The battle between the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has lingered privately for months. It became public five days ago, the apparent result of a calculated effort by Rodgers and his camp to exact revenge for last year’s drafting of Jordan Love on the same day it happened — the first day of the draft.
None of this was accidental. Consider 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s quote to Rich Eisen from Monday.
“[T]he exact truth is I don’t want to wake up the next day on Friday and see Aaron Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks in this league, traded without doing any due diligence on him,” Shanahan said regarding the decision to contact Packers coach Matt LaFleur about a potential trade for Rodgers.
This means that someone made the 49ers think there was a reason to explore a potential trade. So they did. Then, the next day, it was leaked that they had. And that became the first domino in a cascade of them that began to fall on Thursday.
Rodgers is too smart to have not planned it. He wanted the 49ers to call. He wanted word to get out that they had called. He wanted the report from ESPN regarding his dissatisfaction with the team to emerge. He wanted all of it.
He wanted it because he’s still pissed off about the fact that the Packers packaged a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick to move up in round one last year to get quarterback Jordan Love without even giving Rodgers a head’s up.
Packers fans should be mad about that, too. Green Bay had a team that went 13-3 in 2019. Instead of using the first- and fourth-round picks on players who could have helped the team get to the Super Bowl and win it in 2020, they invested those selections on someone whose contributions last year was nothing. Ideally, his contributions this year will also be nothing.
That doesn’t make Rodgers blameless in this. He has created a distraction for the organization throughout the offseason, necessitating at least three trips by one or more of the team’s brain trust to California in an effort to unruffle his feathers — trips that to date have failed to achieve the desired effect. Although the specific dates of the flights from Wisconsin to California aren’t known, coach Matt LaFleur, G.M. Brian Gutekunst, and CEO Mark Murphy surely had better things to do than spend a day traveling back and forth and trying to say whatever needs to be said or do whatever needs to be done to make Rodgers want to remain with the team.
Then, even if the team knew last week’s stunning turn possibly was coming but called his bluff, Rodgers threw a cow patty into the cheese whiz just as the draft was getting ready to begin.
“I’m a lifelong scout, and we work all year for these three days,” Gutekunst told Peter King in the aftermath of the weekend uproar caused by Rodgers. “We couldn’t let this distract us from the task at hand.”
Maybe it distracted them, maybe it didn’t. Regardless, Rodgers created a clear and obvious potential distraction by strategically choosing the first day of the draft to unleash hell on the front office. Packers fans definitely should be pissed off that he tried to knock Gutekunst and his staff wobbly during their three most critical days of the year.
And if the notion that Rodgers wants out wasn’t enough of a mess for the quarterback to make, next came the report — sourced to his camp — that Rodgers wants Gutekunst to be fired. Again, Gutekunst quite possibly wasn’t distracted by that news, at all. But why even risk having the guy who’s running the draft losing focus for even a second, when he otherwise should be locked in on making good decisions about whether to trade up, trade down, use a pick, and if so on which player?
The Packers continue to publicly avoid inflaming the situation with Rodgers while privately holding firm. Will he come out and say he wants out? Will he take a scorched earth approach and risk alienating fans, some of whom already are regarding him differently than they did?
If the Packers don’t trade Rodgers, will he find a way to declare victory and retreat, claiming that he’ll play for the Packers because of the fans, his teammates, and the coaching staff?
Whatever happens, Rodgers clearly has a plan, and he undoubtedly has more moves to make in order to get what he wants. The fact that some of those moves already have potentially undermined team business should be enough to make fans upset with both sides in this avoidable fiasco.
That said, the simple reality for Rodgers is that the team will be playing football far longer than Rodgers will be alive. When push comes to shove, the fans will side with the team — even if the fans are as mad at the team as they are with the player.