When the NFL world first learned Rodgers wanted a trade and is willing to never play for Green Bay again, it came as a surprise to many. While the 37-year-old quarterback has a reputation for holding grudges, often using slights for motivation, asking to leave after reaching consecutive NFC Championship Games was unexpected.
But everything Rodgers says and does is thought-out. After 16 years in Green Bay, he has seemingly grown tired of watching other NFL teams evolve as the Packers stick to their philosophy. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went all-in with Tom Brady, accepting that competing for multiple Super Bowls means salary-cap woes after he retires.
Green Bay, known for its draft-and-develop approach, focuses more on its long-term outlook and that’s not the only problem Rodgers has with the organization.
With the reigning NFL MVP holding out from minicamp, the Packers seem to be pushing back. Team president Mark Murphy recently said Rodgers’ absence and the ongoing drama are dividing the fan base. While there is a clear split among many fans, Murphy might only be dealing with a small part of a larger program.
NFL reporter Jason Wilde, who has covered the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin and The Athletic, weighed in on the situation with Rodgers. Among his points, including the team’s history with contract negotiations, was new information that might hint at bigger problems for the Packers.
“I don’t know how the Rodgers saga ends. My idea of a happy ending is, he comes back on a new deal, wins another Super Bowl, affects meaningful long-term change to a less-than-stellar culture at #Packers headquarters (12 isn’t the only one who thinks that, BTW) and plays past 40.”Green Bay Packers’ reporter Jason Wilde
While specifics aren’t given, the potential causes of concern among Packers’ players might be found by looking at how the front office has treated Rodgers.
Brian Gutekunst’s role in the Aaron Rodgers’ drama
When Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst made the bold decision to trade up for Jordan Love in the 2020 NFL Draft, it drew criticism. Fans blasted the team and Gutekunst’s peers even questioned the move. But Rodgers stayed relatively silent, fully aware that the pick was meant as a message about his future (or lack thereof).
The face of the Packers’ franchise told NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt he thought the team was trading up for a wide receiver in 2020. He reached that conclusion because Gutekunst never communicated with him about the team’s plans.
Rodgers reached out to Love immediately and the two seem to have a normal relationship, with the rookie learning a lot from the three-time MVP last year. But what might have been the devastating blow of this relationship, was an action Gutekunst didn’t take.
NFL teams rarely let their star quarterback dictate what moves are mode. Tampa Bay has given Brady some authority, with the Antonio Brown signing the strongest example. But Gutekunst didn’t need to let Rodgers make the pick, he simply needed to do what other executives in his position have.
- Before the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes, they kept Alex Smith informed about their plans to draft a quarterback.
- San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch told Jimmy Garoppolo about the franchise’s quarterback plans before the 2021 NFL Draft.
- The Chicago Bears called Andy Dalton before they traded up for Justin Fields
None of those quarterbacks were future first-ballot Hall of Famers, they weren’t even long-time stars for their respective clubs. But in every instance, the general manager did the courtesy of keeping his veteran quarterback and team leader in the loop.
Gutekunst admitted his mistake this year, but this wasn’t a one-time instance where he didn’t communicate with Rodgers. Before final cuts entering the 2020 season, Rodgers praised Jake Kumerow and believed the young receiver was a lock to make the roster. Gutekunst cut Kumerow a few days later.
Rodgers learned his lesson and waited for his shot to fire back. When the NFL trade deadline was approaching and he was asked about the Packers adding another weapon, he responded honestly. “I’m not gonna stomp for anybody. The last time I stomped for a player, he ended up going to Buffalo.”
If Gutekunst is going to disregard one of the greatest players in franchise history, that also sends a message to every other person on the roster about how the organization views them
Mark Murphy’s strange role in the fiasco
The Green Bay Packers are the only publicly-owned professional team in the United States. It’s one of the things that the fans and is what most of the sports world likes about the franchise. But there was a significant change in recent years.
Murphy was hired as president and CEO on Dec. 3, 2007. By 2018, he changed the organization’s management structure. Murphy wanted everyone to report to him, taking on greater authority as president and creating a direct line of communication.
It’s a system that can work if the team president stays in the background, allowing his general manager and coaching staff to fulfill their roles. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening in light of his recent comments about Rodgers’ future.
Murphy has a weekly column on Packers.com, responding to questions from fans. It’s precisely where he said the situation with Rodgers is dividing the fan base and that everyone would be better off if both sides said less publicly. Putting aside the irony of saying that publicly, his comments were in response to a submission that wasn’t even a question.
“Dear Mark: You have done a great job. Don’t let the (expletive) drag you down. Washington needs a name. I suggest the Generals.”Submitted question to Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy, leading to his statement on Aaron Rodgers
Saying a person is divisive, which is exactly what Murphy did in his column, is never a compliment. Putting it out publicly on the team’s website and emphasizing the need to keep things private also seemed to be a shot at Rodgers.
Murphy and the Packers have often avoided significant criticism because this is a publicly-owned team. But the actions made, treatment of a franchise star and statements put out there are more indicative of an NFL team with questionable leadership.
Aaron Rodgers’ reputation will likely never be the same and he will be hated by many fans if he doesn’t return. But the star quarterback, along with others in Green Bay, might not be wrong about the Packers’ culture.