Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told his side of the story of his breakup with the Packers to Matt Schneidman of The Athletic this week. Whether you believe everything Rodgers said or not, one thing became crystal clear from examining the article and the quotes from all of those involved: It was time for the Packers and Rodgers to part ways.
It seemed that even though it took three years to come to fruition, the breaking point was when the Packers drafted Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Rodgers clearly felt that the team would have been better off adding another player who could help the run defense or a wide receiver to compliment Davante Adams. Instead, the Packers picked a quarterback who was likely to be Rodgers’ successor. The lack of communication with Rodgers about it before the pick was made only made things worse between the quarterback and the front office.
For Rodgers, it had to be déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say. In 2005, the Packers drafted Rodgers in the first round when they already had future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Now, 15 years later, Rodgers was the new Favre and Love was taking on Rodgers’ former role.
Rodgers used the selection of Love to play better. The former Cal star has a history of using perceived snubs as motivation and he has a long memory when incidents like that occur starting with the 2005 NFL Draft when his hometown San Francisco 49ers passed on him to select Alex Smith.
He raised his level of play and won back-to-back NFL MVPs in 2020 and 2021 as if to show GM Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the Green Bay front office that they made a big mistake by selecting a quarterback who could eventually replace him.
According to a source close to the Packers, the relationship between Rodgers and the Packers front office deteriorated so quickly after Love was drafted that by the 2021 offseason, Rodgers’ agent asked the team to either fire Gutekunst or trade Rodgers.
Neither happened and Gutekunst was able to smooth things over a bit with his star quarterback in part by reacquiring Randall Cobb for Rodgers and then, one year later, signing him to a new contract that made him the highest paid player in the NFL.
But from here, the entire thing devolves into a typical divorce situation. Both sides make accusations against the other. Should Gutekunst have communicated better with Rodgers, especially before drafting a quarterback in the first round? Sure. Is Rodgers’ claim that his wi-fi in his California home is so bad that people need to facetime him in order to reach him a legitimate excuse? Probably not.
Without getting into the messy details, it became a typical he said/he said situation with both sides denying some things and accusing the other side of others.
After signing the big contract, Rodgers and the Packers went through a difficult year in 2022. The Packers were disappointed when Rodgers didn’t show up for voluntary OTAs. Rodgers said he won MVPs without showing up for them but with all the youth and turnover in the receiving corps, the team felt that last season was different especially considering all the money they were paying Rodgers.
Rodgers suffered a broken thumb on the final play of Week 5 and did not play up to his usual standards the rest of the season. He and his young receivers also lacked the connection he had with Davante Adams and some of the other veterans. The team slumped mid-season and rallied late. They had a win and you’re in season finale at home against Detroit but couldn’t get the job done and finished 8-9.
In the end, the Packers decided Love was ready, Rodgers was extremely costly and difficult to deal with and it was time to move on. After coming close with Rodgers in 2019 and 2020, the team lost its first playoff game in 2021 and failed to make the playoffs in 2022. Rodgers was 39 and the Packers were up against the cap after having spent money to bring back the veteran cast around Rodgers the previous three seasons.
Both sides felt it was time for a divorce. The Packers got some draft picks for Rodgers and will be out from under the dead cap hit from terrible contract they signed with him by the end of 2023. They get to see what Love can do and to start a new era.
Rodgers, meanwhile, seems to have regained his enthusiasm with the change of scenery. He attended voluntary OTAs with the Jets and looks ready for a big season that he probably wouldn’t have had if he stayed with his old team. The same grudge that Rodgers used to have big seasons in 2020 and 2021 with Green Bay will be used with the Jets so Rodgers can prove Gutekunst wrong for trading him. Had he stayed in Green Bay, it’s doubtful Rodgers would have attended voluntary OTAs or displayed the same enthusiasm he now has in New York.
Whether Love is going to develop into the next great Packers quarterback or will become a brief footnote in franchise history remains to be seen. We also don’t know how well Rodgers will do with the Jets and whether he can regain his form and lead the Jets to their first Super Bowl since the Beatles were still together.
But one thing has become abundantly clear after hearing from both Rodgers and Gutekunst: The Packers relationship with Rodgers had run its course and it was time for both sides to move on this offseason.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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