The saga and whispered rumors regarding Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers exploded into life on Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft. With a clear rift between the Packers and their franchise QB, Pro Football Network’s Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo and Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline discussed the latest they were hearing and the background surrounding the situation with Rodgers on the post-draft edition of Draft Insiders.
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Aaron Rodgers’ frustration with the Green Bay Packers has been developing for a while
The news on Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft was somewhat surprising simply for the timing. However, the tensions have been bubbling for a long time between Rodgers and the Packers. In fact, there were rumors of a potential rift between Rodgers and the Packers during the pro day circuit in March, as Pauline discussed on the show.
“In the middle of March [the 22nd], when Missouri had their pro day, I was speaking to someone at the pro day and he told me exactly what was going to happen with Rodgers, but it was too unbelievable. It turned out to be completely true. This did not turn on a dime. This was a build-up of a lot of different things — with the Packers cutting a free-agent receiver who Rodgers liked a couple of days after Rodgers spoke highly of his ability and work ethic. The Packers then cut Jake Kumerow and Rodgers said, ‘I’ve had it. I’m out of here.’ It is another situation where, as I reported on draft day, Rodgers wants to be in a situation where he has some say in the personnel — who is going to be around him, who is getting cut, who is getting kept. The Kumerow move really was, I think, the last straw for him.”
Where did the rift between the Packers and their QB originate, and what has fueled the fire?
While the selection of Love in 2020 has been pointed to as a key catalyst, with the Kumerow situation being viewed as a further inflammatory point, the situation between the Packers and their QB actually goes back much further. On the show, Wingo discussed where this rift within the Packers began and how it has escalated.
“Just so people understand how long this has been bubbling under the surface. After the 2017 NFL season, Rodgers found out that his QBs coach, one of his closest people on the team, Alex Van Pelt, would not be coming back. That was the first thing that bothered him. Then he openly campaigned for someone to get the general manager job and they gave it to Gutekunst.
“Last year, they trade up in the first round to take his eventual replacement, Jordan Love. And then, as you talk about, the Kumerow thing. Literally, the day before they cut him, Rodgers had sung his praises, as you alluded to, saying, ‘I can trust Kumerow. I know where he is going to be. He is a very important player for us’ and then they cut him.”
Did the 2021 NFL Draft further widen the divide?
Following the news earlier in the day, it was intriguing how Green Bay would approach the draft. Would the Packers stick to their plans or look to appease their disgruntled QB? On the show, Wingo discussed how the selection of Eric Stokes likely did nothing to calm the situation.
“If there was ever an opportunity for a franchise to send an olive branch to their franchise quarterback. They have had all kinds of issues, and it is out there for everyone to see. The Green Bay Packers could have said, ‘Hey man, you are right, we were wrong. Let me extend an olive branch, we will get Rondale Moore or one of these other players like Elijah Moore.’ Instead, what do they do? They drafted a cornerback.
“That was, to me, the telling thing about that pick. ‘Hey man, we really don’t care what you think, we will do what we think.’ If nothing else, that drove the stake and the divide between Rodgers and the Packers further apart.”
Rodgers does not seem like someone who will back down
For a long time in the NFL, the expectation has been that the player will back down. This has often been the case with franchise tag and contract disputes in the past. However, recent history has shown that players are proving more stubborn than in the years before. Wingo pointed to the example of Carson Palmer as a comparison to how this situation could play out.
“You better be prepared to think that Jordan Love is going to be the next Rodgers if you are willing to let Rodgers go, or if you have ticked off Rodgers to this point. I know people close to him, he is dug in here. People think he will come back. Well, hold up — do you remember when Carson Palmer basically said I am not coming back to the Bengals and no one believed him? He sacrificed $50+ million in his contract. He was dug in, it was a matter of principle for him. I feel it’s a matter of principle for Rodgers.”
Wingo further addressed how Rodgers’ previous actions give us an indication of how this may play out. “I don’t think people understand what kind of dude Aaron Rodgers is. This is a guy who has not talked to his family for a long, long time, over whatever, and you’re telling me he is willing to basically divorce his family but he is not going to stand firm in what he believes about being disrespected in Green Bay? If you believe that, I have some land in the swamps of Miami I would like to sell you.”
Is Rodgers’ attitude a problem?
The last week has seen several fingers point to Rodgers as the cause of this issue. However, as Pauline discussed, Rodgers has given much to Green Bay’s franchise, and the “diva” tag may be unfair in this instance.
“For guys who think he is a diva, the guy shows up each week and plays. He has basically carried that franchise, and it is only the missteps of the franchise, not the missteps of Rodgers, that have prevented them from winning other championships. It is not an Odell Beckham type of situation. This guy is football straight ahead, everything on the football field, so I don’t buy into the whole diva argument.
“But I agree with you, he is going to want to go somewhere he feels comfortable, somewhere he feels valued, somewhere he has a say in what is happening on the field to make the team better. Obviously, that is out of the door with Green Bay.”
For all the talk about Rodgers’ attitude, his play is more important. On the show, Wingo raised the point that almost every team would at least consider bringing Rodgers into their franchise.
“How many teams would take that diva quarterback right now? Outside of Kansas City and maybe Tampa Bay, what other team would not want Rodgers? I know you have Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, but outside of Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, Seattle maybe, but there has been a lot of problems with Russell Wilson, every other team would want that guy.”
Is the situation with Rodgers comparable to coaches who want a say in how the franchise approaches personnel decisions?
When a player demands a say, he gets painted with the diva brush. However, the same is often not applied when a coach wants input — or full control — into personnel decisions. Wingo highlighted this disparity during the show.
“We all want all the money we can possibly make, but it is not like he needs it. He wants to play somewhere he feels like he is appreciated. If you have a problem with Rodgers, you better have had an issue with Bill Parcells when he said, ‘If I am making the dinner, I want to buy the groceries.’ It is the same thing.
“Rodgers is single-handedly the most important member of that organization. I use ‘member’ for a reason because that includes the head coach, the general manager, and the president, and everybody else. Rodgers is that guy for Green Bay. If you are going that far to tick him off, you guys have to think to yourself, ‘what are we doing wrong?'”
Where is the best option for Rodgers?
In amongst all the whispers and rumors, the underlying question remains — where would be the ideal landing spot for Rodgers if he were to leave the Packers? One team that has been heavily linked with the Green Bay QB is Denver. This is a destination Wingo and Pauline feel could be ideal for Rodgers.
“Denver, I still think, is his best option,” said Wingo. “Denver is ready-made to win. The only problem for Denver is they play in the same division as Mahomes. They have a lot of weapons for Rodgers to play with, and the defense got really a lot better the last time. Still hold out the idea that there may be a sea change and Denver might be a place where Rodgers might end up.”
Pauline added: “In Denver, he also has John Elway there to protect him, which is a big carrot at the end of the stick for him.” In response, Wingo highlighted Elway’s success with another veteran QB just a few years ago. “What did Elway do for Peyton Manning at the end of his career? The exact same thing. He has been terrible at drafting quarterbacks, but landing big-time fish free-agent quarterbacks, that is what he is good at.”
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