GREEN BAY, Wis. – After Day 1 of Green Bay Packers training camp, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t just happy about how the offense made the defense look like a bunch of chumps. He also was happy to get a fist bump from quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.
“Tom doesn’t realize when I was a young player, I wanted nothing more than to make Tom Clements happy,” Rodgers said on July 27. “And it was incredible motivation for me because I would have great games in my opinion – 100 quarterback rating, three touchdowns – and Tom would give me a minus performance. I’d say, that mother.
“But it motivated me because I loved that Tom held me accountable in more ways than just the stat sheet. It was all about the fundamentals, the decision-making, the footwork and stuff that really actually has molded me into the quarterback I am today. So, on Day 1, to get fist bump, I said, ‘Tom, you haven’t seen me play in a while. That was for you.’ So, that felt good.”
This, of course, is Clements’ second time with Rodgers. With the Packers needing to replace Luke Getsy, Rodgers sold coach Matt LaFleur on coaxing the 69-year-old Clements out of retirement. Clements, whose 11 seasons as an assistant under Mike McCarthy included working as quarterbacks coach from 2006 through 2011, was instrumental in Rodgers’ rise from 2005 first-round pick to future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
With Clements, Rodgers won MVPs in 2014 and 2016. With Clements’ coaching points still ingrained in Rodgers’ head, he won two more MVPs in 2020 and 2021.
Meanwhile, Clements spent the 2019 and 2020 seasons as passing-game coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the Arizona Cardinals and 2021 in retirement.
“I just hung around with the dog, drinking beer,” Clements said of his year away from the game.
Before the Super Bowl, LaFleur and Clements met over lunch. They interviewed each other, LaFleur said. LaFleur needed a quarterbacks coach but Clements didn’t necessarily need the job. The pull of Rodgers, however, pulled Clements off the couch and back into the game.
Clements was with Rodgers when he was a raw prospect. He was with Rodgers at the height of his powers. And now he’s with him again for what might be Rodgers’ closing acts.
“I always said when I was here with Aaron in his younger days and Brett (Favre) was in his 14th or 15th year that it was more of a collaboration,” Clements said on Thursday. “Because guys who’ve played that long, they’ve seen things. They know what they can do. They know what they like to do. You can’t just say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this.’ You talk about it, ‘Here’s what I see, what did you see it?’ Consider it, and if it makes sense, then maybe try to implement it.
“That’s what it’s like with Aaron now. It’s more of a collaboration because he’s very intelligent. He has a lot of experience. It’s always good, though, to have another person just look at it and say, ‘Here’s what I see.’ Then, he considers it and if it makes sense, he’ll try to do it. If it doesn’t, he’s going to lean on what has gotten him to this point.”
Clements has forgotten more about quarterback play than most will ever know. He started at Notre Dame from 1972 through 1974, where he won a national championship, earned All-American honors and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting. Not quite good enough for the NFL, Clements embarked on a CFL Hall of Fame career that spanned 12 seasons and produced two Grey Cup victories.
A stickler for fundamentals, Clements gets at least some of the credit for Jordan Love’s strong training camp and promising preseason.
“I thought he had a very good training camp (and) did some very nice things in the games,” Clements said. “He got to play a lot. I think he’s done very well. He runs the scout teams now during the season, and a lot of the plays are similar to plays that we have. So, he’s getting work doing that. We still do a lot of drills when we have the time during special-teams periods. He’s working hard. I think his accuracy has been good, his footwork has been good. I think everyone is pleased with him.”
Clements is enjoying his second stint in Green Bay. Being with Rodgers and trying to give the four-time MVP that winning edge, obviously, is a part of that, but he’s had fun working with LaFleur and being part of the development of Love and Danny Etling, as well.
“Well, Week 1 wasn’t too good. But it’s a long year,” he said. “It’s been good. I enjoy working with the players and, if you have a successful team, it makes it that much more enjoyable. We’ve won two in a row; hopefully, we can get a third and keep on going.”