Asking anyone on social media what they thought of a given event is like asking a child for their takes on Christmas morning or vegetables. We’ve made an art form out of hyperbolizing our language to the point of suffocation, rewarding—in the form of our attention—only the commentary that makes what is happening seem like the best or worst thing that has ever existed.
And so Aaron Rodgers’s return press conference cannot just be a well-prepared word salad. It’s—allegedly—an evisceration of the Packers or a master class in oration; words we likely would not use when describing the delightful feats of our own children or the prevalent dangers that populate our day, but language that is apparently perfect for some aired grievances on an otherwise dull Wednesday in sports.
Don’t we ever take a deep breath and wonder if the thing we just witnessed was just alright and, ultimately, doesn’t mean much in terms of where we’re headed? Doesn’t anyone think that what Rodgers said Wednesday won’t make one iota of difference come the end of the season, when Green Bay can push him out at a moment’s notice, regardless of what he might want, if he doesn’t play up to his MVP-caliber standard and win them a Super Bowl?
Don’t get us wrong. Watching players make their own teams uncomfortable for any measure of time is often hilarious and always entertaining. Before press conferences, members of the team’s media relations staff usually meet with players behind the sponsored tarp and beg them not to say anything of interest beyond I love football and my team. Most of the time, it results in the kind of unsatisfying cabbage soup we’re used to lapping up—and discerning readers are used to ignoring—which is just how a team likes it. Other times, a player says what’s on their mind and doesn’t doll it up in deference to the people signing their paycheck. This is when things begin to shift toward delightful. This is what Rodgers and teammate Davante Adams did in back-to-back press conferences to kick off training camp. Watching suits squirm is a national pastime for some of us, akin to a solid inning of baseball on a beautiful April afternoon.
To suggest it was anything more than a moment, though, would be ignoring the ultimate contradictions in what Rodgers was trying to get across. For example, Rodgers chided the organization for getting rid of a slew of key veteran players—he listed a handful—without acknowledging that this was largely the same decision-makers, utilizing the same process, who could eventually replace them with other players that could contribute similar value but at a cost that would benefit the team more down the road. Sure, Clay Matthews is gone and the locker room must have taken a major hit. Ask the coaching staff what they think of Marcedes Lewis, though. He is still there, still being paid into his age 37 season to perform a similar task of lead-by-example culture-building. Not all of Green Bay’s culture-building players are gone. Some culture-building players that Rodgers happens to like were not retained. Rodgers himself later admits that there has been a great deal of success in Green Bay over the last few decades utilizing this somewhat callous, separated church-and-state (player and personnel) system. He also admitted that the talent on the roster was part of the reason why he was excited to return and compete. Again, a roster he didn’t have a hand in building.
He encouraged a trade for Randall Cobb, which could ultimately delay the development of third-round pick Amari Rodgers, and cost the organization a draft pick and roughly $5 million in salary for a player whom the Texans might have cut anyway. And this push to bring back Green Bay’s 2016 roster is also puzzling in that these were the teams that were notoriously stuck in neutral, which led to the creation of the Rodgers has no help narrative, which he has himself perpetuated at times.
Rodgers also noted that the “media” likes to “make up stories when there’s not enough content” despite needing 15 minutes to detail a months-long saga of apparent disrespect and ignorance on the part of the Packers, which seems like something the media should have covered. His comments largely confirmed what had been anonymously reported during that time frame.
It raises the question of whether Rodgers really thinks he’d been ignored, or at least not sufficiently catered to, all along. Mike McCarthy, one of the winningest head coaches in NFL history, was fired after just his third sub-.500 season in almost 15 years after the pair spent a season engaged in one of the most obvious displays of passive aggression we can ever remember. While he was not consulted on the hiring of Matt LaFleur, Green Bay wanted to install a system and hire a coach who had a strong track record of extending the lives of veteran quarterbacks and limiting their exposure to free rushers and punishing hits. Any team hiring from the Kyle Shanahan tree is making a quarterback-centric decision. Ask any of the quarterback coaches of the Mike McCarthy era about how diligent and on alert they were expected to be, specifically for Rodgers.
He mentioned “other quarterbacks” who have earned this right over the years, likely in a nod to Tom Brady, who was allowed to bring all his best friends to camp in Tampa Bay last year. This, of course, ignores the two decades during which Brady allowed himself to be underpaid and publicly chastised by the head coach at every post-game film session.
Again, it’s not that what went down on Tuesday wasn’t enjoyable. We beg and plead for player candor and then, when we get it, we often squander it by complaining. What we are saying is that this was not an epic takedown of the Packer organization that will leave the city reeling, destined to shrivel into the non-vacation destination Rodgers suggested it could be without him; it was one tenured employee’s thoughts about why the team isn’t as good as it could be. The next time you go to work, ask the guy who has been there the longest what your place of business does wrong, and prepare for a tirade denser and more intricate than any work of Russian literature. This was not someone winning a battle against the undefeated iron curtain of owners. Rodgers said as much Wednesday—he still has no control over his future beyond this season. No ability to get traded to where he wants to go. No increased ability to stiff-arm Jordan Love in the near future.
So it was what it was: A respected employee kicking open the anonymous suggestion box in front of the CEO’s office and reading aloud the complaints. Should all players be treated better on their way out? No doubt. Wouldn’t it be great if the league’s cap structure didn’t reward a constant churn of talent and the coveting of rookie contracts over experienced veterans? You bet. Don’t we all wish we had input on how things work at our jobs, especially for those of us who have been at this for a decade or more? Buddy, I’ve got some ideas.
That is what people (who spend much less time on Twitter) might call “the real world.” Plain and simple. And while there is nothing epic about coming to the realization that some things in life are imperfect, we can all try to properly enjoy the few moments when someone attempts to change that.
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