After the first day of Green Bay Packers training camp, Aaron Rodgers found himself in a familiar position: seated at the table for his first official presser of the 2021 season. Only this time, the ravenous sea of reporters was hungry to dig into what was one of the most back-and-forth offseasons in recent memory.
Rodgers delivered his message in a way that only Aaron Rodgers could. His words were sharp, direct, and impactful. Amidst a summer of hearsay and a distinct lack of clarity from Rodgers himself, No. 12 did not hold back as he expressed his side of the current rift between him and the Green Bay organization.
There are enough subtleties in Rodgers’ words to keep Packers beat writers up all night for weeks. Rodgers remained as non-committal as ever on his future while going out of his way to eviscerate the culture that Mark Murphy, and Brian Gutekunst by proxy, have established.
Anyone that has covered Rodgers over the years knows that he can be “a complicated fella,” at least according to Murphy. Rodgers has a cunning wit and outlook unique among an otherwise drab NFL landscape of quarterback personalities. His responses and insight often leave listeners clamoring for more, which is the unique sign of a quality interaction.
In that sense, this presser was prototypical Rodgers. While there were certainly moments of comfort for Packers fans, there were also moments of contradiction and confusion that beg the question of why Rodgers is so upset in the first place. He was airing six-plus months worth of grievances, and it was with this heavy weight on his shoulders that he delivered one of the best pressers that the league has seen in years.
Blame it On the Media
In a move that many could have predicted, Rodgers pointed out that the “…media loves to make stories when there’s not enough content to put out there.” Rodgers has always been consistent in his general disdain for major media. This idea that media conflates and fabricates stories out of nowhere isn’t anything new in the modern sporting era, with greater ease of access and endless streams of blogs and publications compete for clicks on an hourly basis. He has always stuck to his guns on that notion.
Where an issue arises with this particular quote is that Rodgers is dismembering the media’s reports while also confirming nearly everything that had been leaked this summer. The shortlist of confirmed issues totals:
- The dissatisfaction with the organization
- He was unhappy when veterans got let go or released
- Rodgers wants to be a part of free-agent discussions
- He thought about retirement
- He may finish his career somewhere other than Green Bay
Each of these points was leaked by various sources throughout the offseason. Rodgers was more than content to sit quietly while the rumor mill churned, only to return and dismiss the reports while simultaneously confirming that it was all true. Packers fans across the nation made Adam Schefter out to be a common enemy (myself included), and in the end, the rift between Rodgers and Green Bay was exactly as bad as we feared.
Is Rodgers only upset with Gutekunst?
Rodgers also came to the presser with an entire list of former Packers players who were let go by various means. The list included recent names that we knew Rodgers was sad to see go: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, etc. However, he also included names of players from the early part of the 2010s: Charles Woodson, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, T.J. Lang, John Kuhn, and Brett Goode were among those directly mentioned by Rodgers as “core players” of the Packers.
Many of these players were on the team because of former general manager Ted Thompson’s roster assembly. Thompson stepped out of his GM role in 2017 when Gutekunst was promoted by Murphy. Therefore, Murphy has been an organizational constant throughout Rodgers’ career.
If the “cold-blooded” moves by the organization started at any time, it could be traced back to Murphy’s decision to usher Brett Favre out of town in 2008. This was done almost immediately after he was appointed as the team’s president in December of 2007. This shrewd move alienated a Hall of Fame quarterback and paved the way for Rodgers to start in the first place, which is something that Rodgers surely took note of.
The other constant during that time is Gutekunst himself, whose presence in Green Bay predates Murphy and Rodgers. Gutekunst started as a scout in 1998 and eventually worked his way through the ranks to be handpicked by Murphy for the general manager job. As Thompson was replaced, the last vestiges of his tenure were ushered out the door because Murphy had a GM who could carry out his vision and temperament.
Rodgers frequently praises Thompson for selecting him in the 2005 draft, so you have to wonder if more of the organizational dysfunction stems from Murphy himself. Despite the team’s success, Rodgers believes that “people win championships,” which is a phrase that he went back to during the presser. If Gutekunst runs the team with an iron fist, it would seem that this is done at Murphy’s directive.
Much of the media speculation has centered around Rodgers allegedly wanting Gutekunst fired. Rodgers vehemently denied this at his press conference. While the two obviously do not have anything more than a professional relationship, the signs point toward Murphy pulling the strings. This idea would clarify why the frustration has boiled over in the years since Gutekunst was appointed as the GM even though the organizational problems have gone back to the early 2010s.
Despite the joy of having Rodgers back in Green Bay, the writing seems to be on the wall unless there is a significant culture change in the front office. Wins can only mask so much dysfunction. If the Packers do not win the Super Bowl this year, there will be another long and dramatic offseason ahead that will culminate in a Rodgers departure. Anything less than the Lombardi will not be accepted.