Green Bay Packers

What If Aaron Rodgers Decides to Play Hardball?

Photo Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Midway through his 500th Aaron Rodgers argument of the off-season, ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky had a question. As Stephen A Smith and Marcus Spears shouted about Green Bay’s leverage, the former Detroit Lions quarterback piped in and asked, “What if Aaron Rodgers plays hardball?”

As the sports world focuses on whether Green Bay can wait it out for their desired compensation, perhaps we haven’t properly considered Rodgers’ own leverage?

Orlovsky continued, “What happens with Aaron Rodgers if the Green Bay Packers are playing hardball with the Jets and Rodgers goes back to the Packers and goes, ‘You know what, I don’t want to play for the Jets, I’m going to be right here and you’re going to have to pay me my $60 million?’”

It’s a great question. But to answer Orlovsky’s question with a question, can you actually see Rodgers doing that?

Andrew Brandt, a former Packers executive, cannot. “I’ve heard theories that Rodgers could show up to the Packers’ offseason workouts or even training camp. (Please.),” Brandt wrote. “Or that Rodgers could retire and Green Bay would get nothing. (The Packers would love for him to retire having played for only them, while also relieving them of $60 million he’d be due.) Or that he would sit on the roster all season so that the Packers would have to pay him. (Again, please.)”

Yes, Rodgers is outspoken,. And, yes, he’s petty. But maybe more importantly, he cares what people think. The future Hall of Famer can sit on The Pat McAfee Show and insist he doesn’t, but anyone with any emotional intelligence can tell that is far from the truth. Aaron Rodgers is extremely invested in the perception of Aaron Rodgers.

And why wouldn’t he be? He watched Brett Favre go from one of the most beloved athletes in state history to a villain in the eyes of the fanbase. Rodgers has spent his career handling his business in almost direct opposition of Favre’s path. He surely intends on maintaining that trend in his departure, despite the obvious but not especially relevant parallel of going to the Jets.

So does it seem logical that he would suddenly turn heel to speed up a deal? No. Rodgers doesn’t want the heat. He wants to leave Green Bay as a hero and enter New York as a hero. He doesn’t want some weird, awkward waiting period to come back to Lambeau after his retirement like Favre. He doesn’t want to be the negative focus of Packers nation. In his own words, he “won’t hold anyone hostage.”

It’s easy to imagine Rodgers putting on some pressure behind the scenes, but there is almost no situation where one can imagine him publicly coming out and pulling a Jimmy Butler.

Alas, for the sake of Orlovsky’s original question, let’s walk down this unlikely path. Rodgers goes on McAfee and publicly states he’s changed his mind and wants to play for the Packers. The answer is simple from an organizational standpoint: Call his bluff. Tell him, “Sure, come on back to this dysfunctional relationship where you were clearly frustrated. Come on, spend your last years here. We’d love to have you.” And then wait him out like you were willing to wait out the Jets. As Brandt has pointed out time and again, “The problem with Rodgers’ contract, especially for the Jets, is that there is no decision point early in the offseason, no big roster bonus or anything like that. Thus, the Packers can wait.”

Because that’s the real heart of the issue here. As much as every Packers fan wants to believe differently this relationship between the front office and Rodgers has been broken since the moment they drafted Jordan Love. Just like Favre was a Ron Wolf guy and felt betrayed by Ted Thompson, Rodgers is a Ted Thompson guy who feels betrayed by Brian Gutekunst. No amount of Randall Cobb signings or press conference question dismissals can hide the reality.

I’m not suggesting anyone was unprofessional behind the scenes, but it’s abundantly clear Rodgers and the Packers are a couple that should’ve divorced two years ago. They’ve been trying to stick it out for public appearance. Now you’re going to tell me that just because Rodgers wants the settlement done he’s going to move back in? Then let him and see how long he lasts.

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