To say Aaron Rodgers has a cagey relationship is to understate the situation by several orders of magnitude. His disdain for public comment is well known, and his distrust for reporters is such that he records every conversation he has with a member of the media so that he may correct the record, should it become necessary.
For that reason, any public comment from Rodgers is just as notable for what he doesn’t say as for what he does.
Speaking to ESPN’s Kenny Mayne late Monday night, there was a great deal Rodgers didn’t say.
He didn’t, for instance, say that he intends to retire if he’s not traded. Nor did he give any indication as to what the Packers should expect when their practices switch from “voluntary” to “mandatory,” as will happen when the team holds its minicamp in early June.
Rodgers says everything — except what he wants
He also didn’t say what, exactly, he wants from the Packers. Rodgers spoke broadly about his discontent with the team, making some obtuse references to “culture” and “people” and “doing things the right way.” But he didn’t say what, if anything was wrong about the culture. He didn’t give any indication as to what people he’d have preferred to stay in Green Bay (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jake Kumerow) or who he’d like to see leave (Brian Gutekunst). And he didn’t give any kind of explanation as to how the Packer
s had strayed from “the right way” or what steps the team could take to get back on it.
And therein lies the problem. We know the Packers have had multiple one-on-one meetings with Rodgers. Mark Murphy, Brian Gutekunst, and Matt LaFleur have each spent time with Rodgers this offseason in an attempt to bring their star quarterback back to the fold. But Rodgers hasn’t said what he wants, at least not publicly. Maybe he won’t. Or maybe he can’t.
Perhaps the most revealing portion of Rodgers’ interview came when he began to recount Packers history. Sticking with his “people” theme, Rodgers made note of several key figures that have steered the team to greatness over the years.
“Green Bay has always been about the people,” Rodgers said. “From Curly Lambeau being owner and founder to the '60s with [Vince] Lombardi and Bart Starr and all those incredible names to the '90s teams with coach [Mike] Holmgren and Favrey [Brett Favre] and the Minister of Defense [Reggie White] to the run that we've been on. It's about the people."
A sympathy play may fall short
It’s certainly true that each of those people brought greatness to Green Bay. But it’s also true that of that list, only one actually ended his career with the Packers: Bart Starr. And he hardly covered himself in glory, either, presiding over a floundering team during the throes of the interregnum between the Lombardi era and the Ron Wolf-led resurgence in the 1990s.
The rest of the list all left for greener — or at least different — pastures. Lambeau clashed with the Packers board and ended up coaching in Chicago and Washington. Seeking new challenges, Lombardi, too, left for Washington. Holmgren spent longer as the head coach of the Seahawks than of the Packers. White unretired to play with the Carolina Panthers. And Rodgers himself had a front-row seat to Favre’s acrimonious departure from Green Bay.
If those are the people Rodgers is associating himself with, maybe that’s a tacit message that he’d like to go elsewhere. And certainly, Rodgers is media-savvy enough to pick examples that would get that message across. But it seems just as likely that Rodgers doesn’t actually know what he wants, and he’s trying to bring up iconic names in team history in hopes of sparking some sympathy with fans. What does he want? It sure doesn’t seem like he knows, but he does want to make it clear that his beef is not with the coaches or fans of the team, but with its front office.
We have to credit Rodgers for breaking his silence. Many have asked for him to just speak openly about his discontent. He’s done that now, if only in the most minimalist sense. But it’s hard to view this as anything other than a tit-for-tat with the Packers. Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur had spoken publicly, now Rodgers has done the same. But unless he explicitly comes right out and says what he wants, he’s doing little more than returning serve in what’s becoming an extended volley between a team and its star.