The most recent interview with Aaron Rodgers has been perplexing, to say the least.
Rodgers guest-starred on Kenny Mayne’s last SportsCenter showing, a rare public speaking appearance for the quarterback since the rumors of his apparent discontentment with the Green Bay Packers franchise surfaced. The interview was not widely publicized, though many of the Packers’ faithful made sure to tune in. This was a welcome respite nestled between the frenzy of the NBA playoffs.
Like many viewers, I did not know what to make of Rodgers’ answers. Rodgers’ characteristically vague language was on full display when he was asked about his current situation with Green Bay. It was clear that Rodgers had agreed to make this appearance more to appease Mayne, but he still had obligations to answer the questions that Mayne asked about whether or not Rodgers will, in fact, return to the Packers this offseason.
To properly crack the code, I deduced that I needed to bring in an outside source. Someone had to help me do a close reading of Rodgers’ interview answers. Close reading is a concept emphasized at the school I work at, so I decided that it would be best for me to get a teacher’s help to decode the Rodgers jargon.
Fortunately, I knew just the teacher to interview: myself.
I knew that I would have the most on-staff expertise in both close reading and the tendencies of Rodgers. The chemistry between myself and myself was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. An opportunity to gain insight from a multifaceted instructor is not one that I would pass up lightly.
The following is the transcript of our conversation.
Troy: Hello! Good to see you.
Mr. Asseln: Great to see you as well. Thanks for having me.
T: I’ve been looking forward to having you on set for a while now. Is everything good with the family and the kids?
A: I don’t have any kids, but thanks for asking.
T: Oh. Well, anyway, let’s get down to business here. I trust you were tuned in to the Rodgers interview on SportsCenter the other night. Before we dig into the specifics of it, what was your initial reaction to the interview?
A: For one, it was just great to see Rodgers on television again. It’s always a treat to watch him speak in any capacity; his eloquence and humor are something of a rarity in the modern NFL. Even though it comes at a time where it seems like the entire future prospects of the franchise are burning to the ground, it was just nice to see Rodgers partake in a casual conversation with little exterior pressure.
T: It’s funny you say that – I think that Rodgers has to feel at least a little bit of the pressure from the media and fans, right?
A: Probably. I feel like he’s always in tune with that pressure more than he lets off. That’s probably why he’s so guarded. I mean, Rodgers has had his moments of transparency, like the “Mah Knee!” postgame interview, but by and large, the things he said here with Kenny Mayne about his current situation are par for the course.
T: That’s a fair point. I want to dig into some of the quotes that Rodgers gave during this interview. When Mayne asked him about his current situation with Green Bay and the perceived rift between him and the franchise, Rodgers said this: “With my situation, look, it’s never been about the draft pick, picking Jordan…I love Jordan; he’s a great kid.”
A: I thought it was funny how Rodgers instantly went to the Jordan Love selection, unprompted, with his answer. Again, for someone who said himself on the Pat McAfee Show that people should buy less into media publications that put words in the players’ mouths, he’s certainly giving the talking heads a little ego boost here. The fact that he brings up Love out of the blue shows that he’s been paying attention to this whole narrative. Rodgers was definitely more upset with that draft selection than he lets off.
T: Do you think he was lying here then?
A: No. He definitely doesn’t have any issues with Jordan Love, the individual. Rather, Rodgers is choosing to say what he wants to say without actually saying it; Rodgers is upset with the decision by the organization (i.e., Brian Gutekunst) to draft what he feels is his replacement without running it by him first. Immediately after that quote, Rodgers went on a little rant about how much the “people” in the organization matter and how much he loves his coaching staff and his teammates. While this could and probably is true, again, Rodgers here is taking a shot with the words he isn’t saying. He said nothing about the people in the front office here. Rodgers is a smart enough person that he would not leave out that part of the organization unintentionally.
T: Let’s continue to do some close reading of what Rodgers said here. Soon after these quotes, he said:
“A lot of this was put in motion last year, and the wrench was just kind of thrown into it when I won MVP and played the way I played last year. This is just kind of, I think, a spill-out of all that.”
What do you think Rodgers means when he says the “this” was put into motion and that “this” was the spill-out?
A: Again, he’s definitely referring to the media sensation and coverage that has happened since Adam Schefter “reported” that Aaron Rodgers was “disgruntled” with the Packers organization and apparently wasn’t planning on returning this offseason. Rodgers is privy to what people say on the internet. He pays attention.
T: I noticed that Rodgers talked about the “people” within an organization a great deal. He said:
“I think sometimes people forget what really makes an organization. History is important, [the] legacy of so many people who’ve come before you. But the people, that’s the most important thing. People make an organization, people make a business, and sometimes that gets forgotten. Culture is built brick by brick, the foundation of it by the people, not by the organization, not by the building, not by the corporation. It’s built by the people.”
Why do you think Rodgers was so fixated on this idea of the people having the power?
A: I think he feels the organization wronged him on multiple occasions. When Rodgers references the “people” here, he’s specifically talking about the notable Packers players that helped usher in the new era of success after Brett Favre left. Like Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, many of those players were let go at a moment’s notice once their play started to falter. This was done without consultation from the star quarterback. This aggravation was compounded by many of the business decisions that have taken place since Gutekunst took over. Gutekunst has been notoriously poor at communicating his intentions with Rodgers, which is where this rift has started from.
T: If this rift is as big as people would make it out to be, do you see Rodgers forgiving the front office and returning to Green Bay this offseason?
A: At this point, it’s tough to say. But ultimately I err on the side of him returning to play for the Packers this year. Again, Rodgers communicates with the things he does not say. In a week where Julio Jones came on to Undisputed with Skip & Shannon and said bluntly that he was not returning to the Atlanta Falcons, Rodgers appeared to go out of his way NOT to say that he would not be returning to the Green Bay Packers. I believe that speaks volumes.
I discussed earlier how Rodgers routinely expressed on the Pat McAfee Show last season that fans should not let media talking-heads put words into players’ mouths. Rodgers appears to be sticking true to that sentiment by not saying anything definitive. Rodgers is likely more than content to let the organization take a great deal of heat for this PR disaster and subsequent fallout. However, his lack of willingness to say anything conclusive regarding his prospective exit tells a vastly different story than some would have you believe. I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
T: I see. That makes sense. For the sake of Packers fans, I hope you’re right. As we are almost out of time here, do you have any last thoughts?
A: Not at the moment. Thank you for having me on – it’s not often I get to use my skills in the classroom to dissect my favorite player on my favorite football team. It will be a tenuous offseason, and hopefully, everything works out for all parties involved.
This interview was conducted in person on May 26, 2021.