On Tuesday, several reports came to light that the Green Bay Packers gave permission for quarterback Aaron Rodgers to talk to the New York Jets presumably so he can negotiate a new deal with the Jets if the Packers work out a trade. It means the relationship between Rodgers and the Packers, which started when the Pack surprised everybody by drafting him back in 2005, may be coming to an end.
This shouldn’t come as a shock if you look back at the history of the relationship. Over the last five years, cracks appeared in the relationship and over time, the cracks got bigger until the two sides may have reached the point of no return.
In 2018, reports about tension between the team and their future Hall of Fame quarterback started to become more frequent. The Packers released Jordy Nelson before the start of that season. Nelson was one of Rodgers’ best friends on the team according to published reports and although the Packers notified Rodgers of the move, they didn’t consult with him about it. The lack of communication started to irritate Rodgers. He apparently wanted a bigger say in personnel moves.
Tensions between Rodgers and then head coach Mike McCarthy also came to a head that season as the Packers struggled on the field. Rodgers and McCarthy apparently weren’t on the same page on play calling and their relationship which was once stronger during the team’s Super Bowl-winning season in 2010, had deteriorated. McCarthy was fired late in the 2018 season and Rodgers was given the right to speak to his eventually successor, Matt LaFleur, before the Packers hired him prior to the 2019 season.
It was about this time that Packers president Mark Murphy allegedly said to Rodgers, “Don’t be the problem” once LaFleur was hired according to a report by Tyler Dunne.
Once LaFleur was hired, there were questions as to whether Rodgers would be given a lot of latitude to change plays at the line of scrimmage as he did under McCarthy. Eventually, LaFleur and Rodgers found a solid working relationship and the Packers went 13-3 in LaFleur’s first season as head coach.
In the 2019 NFC Championship Game, Rodgers reportedly changed LaFleur’s play calls in the second half when the team was trying to mount a desperate comeback. There didn’t seem to be any fallout from this incident.
Things took a big turn when the Packers selected Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It was clear Rodgers didn’t see this move coming and it mirrored the Packers choice to select Rodgers back in 2005 when future Hall of Famer Brett Favre was still the established quarterback. Rodgers said he “wasn’t thrilled” with the pick and tensions with the team intensified at that point.
Before the season started, the Packers also released depth receiver Jake Kumerow who Rodgers had just praised the previous day. That increased tensions between the front office and the quarterback.
Rodgers and many Packers fans also seemed frustrated at various times that the Packers didn’t add more offensive weapons to the roster, especially at wide receiver where Davante Adams was a star but the team lacked another strong weapon to compliment him.
The selection of Love seemed to motivate Rodgers and he put together the first of what became back-to-back MVP seasons. The 2020 Packers offense was elite and the team led the NFL in points scored. Rodgers led the league in touchdown passes (48) and completion percentage (70.7).
At the 2021 NFL Draft, Adam Schefter reported that Rodgers said he would not return to the Packers over “irreconcilable differences.” The two sides engaged in lengthy negotiations to try to clear things up and improve their working relationship but for much of the 2021 offseason, it was unclear if Rodgers would retire, return or demand a trade.
Eventually, Rodgers and GM Brian Gutekunst smoothed things out and the quarterback returned for a second straight MVP season although the Packers were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the 49ers at Lambeau Field. Rodgers was now being consulted in personnel moves and the team reacquired wide receiver Randall Cobb at the quarterback’s behest.
Rodgers signed an extension before the 2022 season which made him the highest paid player in the league. It was also structured with a lot of dead cap money if he retired before the first three seasons were over with an increasing amount of dead cap built in. It seemed like Rodgers and the team were happy and the quarterback would remain with the team for the rest of his career whether that would be one, two or three more seasons.
Unfortunately, the team was not happy with his attitude as Rodgers showed up for only three days of the team’s OTAs (which was all that was required by his contract) even though Adams had been traded to the Raiders and the team had drafted three rookie receivers and was also without Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Reports circulated that management felt this showed a lack of leadership and commitment on Rodgers’ part.
Then, both the quarterback and the team struggled in 2022. The Pack had their first losing season under LaFleur going 8-9. Rodgers had his worst statistical season since becoming the Packers starter in 2008. He never threw for 300 yards in a game, threw more interceptions in one season than he had since 2008 and had issues with his accuracy. He didn’t seem to trust his new, younger receivers.
Rodgers was also playing with a broken thumb for much of the season, his receivers dropped a lot of passes and early in the season, the offensive line was inconsistent due to injuries that caused the team to juggle the lineup.
Now, here we stand, just before the start of the new league season, with Rodgers reportedly talking to the New York Jets about a possible trade.
If Rodgers leaves Green Bay, it will be the end of an era. Rodgers has given the Packers 18 seasons of Hall of Fame worthy football and many instances of off the field drama. It will be a sad day when he leaves the Packers no matter when or how it happens. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t time.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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