Regardless of whether it dates back to the decision of the 49ers not to draft Aaron Rodgers when Mike McCarthy served as offensive coordinator there or whether it has popped up in the struggles since last year’s 6-0 start or whether at some point the quarterback said something that got and stayed under the coach’s skin or at some point the coach said something that got and stayed under the quarterback’s skin, the relationship is dangerously close to exploding or imploding or otherwise -ploding in a way that results in one of them being sent packing.
And it won’t be the quarterback.
Rodgers has been engaged in a passive-aggressive attack on McCarthy in recent days, and if the goal is to rattle McCarthy, it’s working. After an ugly home loss to the Colts, Rodgers declared that the sideline lacked energy, a shot at the man ultimately responsible for ensuring that the players are ready to play. McCarthy said the next day that he thought the energy was “pretty good.” More recently, Rodgers took more clear aim at McCarthy after an embarrassing loss to a team that in past years was hard pressed to score 47 in a month, suggesting that the coach doesn’t instill the proper amount of it’s-not-personal-it’s-just-business fear in players that, at some point, failure will get them fired.
I suggested during Monday’s PFT Live that McCarthy may be tempted in his day-after press conference to return fire, suggesting that Rodgers should worry about his job and McCarthy will worry about his. But McCarthy blinked a bit, opting instead to play the I’m-a-highly-successful-coach card.
That awkward message wasn’t intended for us; it was intended for Rodgers. And it’s the closest McCarthy will publicly come to saying that Rodgers should worry about his job and McCarthy will worry about his.
For now. Privately, the two men need to have a clearing of the air. Otherwise, the public sniping will continue, and escalate.
The question is whether Rodgers will be willing to break bread and bury hatchets with McCarthy. The quarterback has the upper hand in this relationship; the Packers need Rodgers far more than they need McCarthy. Indeed, if/when (when) they fire McCarthy, coaches will line up at the door for a chance to coach a historic team with a loyal and passionate fan base and a quarterback still in his prime and no chance of having a meddling owner because there is no traditional owner in the organization.
The only challenge will be handling Rodgers, who will emerge post-McCarthy with even more power — and he’s smart enough to know it. Plenty of coaches will relish the opportunity to try. Still, success as the coach of the franchise will hinge on successfully managing the relationship with the franchise quarterback, and it’s now clear that the formula will include kissing one player’s ass and constantly threatening to kick everyone else’s.