Aaron Rodgers needs a lesson in grammar. People is plural. Me, which is the only “people” he really cares about, is singular. So is the Packers’ endlessly whining quarterback.
Rodgers has been a great player for the last 12 of his 16 seasons in Green Bay. A year ago he was named the league’s MVP for the third time, which he was until the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game. Then he was a ghost.
Trailing the Tom Brady Buccaneers by five points when the final quarter began, Rodgers had the ball in his hands three times. He went three-and-out with two sacks in the first two drives and declined to risk his body for “the people” on what seemed like a possible scramble for a touchdown run when down eight on the final drive. The Packers then chose to settle for a field goal and never got the ball back.
The Brady Bunch of Buccaneers went on to win the Super Bowl, while Rodgers headed for California after setting a record for futility he hasn’t once mentioned this offseason of his discontent.
That loss made Rodgers the loser four times in the NFC championship games. Damning as that may be, Rodgers didn’t seem to notice. He was too fixated on not being asked whom the Packers should draft, what the game plan should be and which brand of snowplows they should buy to clear Lambeau Field.
This week Rodgers was a guest during ESPN host Kenny Mayne’s final appearance, and for 11 minutes he talked mostly nonsense, including a monologue on what “people’’ in the Packers’ front office have forgotten about.
“It’s never been about the draft pick, picking Jordan (Love, taken No. 1 last year clearly to one day replace Rodgers),” Rodgers said. “I love Jordan. He’s a great kid. Lot of fun to work together. I love the coaching staff, love my teammates. Love the fan base in Green Bay. Incredible 16 years. It’s just kind of about a philosophy, you know? And maybe forgetting that it is about the people that make the thing go.
“It’s about character. It’s about culture. It’s about doing things the right way. A lot of this was put in motion last year. The wrench was just kind of thrown into it when I won the MVP and played the way I played last year. So this is just kind of, I think, the spill out of all that.’’
Without quite having the courage to come out and say it, Rodgers was implying he wants out because the Packers already had a plan to replace him this year. But he screwed it up by playing like an MVP … right up to the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game when he played like, well, a guy you could replace this year.
Playing like an MVP did not “put a wrench” in the Packers’ short-term plans or long-term future. Rodgers is 37 and under contract for three more seasons. Short of retirement, the people Rodgers seems to hate control his football future because he allowed them to by signing a four-year deal not too long ago.
Those people don’t control his actions, which have thus far been the definition of passive aggressive. They don’t control his freedom of speech, either. What they control is where he will play football this season, if he plays at all, and all the tantrums or sulking in the world can’t change that.
What was most interesting about Rodgers’ soliloquy about “character” and “doing things the right way,” is that he apparently doesn’t consider honoring a contract as part of either of those things. That four-year deal had a total value of $134,000,000 and paid him a $57,500,000 signing bonus and guaranteed $98,700,000 of the total. It also handed him an average salary over the course of that contract of $33,500,000.
The people he now despises for having the temerity to draft his replacement without clearing it with him first are the same people who agreed to pay him that money. That includes general manager Brian Gutekunst, who seems to be the person he despises most among those people who conspired to make him feel disrespected in Green Bay.
But they were his people the day they handed him what he wanted.
Disrespect is the most overused word in professional sports. I’d say a contract guaranteeing you $98,700,000 shows a tidy bit of respect. I’d say handing you $57,500,000 in an upfront signing bonus is respect on steroids. Pay me that respect, and you can draft quarterbacks in rounds 1 through 7 if you’d like. I’m going to the bank and then Bimini to go bone fishing.
But it’s not about the money, nor is it about the concept of honoring a contract. It most certainly is not about people, either. It’s about one person. A person who has been a great quarterback for over a decade but, truth be told, a quarterback who has won as many NFC championship games in his career as Rex Grossman.
Remember Rex Grossman? If you don’t, you’re among a lot of people.
Hall-of-Fame general manager Ron Wolf, who built the Packers’ team that won a Super Bowl with Brett Favre at quarterback before some people replaced Favre with, oops, Aaron Rodgers, said last week he’s grown weary of “diva quarterbacks.”
He ain’t alone. So are a lot of the people in Green Bay.