Former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who knows a thing or two about being entrenched as a starter and having the team draft his replacement, has said that the Packers’ handling of Aaron Rodgers has been “inexcusable.”
Here’s one reason for Smith’s belief. Rodgers didn’t know that the Packers planned to trade up for Jordan Love in round one of the 2020 draft. Smith, in contrast, was well aware of Kansas City’s plan.
“Yes, without a doubt,” Smith told Colin Cowherd regarding Smith’s awareness of the move up for Patrick Mahones. “One hundred percent. . . . I’m talking multiple times. . . . There were no surprises, it was absolutely laid out for me. And I think that all helps when that’s communicated. It does make a difference how you treat people.”
Kansas City’s interest in Mahomes was one of the best-kept secrets of the 2017 draft. Indeed, a small handful of NFL coaches had become smitten with Mahomes, they kept their views quiet, and the media/draftniks had no idea that Mahomes was so highly regarded. Telling Smith what the Chiefs planned to do required the Chiefs to place significant trust in Smith. If he’d known that the Chiefs had planned to trade up to draft his replacement, Smith easily could have leaked that information, with the goal of getting someone else to draft Mahomes before the Chiefs could.
That’s an important factor to consider when trying to understand why the Packers didn’t tell Rodgers about the plan to trade up for Love. Since the Packers gave Rodgers no head’s up at all, it’s easy to say that they should have at least called him minutes before the trade was made and the card was submitted. But if the Packers had given Rodgers a perfunctory courtesy call seconds before calling Love, would that have been good enough?
Probably not. Rodgers would have had questions. Rodgers would have been upset, confused. To have full and proper notice, the Packers would have had to tell him about it well before the first night of the draft. They would have had to have as many conversations with Rodgers as the Chiefs had with Smith, and maybe more.
So here’s the real question. Did the Packers not trust Rodgers with that information? In other words, did the Packers fear that Rodgers would have gotten the word out that the Packers were targeting Love, in the hopes that someone else would get him?
The Packers will never reveal their reason(s) for not telling Rodgers about Love. But there aren’t many potential explanations. First, they didn’t think to do it. Second, they decided not to do it, because Rodgers simply works there and has no right to expect to know these plans. Third, they decided not to do it in order to protect the secret — either against accidental disclosure or an intentional one.
The fact that Rodgers has no animosity at all toward the coaching staff suggests that coach Matt LaFleur had no idea about the plan to move up for Love, either. Maybe that was part of the plan to keep the information from Rodgers; if LaFleur had known, there’s no way he wouldn’t have given Rodgers a head’s up.
Whatever the true reason for the team’s failure to let Rodgers know about Love, the one gesture encapsulates the dysfunction that currently exists between the franchise and its franchise quarterback.