Packers’ drama sadly entertaining
Drama plays a big role in sports. We’ve just finished with the NCAA basketball tournaments with the both the men’s and women’s championships being memorable thrillers that captivated the country.
In a couple weeks, the NFL Draft will take place, which will soon dominate the conversations on television and online. The draft is also a source of drama as you wonder if the fortunes of your favorite team will turn around with that high first-round selection or maybe you’ll find a diamond in the rough that can help continue your team’s streak of excellence.
Like what the Green Bay Packers did when they drafted quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who inexplicably plummeted in the draft and Green Bay got another legendary signal caller who brought them a Super Bowl title.
Those were better times in Green Bay, and from what I’ve gathered, the majority of the football fans here in the Upper Peninsula.
The last couple of years haven’t been great for the Packers with Rodgers’ injury derailing a promising 2017 season.
Last year, Rodgers stayed healthy enough to keep playing, but Green Bay still missed the playoffs again and finished below .500 for the second straight year, something the franchise hadn’t have happen since 1991.
Not only that, but the Packers were swept by the Lions for the second season in a row. That’s when you know things aren’t going well for your franchise.
The big news from this past season was that the Packers fired head coach Mike McCarthy after an embarrassing Week 13 loss to the hapless Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field.
There were rumors that there was some drama between McCarthy and Rodgers for quite awhile and those were basically confirmed just a few days ago on a detailed and illuminating report from Bleacher Report writer Tyler Dunne.
After interviewing various players, coaches and team personnel who were around in Green Bay during the heyday of the Rodgers-McCarthy era, Dunne wrote a story that affirmed what many assumed — that McCarthy’s ego was writing checks his play calls couldn’t cash and that Rodgers’ personality is like one of the characters from the movie “Mean Girls.”
The consensus was that their feuding may have been the main thing that kept the Packers from winning more Super Bowls.
There were other factors, like the team’s inconsistent defense and possibly that former general manager Ted Thompson had both mentally and physically checked out at some point (the article says he was falling asleep in meetings in his final years), but it ultimately came down to McCarthy and Rodgers.
Let’s start with McCarthy, who comes off as a complete buffoon in the article. He started off well with his simplistic offense but Rodgers was allowed to change plays at the line of scrimmage and that started to irk McCarthy. When the Packers were dominant, he was OK with that, but when Green Bay faltered and it became clear that they weren’t the same squad anymore, McCarthy didn’t like the play changes.
The article also said that McCarthy believed that the Packers’ success was due to his offensive system, not because of quality players. One of the personnel guys said that Green Bay ran the same routes for years and that the strategy was “get open.” That’s a bold strategy, and if Rodgers wasn’t at the helm, the Packers’ ship would’ve sunk by Week 3 with that attitude.
However, it sounds like the coach wasn’t the only problem. If you think McCarthy has an oversized ego, Rodgers is a flat-out diva.
The article really exposes Rodgers’ tendency toward holding long grudges toward people and his anger toward McCarthy goes all the way back to when Rodgers was drafted in 2005. That’s when the 49ers and McCarthy, who was San Francisco’s offensive coordinator at the time, passed on him and chose Alex Smith with the overall No. 1 pick.
Behind closed doors, that continued to build over the years and one source said that Rodgers would call him frequently complaining about McCarthy, saying his play calls were bad, he used the wrong personnel and other things.
The source said that “Mike has a low football IQ and that used to always bother Aaron.” Another source said that “he’s (Rodgers) not going to respect you if he thinks he’s smarter than you.” Based on what was said by other people, Rodgers is probably right to have a conflict with McCarthy, but holding a grudge over somebody not picking you years ago in the draft seems really petty.
Even pettier was that he alienated players that he used to have a great connection with. During a game against the Niners in 2012, Rodgers came up during a midgame discussion between wide receiver Greg Jennings and San Francisco’s Carlos Rogers and said that the Niners should “get him” after the season since Jennings was in a contract year.
That seems like a bizarre thing to say to your No. 1 receiver and when Jennings entered free agency, the former Packer said Rodgers didn’t attempt to get him to stick around. Again, that’s pretty weird that a guy wouldn’t try to convince his best receiver to stay in town.
It wasn’t just Jennings who pointed out Rodgers’ flaws. Former tight end Jermichael Finley said that Rodgers already had a “self-entitlement,” but when he signed that massive contract, he became even more so.
A former Packers scout said that Rodgers put receiver Jeff Janis in the “doghouse” early and never let him out and the quarterback thinks he doesn’t make mistakes and that it’s always the receiver’s fault.
Not only that, but it sounds like he sheds friends almost without any consideration. One former friend said “When you’re out, you’re out.”
That attitude apparently had an effect on the younger receivers, too. In one excerpt, a source said wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown wanted to follow McCarthy, but also heard that Rodgers would “freeze out” players who didn’t do what he wanted.
During a play in New England, St. Brown was told to run a flag route and Rodgers told him to go on a post route. St. Brown listened to Rodgers and that sums up how bad things had gotten.
Rodgers attempted to set the record straight in a radio interview a couple days after Dunne’s article appeared, but made himself look worse.
He tried to quash the idea that he and McCarthy had a lot of friction, saying they were just “two alpha males who are hypercompetitive and love winning and are both a little stubborn.”
That might be the first time ever that someone had described McCarthy as an alpha male. An alpha male is also someone who tends to be always competing with others and trying to outdo others. So Rodgers basically said that he has the huge ego that people have said he does.
He also called the article a “smear attack by a writer looking to advance his career.” I love when people make statements like this. Dunne’s been a beat writer for years and now writes for one of the most popular sports websites in the world. He doesn’t need to advance his career anymore.
Rodgers also called players like Jennings and Finley as “irrelevant, bitter players.” They helped you win a Super Bowl, dude, and you haven’t won one since. They’re hardly irrelevant. And even if they were bitter and being petty by saying you’re sensitive, you’re doing the same thing with that comment.
When giving the interview, Rodgers had a couple of different routes to take in how to handle it and he had an opportunity to be the bigger person, but instead he decided to go lower.
In the aftermath of all this, I’ve seen Packers fans have mixed feelings. Nobody shows much backing for McCarthy, but when it comes to Rodgers, they seem to be split. There are some who treat Rodgers as some sacred deity and think he can’t do anything wrong. That the magical 2010 Super Bowl season was all thanks to him.
Others are looking at him objectively and thinking maybe he did play a role in the self-destruction of the team. It’s really interesting to look at.
There were a lot of things that have gone wrong the past few years and it’s been a mystery about what caused a potential New England-like dynasty to turn into a short-lived one. It’s hard to say what was the one breaking point, but one thing is for certain.
The Packers should’ve won more Super Bowls during this span and there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.