There is no question the rift between Aaron Rodgers and the Packers upstaged the 2021 NFL Draft.
Rodgers was not traded last weekend, but the drama between the three-time MVP and a franchise that has been down this road before with Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre has that déjà vu-all-over-again feel to it.
For Packers fans — those of us diehards who liked Favre too much — this is an uncomfortable scenario knowing what a post-Rodgers future could look like for a franchise that has been entitled at the most-important position since the 1990s. Per usual, it’s not as apocalyptic as social media wants to be.
That’s why I’m here to help. Here are the questions Green Bay fans will be asked about Rodgers, and the appropriate emotional responses to those questions.
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Were you freaking out on draft day?
No. That comes from living through the Favre experience. I am not surprised, and there is more pent-up cynicism built up after 14 years of watching the NFL. Call it experience.
Upset? Sure. When ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter tweeted Rodgers was still disgruntled and did not want to return to Green Bay, there were certainly Favre flashbacks.
Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is so disgruntled with the Green Bay Packers that he has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team, league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.
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— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 29, 2021
When NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the Packers turned down a 49ers trade offer involving the No. 3 pick, it was clear Rodgers wasn’t moving on draft weekend. Denver wasn’t going to get him for the No. 9 pick.
That said, there is a general resignation that when Rodgers does move on, it will probably be with one of those teams on the West Coast. Denver and Las Vegas make the most sense. The AFC makes more sense from Green Bay’s point of view.
That’s what happened when Joe Montana left San Francisco for Kansas City and Tom Brady left New England for Tampa Bay. Favre had a one-year stop with the New York Jets before landing in Minnesota.
Will Rodgers be traded before the 2021 season starts?
Probably not. Green Bay president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst took turns saying “no” all weekend, and Rodgers is under contract through 2023. The Packers have leverage, but Rodgers still has a few power plays he can use.
Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson’s reports that could lead to Rodgers holding out or retiring, and that scenario is the most concerning. If the Packers and Rodgers cannot close the rift, then the worst-case scenario is a September where Jordan Love starts while Rodgers is sitting at home.
The best-case scenario is a restructure or extension that keeps Rodgers at Green Bay for the remainder of his career, but that seems like a fantasy now.
The hope is the Packers have one “Last Dance” with a core that is 13-3 and coming off back-to-back NFC championship appearances the last two seasons, and if that runs falls short of the Super Bowl than Green Bay gives Rodgers what he wants and trades him before the 2022 season. I am still clinging to this one.
We’re dealing with a situation where ESPN insider Rob Demovsky says there is a “five-percent chance” Rodgers is the Week 1 starter in Green Bay. This is time for that “Dumb and Dumber” meme. It is a good bet Rodgers, who will turn 38 this season, is gone.
The financial reality is if the Packers do trade Rodgers, then it won’t be after June 1 for salary cap purposes. So don’t expect an update until then.
What is the ideal trade situation?
None of them. The problem here is the Packers are not going to get equal value for a three-time MVP who has piled up 51,245 passing yards, 412 TDs and 89 interceptions through a brilliant career with the Packers.
What would it take to broker a trade with Denver or Las Vegas? Fans are going to ask for multiple first-round draft picks.
The 49ers received a first-round pick, a third-round pick and safety David Whitmore when they traded Montana in 1993. The Packers traded Favre to the Jets for a fourth-round pick. San Francisco had Steve Young and the Packers had Rodgers when those trades were made.
Jordan Love cannot possibly be that good, right?
The other option would be swapping quarterbacks with Seattle or Houston. Russell Wilson is 32 years old, and Deshaun Watson is 25 years old. Wilson would be the more ideal acquisition of the two, but why would Seattle trade a quarterback who is that much younger than Rodgers? After all, Wilson has played in more Super Bowls. The bad news? This feels too much like a video game or fantasy league move.
If a trade happens, then no matter what the Packers get in return fans are not going to be pleased. Just hope the Packers put Rodgers in the AFC and in a division with Patrick Mahomes.
Who do you blame for the rift?
Both sides. Green Bay brought this drama when it traded up to get Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Packers could have traded up for LSU’s Justin Jefferson or drafted or grabbed Clemson’s Tee Higgins in that spot. For a team that was coming off a NFC championship appearance under first-year coach Matt LaFleur the previous season, this was the wrong pick.
That has been amplified knowing the Packers blew a chance to reach the Super Bowl in a 31-26 loss to Tampa Bay in the NFC championship game, and Rodgers wasn’t given the ball on fourth-and-goal with a chance to throw the game-winning TD. Defensive mistakes – especially at the end of the first half – were costly, too. But …
The notion that Rodgers “does not have enough” is patently absurd and lazy. Davante Adams is one of the best – if not the best – receiver in the NFL. Aaron Jones has 30 total TDs the last two seasons. Robert Tonyan caught 10 TDs. David Bakthiari is one of the best linemen – and that Tampa Bay game might be different if he plays. The defense wasn’t dominant, but it was good enough to get the Packers to the Super Bowl. They had home-field advantage in a NFC championship game for the first time since Favre’s last season with the team. What else do you want?
You want to say releasing Jake Kumerow was the “death knell” in the relationship? Kumerow had 12 catches in 2019. That is ridiculous. You were already done at that point.
Rodgers appears to be done with this front office, too. The fact the Rodgers news broke on the day of the draft was even worse. Green Bay drafted cornerback Eric Stokes in the first round. Sorry, but you can’t roast that pick if you were writing scorching takes about Kevin King during the NFC championship game.
The Packers had a solid draft. Josh Myers will be the long-term replacement for Cory Linsley at center, the one key free agent Green Bay could not keep. Clemson’s Amari Rodgers is a playmaker. There was not a flagrant miss.
The long-term blame goes to the Packers for this relationship. Rodgers, however, gets the blame for all this draft-day drama. Brady restructured his deal. Why can’t Rodgers?
Is this worse than the Favre soap opera?
No. Nothing could possibly be worse than watching a news helicopter showing Favre climb into former Vikings coach Brad Childress’ SUV. Favre’s constant waffling about retirement and the friction it caused with Rodgers cannot be topped, and much of that had to do with Favre wanting to show up Packers GM Ted Thompson.
Why should we be surprised it’s happening again with Rodgers and Gutekunst? The only hesitation here is Green Bay fans had a chance to Rodgers audition for the job when he came in for an injured Favre in a high-stakes game against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 29, 2007. You knew Rodgers had game at that point.
Favre won the first two head-to-head matchups, but Rodgers won the next two and a Super Bowl. Green Bay made the right decision then, even if at the time very few people were saying that.
Will they do it now? Love hasn’t taken a snap in a preseason or NFL game, and if Rodgers is traded a veteran likely would be the Week 1 starter in Green Bay. That is where the entitlement of having back-to-back Hall of Fame quarterbacks ends, and the franchise’s next chapter begins.
Is moving on from Rodgers a good thing?
No, but it’s going to happen. Choose whatever one-liner you want, but Rodgers’ days in Green Bay are numbered. The feuding has not stopped since the back half of the McCarthy era, and LaFleur has not been able to squash that despite incredible success the last two seasons.
The NFL Draft, however, exposed just how bad the relationship between the Packers and Rodgers is. It’s best not to let that spill into the regular season. A holdout or premature retirement is the last thing the Packers or the NFL needs. If Rodgers wants to be the host of “Jeopardy,” then go for it. My family will still watch every night.
So give Rodgers what he wants, and maybe he will figure out the “Brady Model” is not that easy to come by.
Fans of other NFL franchises – especially the rest of the NFC North – are going to take their shots and wonder how a franchise with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks won just two Super Bowls. An easy response? The Bears, Lions and Vikings have a combined total of one Super Bowl championship.
Since Favre took over as a starter, seven franchises have won multiple Super Bowl championships — a group that includes the Broncos, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Giants, Patriots, Ravens and Steelers. The only quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowls with the same team in that stretch are Troy Aikman, John Elway, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. If you’re not a fan of one of those teams or quarterbacks, then maybe don’t press send.
When talking about the Packers, I use the Kansas basketball analogy. The Jayhawks have reached the Final Four eight times since 1988, and they have three title game appearances and two national championships.
Sound familiar? Since Favre, the Packers have reached the NFC championship game – the Final Four equivalent – nine times. They have three Super Bowl appearances and two championships.
Like Kansas, Green Bay dominates in its backyard but has trouble closing the deal in the postseason. You still aren’t going to trade all that success, but the difference is the Packers could fall off easier than the Jayhawks. There is a slight fear of a two-decade slumber – the Packers won one playoff game from 1986-92. The more-likely scenario is Green Bay would regress to a franchise that has to do it like everyone else that does not have a HOF QB. That is going to happen with Love or whoever takes Rodgers’ place.
That is why this goes beyond Rodgers. He can’t be the quarterback forever, but if he doesn’t want to be the quarterback, then maybe it’s time to start that next chapter now. The Packers have been the draft-day lead story for the wrong reasons for two years running, and to be honest, this fan has had enough of the drama.
If Rodgers and the Packers can work it out, great.
If not, then I would suggest taking a cue from a Tom Petty breakup song.
It’s time to move on. It’s time to get going.