listen to all those who try to insist that Rodgers has lots of leverage. Rodgers has three years remaining on his contract – a contract that was the largest in NFL history at the time (August 30, 2018). The only way out of that legal obligation is to quit playing, essentially permanently. The Packers hold the trump card. Not gonna happen.
In an earlier post about this standoff (here), my central theme was that of “legacy,” the point being that Aaron must eventually make peace with the team or his legacy will be permanently diminished. The longer he waits, the more he’ll do damage to his legacy. Absolutely no one in the media picked up on this theme. In Aaron’s sole statement to the press, on Kenny Mayne’s final show on ESPN, Aaron mentioned the team’s legacy. But this isn’t the issue. The team has done fine for over a century and will continue to do so. The issue is Aaron’s personal legacy, and to date it’s taken a beating. And for that matter, how is Aaron helping the team’s legacy by this show of petulance?
It’s interesting to note how the various factions have aligned. Most of the media are siding with Aaron, in what they seem to view as a labor or political matter: owners/management (the bad guys) versus employees. His teammates have also tended to be supportive of him – though by not reporting to mini-camp, the team’s five top receivers issued a symbolic show of support, not anything of long-term significance.
While I haven’t seen any poll numbers, isn’t it clear by now that the majority of the Packers’ legions of fans are strongly critical of Rodgers’ attitude and behavior. From the git-go, Aaron has lost the PR battle. How else can you view a guy who’s reportedly in line to be paid around $240 million in total by the Packers as anything other than self-absorbed?
Because the OTAs are voluntary, I can’t say that Aaron hasn’t officially begun his holdout, but his absence must be viewed as a prelude to a holdout. Hardly anyone thinks that Aaron will show up for mandatory mini-camp, which runs from June 8 through June 10 – at any rate we’ll know in a week whether Rodgers has indeed commenced a holdout. Even if Aaron continues his silence, his actions next Tuesday will speak as loudly as words.
Is that how Aaron wants to go down in team and NFL history? If refusing to show up becomes Aaron’s strategy, he’ll be engaging in an orchestrated effort to prevent his team, and teammates, from having a successful season – and to deny Packers fans a promising and exciting season. Since he’s a guy under a lucrative contract, such a choice would constitute an act of mutiny – which historically is a hanging offense.
What did you think of the look of Aaron’s pre-recorded session with Mayne? There he was with a stretched out white T-shirt and unruly hair – he looked like he was just back from the fields in a John Steinbeck novel: Aaron Rodgers as Everyman.
But then he followed it up, just days later, by releasing photos of himself and his bikini-clad fiancé Shailene “frolicking through the waterfalls of Hawaii,” followed by the twosome engaging in a sing-along to a Taylor Swift song. Aaron needs to pick one or the other image: is he the working stiff subject to the oppression of the bosses, or is he a guy living it up in paradise, without a (football) care in the world, while his 80-plus teammates are at Lambeau, laying the ground work for another run at the Lombardi trophy. These optics aren’t good for the “team leader.”
Participating in the OTAs isn’t essential to making it to the Super Bowl. However, they are important in preparing players for the regular season and in having players bond together in pursuit of that elusive goal – that’s entirely within the Packers’ reach this season.
As I indicated back on May 5, (The Crux of the Problem…): “Forget about all the smaller complaints and perceived slights. The crux of the matter is that Aaron wants ironclad job security.” Sure, the non-serious shoot-from-the-hip pundits and fans are urging the team to “give him whatever he wants.” But a business organization such as an NFL team simply cannot turn over management decisions to players. Aaron can forget about getting ironclad job security, though he can get close to it. And as long as he plays anything like he did last season, his job is secure.
Though the story broke in late April that negotiations over an extended contract for Aaron had broken down, and that he wanted to be traded (rumored but never confirmed), there’s been very little movement in the five weeks that have followed.
The Packers have been steadfast and resolute, saying only that they want him back and expect him to be back. Throughout the impasse, and for that matter, over his 16 years with the team, the Packers have expressed nothing but praise and gratitude for Aaron – they’re still sticking to the high road.
Some thought that Aaron’s interview by Kenny Mayne on May 25 would be earth-shaking, but it wasn’t. Then many felt that a trade announcement would be made as of June 2, but it didn’t happen.
June 8, however, looms as all important. If Rodgers goes on strike for the team’s 3-day mandatory mini-camp, never mind the fines – he will be doing substantial damage to the team’s prospects for 2021. Training will be compromised, team unity will be jeopardized, and distractions for the team and its players will continue to be a daily occurrence.
Between now and next Tuesday, the media will be having fun playing a game of “Where’s Waldo,” and looking to hear if Aaron is in Hawaii, or California, or in the air en route to Titletown.
If he’s a no show, let’s all enthusiastically usher in the Jordan Love era in Green Bay.