Vikings

What Jimmy Garoppolo Tells Us About Aaron Rodgers

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada (USA TODAY Sports)

This year, Aaron Rodgers made one of the all-time sports-star heel turns. Sure, he’s a bloody glove and a Johnnie Cochran away from the leaderboard, but he’s expended about as much goodwill as any professional athlete in history in one calendar year. He went from the grinning, soft-spoken Jeopardy! host who drives his pickup with the cute dog in the commercials to the smirking, rat-haired, red-pill Reddit bro whose greatest joy in life is assigning blame to co-workers and peddling conspiracies on a Zoom call with a punter.

Rodgers’ dwindling legion of defenders — the president and spokesman of which is Aaron Rodgers — will write off the criticism as libtard cancel-culture politics. But, politics aside, there’s a much darker, more contemptuous streak to Rodgers’ behavior, a patina of all-encompassing jerkiness about him. And to appreciate it, you need look no further than the contrast offered by the man who ended the Packers’ Super Bowl run: Jimmy Garoppolo.

Rodgers’ offseason tantrums need not be rehashed in gory detail — the passive-aggressive Last Dance tweets, the winking I’m-not-saying-I’m-just-saying talk about holding out. All’s fair in love, war, and negotiations with your agent. But Rodgers couldn’t let it be just that. He had to keep the sanctimony dialed up to 11 even after he’d re-signed with the team he said he wouldn’t play for again. Then he had the temerity to straight-up gaslight the public by saying the media made up quotes he spoke directly into microphones. And that was before he lied about, you know, other stuff.

The crux of Rodgers’ complaint was that the Packers’ organization wasn’t involving him enough in their decision-making process, which is a legitimate beef. Tom Brady and Joe Burrow got to invite friends to stay over, why can’t he? Fair. But let’s not pretend it’s also not significantly about him feeling chapped all over his bathing-suit area that the team drafted Jordan Love to be his potential replacement — a bit of irony he should be better suited to appreciate, given his own introduction in Green Bay.

You know who else doesn’t have a team built around him and who is also playing while his potential replacement watches from the sidelines? Jimmy Friggin’ G.

Garoppolo did not leave the Super Bowl-ring slot machine that was New England to be a backup. He made the cross-country move to be the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback. Some bad injury luck and inconsistent performances called that into question. He never looked lost. He just didn’t look like the guy who knew the path to get you where you wanted to go.

The Niners trading two first-round picks to select Trey Lance out of North Dakota State No. 3-overall in the 2021 draft was not a mixed message. This wasn’t a team taking a flyer on a far-flung prospect at some point in the hazy future, this was an organization making a clear turn in a new direction. The speculation all season wasn’t about whether or not Lance would replace Garoppolo, but when. This was Alex Smith/Patrick Mahomes territory. Kind of the equivalent of your Tinder date meeting up with your ex in your apartment lobby. Michael Scott would cringe.

Jimmy G took it like an absolute champ. Dig this dishy piece from Niners Nation back in September, where Garoppolo unloaded his frustrations…by agreeing that he had some conflicting emotions when he hugged Trey Lance. Seriously. It’s the same tone he’s taken all season — a season in which he has been and continues to be presumptive trade bait even while actively in the process of potentially winning the Super Bowl.

This isn’t to suggest that athletes should be pushovers or chumps. Every laborer should insist that their value be recognized by their employer. And a little spiciness both on and off the field is great. I got a kick out of Brett Favre’s vindictiveness during his brief Benedict Arnold act with the Minnesota Vikings, and I was cheering on Tom Brady this weekend as he got his first-ever unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for yelling at a ref. (Git ‘em, Tommy, they hit you in your pretty mouth, and you’ve got the bloody receipts to prove it!) Nor is it a stick-to-sports argument. Athletes are welcome to their own politics (although any comparison between Rodgers’ message-board activism and the work of a certain other former 49ers quarterback is flat-out absurd).

Rodgers went beyond sticking up for himself long ago, jerking fans around, lying about his vaccination status, prevaricating about that lying, scapegoating at every turn, making everything about himself in the ultimate team sport, and basically proving that his word is worthless.

Is that why the Packers lost on Saturday? Well, no. But clearly none of it helped. And you know who did win? The guy who didn’t constantly complain about his own team, his own situation, and his own public perception. Garoppolo is in a position every bit as frustrating as Rodgers’, and yet he stayed focused on the game and he thumped the Packers.

Maybe Garoppolo has a whole houseful of snapped pencils, shattered coffee mugs, and other casualties of frustration, but his teammates seem to love him and he comes off like a classy guy. He’s certainly not as good as No. 12, so he hasn’t earned the same level of consideration from his front office. But how you carry yourself in any given situation is a big part of being a leader, and, if only in that one sense, Garoppolo is the superior player.

Is it relevant that Garoppolo is crazy-handsome while lately Rodgers looks like a portrait rapidly aging in Jared Leto’s attic? No. But things like that are fun to point out because Rodgers is such a massive tool.

The signs were always there — Rogers is the same twerp who bragged about his standardized test scores and looked up his teammates’ results. Is his dumb-guy-version-of-a-smart-guy politics pertinent to his poor performance in the divisional round? Nah. But it’s indicative of the unhinged egomania achievable only by bubbled-off celebrities and the shoddy, incessant self-regard that tainted his relationships with his co-workers and made him loathsome in the eyes of the general public.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo keeps on winning. He likely won’t be with the same team next year, even though he might yet still earn a Super Bowl ring next month, but he’ll almost certainly be starting somewhere. He’ll still have his eyes on the prize. And he won’t be a dick about it.

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