MAQB: Aaron Rodgers Is Unlikely to Be Traded, But He Definitely Delivered a Message

All things considered, Aaron Rodgers had a good situation in 2020, but it's understandable for him to have been frustrated after the game. Plus, an underrated move by the Bucs this year, Cole Beasley is a tough guy, staff changes in Buffalo, a costly injury in K.C. and more.
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Two hundred sixty-eight games down, one to go …

Bucs offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs; Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley; Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

• Do I think the Packers are going to trade Aaron Rodgers? I do not. Do I think there was a purpose behind his postgame comments that was very intentional? A million percent, yes. Look, Rodgers is whip-smart, and very self-aware. There are accidents in these areas. So when he says that “a lot of guys’ futures [are] uncertain, myself included,” it’s worth heeding those final two words. Rodgers had an absurd year, and will win the MVP by a wide margin. The shotgun marriage to Matt LaFleur and the Shanahan doctrine of offensive football has worked out better than anyone could’ve guessed. But if he looked across the landscape on Sunday, he saw three teams that moved aggressively over the last calendar year to top one another (see: Stefon Diggs, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Le’Veon Bell, etc.), and a fourth that valued continuity over trying to maximize the window they’re in (for the Packers and Bucs, it’s what’s left for legendary quarterback; for the Chiefs and Bills, it’s having young star quarterbacks at an affordable rate). Now, Rodgers’s situation isn’t exactly where, say, Tom Brady’s was in New England a year ago. He has a top-10 receiver (Davante Adams), an emerging star at tight end (Robert Tonyan) and a top-shelf stable of backs (Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, A.J. Dillon). The line was good too, before David Bakhtiari went down. So, sure, it’d be a little overdramatic for Rodgers to complain too much about his situation. But it’s also understandable why he’d be frustrated if he doesn’t feel like the team-builders at Lambeau are acting with the same urgency to win that he needs to at his advancing age. Which puts the Packers in a tricky, but not untenable, spot.

• By the way, just as LaFleur is going to have to live with his fourth-down call—he sent the field goal team out to cut the deficit to 31–26 with less than three minutes left, and his offense never got the ball back—until he gets a crack at atoning for it in a playoff setting, Rodgers’s decision not to run the ball on third down should linger. If Rodgers tucked the ball, he’d probably have won the race to the pylon. At the very least, he’d have put the Packers in a more manageable fourth-down situation. Instead, he contributed to the fateful decision that LaFleur made.

• One underrated move in the Bucs’ run to the Super Bowl: GM Jason Licht trading up a spot in April to ensure that he’d land Tristan Wirfs, the Iowa tackle who was the fourth of a cluster of four tackles atop the 2020 draft. The expectation going into that Thursday night nine months ago was that the fourth tackle would come off the board at either 10 (Jets) or 11 (Cleveland), leaving teams with an OL need picking thereafter reaching for prospects. Instead, Tampa flipped their fourth-rounder to swap spots with San Francisco (the Niners used that fourth to deal up for Brandon Aiyuk later in the round), and wound up with one of the best rookies in the league, and a long-term answer at right tackle. It sure made a difference Sunday against the Packers’ fearsome threesome of edge rushers.

• A challenge for a rising program comes in replacing assistants. The Chiefs have twice had to replace offensive coordinators in Andy Reid’s time there (Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy), and while the Bills sidestepped that fate this year, with Brian Daboll likely staying in Buffalo, they still stand to get picked off in other spots. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is shaping up as the favorite for the Texans’ job, and QB coach Ken Dorsey is eliciting outside coordinator interest, with the Seahawks having asked permission to interview him on Monday. That head coach Sean McDermott’s background is on defense, and that ex-Bears and Jaguars DC Bob Babich is in-house could soften the blow if Frazier goes. Losing Dorsey would hurt too, because he was in line for a promotion if Daboll had gotten a job, but the Bills have pretty good depth in their offensive staff, and their QB coach job would certainly be an attractive one to outside candidates.

• I’m sure there’s some more to it, but Cole Beasley playing a month on a broken fibula is pretty bananas. And another example of “these guys aren’t like the rest of us.”

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• While we’re there, Ravens assistant head coach David Culley is getting a second interview in Houston, and his name is an interesting one—he and, on the GM side, Scott Cohen, landed on the Texans search list before Nick Caserio was hired. I’m told that Korn Ferry, the firm that was running the Houston search before Caserio came aboard, got solid recommendations on both from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, and they included specifics on why Culley is widely seen internally to be suited to be a head coach. The one knock here would be age. Culley turned 65 in September. On the flip side, he does have extensive experience working with quarterbacks, and was Allen’s position coach during the Bills star’s rookie year.

• Dan Campbell’s staff is coming together in Detroit—and landing Aaron Glenn (who’s on a head-coaching fast track) and Anthony Lynn (who’d met with Urban Meyer about a job in Jacksonville) has given him a heck of a starting point. Duce Staley coming on puts another ex-player into the fray, and further clarifies the identity of the group. And yet, I think you might see a surprise or two, still, and that’s because of where Campbell went when I asked him about his staff the other night. “You’re making a ton of phone calls about guys, in reference to guys, trying to do your due diligence,” Campbell said. “I’ve said all along, I said it on my interview, I don’t want to hire guys just because they’re my friends. Now, if I happen to find a guy who I know is a dang good coach, and he’s a friend, I’ll do it. But I’m not kidding when I say we’re looking everywhere. I’m using Chris Spielman as a resource, and we are looking everywhere. I’m looking in Canadian football, I’m looking in college football, we’re still looking in the league, I know of a high school coach right now that I’m thinking of, how do I get him on this staff. You know why? Because he’s a dang good coach. He just needs to grow and learn, that’s all. So that’s what I’m in the process of. All the great coaches, and all the great people I have a ton of respect for in this business, have all said the same thing, it’s the same message, there’s a lot of things that come out, but here’s the one constant that they all say: Do not rush your staff, do not rush hiring your staff, do not do it because this is the most important decision I’ll make. And we’re not.” I will say that the idea of a high school coach coming in did pique my interest. We’ll see if it materializes.

• With Matt Canada officially promoted to offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, it’ll be interesting to see if the Steelers try and get Pep Hamilton or Hue Jackson aboard as quarterbacks coach. I think the job is more attractive that it might look on the surface, because it gives you both the chance to put a productive year from an established veteran (Ben Roethlisberger) on your résumé, and a shot to show your chops as a developer of talent, working with reclamation project Dwayne Haskins.

• The return of controlling owner Woody Johnson from the U.K. and to the Jets has been anticipated for a while now. In fact, it’s a significant reason why GM Joe Douglas was given a six-year deal back in the early summer of 2019—the team needed to show a commitment, and give Douglas some assurance that course wouldn’t be reversed on him when Woody returned from his ambassadorship. It’ll be interesting to see how Woody’s different, if he is at all, after his four years away.

• The Eric Fisher injury should not be ignored. It opens the possibility that the Chiefs will be down their top two tackles against Tampa, since Andy Reid said Monday that Mitch Schwartz is unlikely to be ready for the Super Bowl. And we saw how that sort of scenario played out for the Packers’ offense on Sunday. Sans David Bakhtiari, Green Bay was terrorized by Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh at Lambeau.