Never mind the loss.
Never mind the special teams blowing the game, a predictable outcome for anyone who watched a single minute of Green Bay Packers football this year. Set aside the solid defensive performance from a unit that didn’t give up a single offensive touchdown to the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night. Ignore the fact that Mo Drayton only fielded 10 players against what would be the game-winning field goal. Disregard the stellar receiving performances from Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, the only players besides Dominique Dafney with more than one target. (Dafney had two.)
This loss is entirely on Aaron Rodgers’ shoulders, which is exactly what he deserves.
Against an inferior opponent whose defense was decimated by injuries, Rodgers and his hand-picked offense could only muster 10 points. After an entire offseason spent whining about how Brian Gutekunst and the Packers’ organization weren’t retaining the “right guys,” Rodgers got Gutekunst to buckle and bring back Randall Cobb. Cobb was returning from an abdominal injury for this playoff game and could only muster one target from the Hall of Fame QB.
Despite how Rodgers had been proclaiming his trust in his current receiving corps, he did not have the wherewithal to target anyone beyond his two trusted steeds. That all but ensured that any defense competent enough to put 11 able-bodied individuals on the field could zero in on who is getting the ball on any given snap. The offense’s performance was putrid. Losing A.J. Dillon to an injury didn’t help, but one has to think that Nathaniel Hackett’s unit should have done better.
The thing is, it wasn’t Hackett’s unit that day. Green Bay’s offensive direction didn’t belong to anyone beyond No. 12. Rodgers, emboldened by his recent foray into becoming the deus-ex-machina general manager of the Packers, hijacked the offense and spent the evening doing exactly what he wanted to do. It didn’t work in 2019, and it did not work again this season.
Rodgers has long since ceased being concerned with facts and results. His efforts in the 2021 season drifted away from football as he preferred to spend his time learning how to manipulate and mislead the public. An initial “disdain” for the media at large has been exposed as what we now know is a career-long ploy of selfishness and conspiracy.
ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg was the latest journalist in a long series of individuals that have given Rodgers a platform to misuse this season. In Van Valkenburg’s column, Rodgers joked about how he intentionally plugged an Ayn Rand book on the Manningcast, only to later reveal that he had never read the book. Instead, he had plucked it off of his shelf to “annoy” people.
Of course, the polarizing reactions to this move were in line with what has been giving Rodgers his kicks these days. He has fully leaned into his holier-than-thou psyche and toys with the public as if fans and media alike are all less-than. Rodgers believes he is his own messiah and that anyone who isn’t a self-proclaimed “free thinker” is just another sheep.
It was not long ago that Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 after saying he had been “immunized” against the virus. He promptly hopped on The Pat McAfee Show and plunged headfirst into a tirade of misinformation and deception regarding vaccine efficacy, homeopathic treatments, his newfound relationship with Joe Rogan, and the value of ivermectin (a horse dewormer) to treat his COVID symptoms.
In subsequent weeks, Rodgers would go on to lament the “woke left mob” as they worked to “put the final nail in his cancel-culture coffin.” Rodgers would not back down from his newfound allegiance with QAnon and Libertarians everywhere, blaming President Biden and the 81 million people that voted for him as causes of the pandemic continuing. He rebuked Biden’s notion of this being a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” in the Van Valkenburg interview without stating any facts or evidence to back that up.
Thus is the nature of these conspiracists that get off by claiming COVID doesn’t exist — there is zero evidence to back that up. Rodgers has aligned himself with the people that get their news and facts from Facebook and Fox News. In the process, he has alienated each and every person that does not agree with his worldview.
To put it bluntly, continuing to spread this misinformation and rhetoric is dangerous. The United States is rapidly approaching a million deaths from COVID-19, an unprecedented number for the wealthiest nation in the world to stomach.
Athletes should not be relied upon to be activists. However, they should be relied upon to be dependable role models for an American public that is as impressionable as ever. Rodgers and his behavior epitomize selfishness and deception. There are real consequences to his actions, which he may never see due to his status as a millionaire.
Rodgers did get a small taste of karmic justice, though.
Given all that has transpired in the last calendar year — from the tumultuous offseason, to the pissing match between Rodgers and the Packers franchise, to the COVID-19 diagnosis and lies upon manipulation upon lies — Rodgers showed his true colors. He is all but on his way out the door, leaving in a disgraceful manner akin to his first-round draft slide. Rodgers exits the 2021-22 NFL season with his tail between his legs and the echoes of an onslaught of scrutiny nipping at his ears.
If this is the last time we see Rodgers in the green and gold, he departs with yet another playoff loss to the team that “should” have drafted him in 2005*. In the playoffs, he makes another disappearing act, further cementing his legacy as merely a great regular-season quarterback. Rodgers leaves behind a legion of fans that once loved him, only to see them turn on him due to his stubbornness and reluctance to see things in the world as they really are.
In the end, Rodgers got exactly what he deserved.
*An earlier version of this article misstated when Rodgers was drafted. We regret the error.