Green Bay Packers

Why Packers Fans Blame Aaron Rodgers

Photo Credit: Tim Fuller (USA TODAY Sports)

This is a tough time to be a Green Bay Packers fan.

Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ star quarterback, last years’ league MVP, and probably one of the greatest football players of all time, has reportedly demanded to be traded.

This story clearly has all the makings of a messy divorce, with Packers fans being the kids caught in the middle. There may be plenty of blame to go around. The national sports media overwhelmingly lays responsibility for the Rodgers mess at the feet of the Packers’ organization. But read the comments section of just about any Wisconsin sports blog and it’s clear Packers Nation is pointing the finger at Aaron Rodgers.

If this divorce actually happens, there should be little doubt which of the parents the fans will choose to live with.

Since the news broke on draft day, there has been a tidal wave of stories on the Rodgers dispute. The most salacious stories deal with Rodgers’ grievances against the Packers and their general manager, Brian Gutekunst.

There are also a ton of questions being asked by the media, both nationally and in Wisconsin. Will Aaron retire? Will the Packers trade him? Is there a way for the two sides to make amends?

However, for Packers fans specifically, it really comes down to one very difficult question: Is Aaron Rodgers a good guy?

You know what I mean. Not just a great football player, but the kind of guy you can cheer for. The kind of guy whose jersey you’ll buy, not only for yourself but for your kids as well.

If you believe over half of what has been reported recently, and Rodgers actually forces a trade, many will answer that question with a resounding “No!”

According to multiple reports, Rodgers is upset that the Packers picked a quarterback in the first round of last year’s NFL draft. At the very least, Rodgers believes the Packers front office should have consulted him or given him advance warning.

Other reports say:

  • Rodgers has told the Packers he would rather retire than play for them.
  • That he will return only if the Packers fire their general manager.
  • Rodgers is reportedly upset that the Packers cut a fifth-string wide receiver (Jake Kumerow) a day after the quarterback publicly praised him.
  • That Rodgers mocked and belittled the Packers’ GM in group texts with teammates.
  • That a year ago Rodgers was telling teammates with expiring contracts that he was leaving at the end of the season.
  • Presumably, this could have an impact on whether those free agents re-signed with the team.
  • That Rodgers not only wants out of Green Bay, but he wants to be traded to the Denver Broncos.

That’s a lot of stuff. More importantly, this is a very bad look for Rodgers. It’s not surprising that at a baseball game in Wisconsin recently, fans booed when his picture showed up on the stadium Jumbotron for a car ad.

For the record, I grew up in Wisconsin and started my television career there. I am a lifelong Packers fan and a proud shareholder since the mid-’90s. If I have to be be brutally honest, I must admit that I have a Rodgers jersey hanging in my closet.

Like many Packers fans, I am disappointed that all this has transpired. Unfortunately, I am not surprised. I think it’s fair to say that holds true for many Packers fans as well.

We’ve all seen Aaron’s dark side. The behavior in 2018 that led to Mike McCarthy getting fired mid-season is one example. His news conference after the NFC Championship loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is another.

At the same time, Rodgers has done many great things for the Packers, the city of Green Bay, and the state of Wisconsin. His charity work is significant and goes mostly unreported. Rodgers’ success on the football field speaks for itself. He has led the Packers to five NFC title games and a Super Bowl trophy.

Could Packers GM Brian Gutekunst have communicated better with his star quarterback? Perhaps, but is that transgression really worth throwing away a legacy with the most historic franchise in the NFL?

Granted, Gutekunst drafted his possible successor last year, and Rodgers doesn’t like it. However, one could easily argue that the GM was simply acting in the best interest of the organization. Rodgers is a great player. He is also a 37-year-old quarterback with a history of injury who is fickle enough to retire from football and host a game show.

If something were to happen to Rodgers and the Packers were not prepared, Gutekunst would get fired, and rightly so.

The Packers have treated Rodgers very well over the years. In 2005, they drafted him in the first round when 23 other teams passed on him. In 2008, they stuck with him through the Brett Favre drama. In 2018, they fired the coach he had grown tired of. The next season, they hired a coach who ran the offense he wanted.

On top of that, the Packers have made Rodgers a rich man. According to Spotrac, the Packers have paid Rodgers almost $248 million since 2005. Let those zeros sink in for a moment… $248,000,000!

There are also reports that the team has offered Rodgers a new contract that will make him the richest player in the NFL.

It’s time for less ego and more professionalism. Aaron Rodgers needs to walk this back and mend fences. The Packers need to welcome him home with open arms. Both parties, especially Aaron, need to do what is necessary to avoid a messy divorce.

Regardless of how this plays out, Rogers’ reputation has already taken a major hit. If he forces a trade, it will get much worse. Rodgers needs to act more like former Packers quarterback Bart Starr and less like LeBron James.

If you’re ranking NFL players throughout history based on how they played and how they live their lives, Starr is the gold standard.

Starr led the Packers to five World Championships in the ’60s, including the first two Super Bowls. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, the league MVP in ’66, and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. And yes, his jersey is hanging in my closet as well.

Starr, who passed away in 2019, is revered in Wisconsin and admired throughout the league.  He is respected, not just for his success on the field, but more so for the way he lived his life. Off the field, Starr was kind, humble, and generous.

Starr served as a mentor to Aaron Rodgers dating back to 2008. That’s the year Rodgers replaced another legend, Brett Favre, to become the Packers starting quarterback. It was a difficult transition, especially for Rodgers. Starr, being an old-school gentleman, wrote Rodgers a letter of encouragement. It was the first of many letters, and their relationship became a part of Packers lore.

In his last interview before his death, Starr read what may have been his final letter to Rodgers. It was an emotional television moment with NBC Sports Peter King. Starr, who had suffered two strokes and a heart attack, could barely speak.

“You are a strong leader,” Starr struggled to read. “Cherrie (Starr’s wife) and I are admiring you because you are one of the finest men we have ever met.”

If I were able to give Aaron Rodgers any advice, I would suggest that he pull Starr’s letters out of the desk drawer and re-read them, perhaps more than once. The Packers will survive a messy split with their star quarterback. They did with Favre and they’ll do the same with Rodgers if it comes to that.

If Rogers forces a trade, his legacy in Wisconsin becomes one of a villain rather than a hero. If he leaves and fails to win a Super Bowl with another team, his legacy with the rest of the world will be one of a spoiled athlete who got what he deserved.

If he stays in Green Bay, we’ll cheer his loyalty. If he leaves, all bets are off.

Choose wisely, Aaron. There’s a lot at stake!

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