The numbers tell the story of the dilemma Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are facing in their looming showdown ... and they aren’t good for either side.
Financially, the Packers hold most of the cards because it would likely cost Rodgers nearly $30 million in bonus money he would have to repay the Packers, plus his lost 2001 base salary of $14.7 million and another $850,000 in likely to be made bonuses if he chooses to walk away from football.
Even though he’s grossed $242 million during his career, nearly $50 million in lost revenue that includes a $30-million rebate check to the Packers is a bite not even Warren Buffett would willingly accept just to make a point. For someone with as prickly a personality as Rodgers, not even the potential of a new gig as the host of “Jeopardy” (with ratings far better when Rodgers was the fill-in host than when CNN's Anderson Cooper followed) would ease that pain.
Those numbers would seem to mitigate heavily against Rodgers retiring. But if he opts to withhold his services and wait the Packers out, that isn’t a pretty financial picture for him, either. If he chooses the holdout route, it would cost Rodgers a paltry $93,085 for missing the mandatory spring mini-camp and $50,000 a day if he becomes a holdout during training camp. And that would escalate to a lost game check per each missed exhibition game or regular-season game.
In the grand scheme of things all that might be chump change to him. Then again, Rodgers would have to be a chump to take on those kind of fines if, in the end, he intends to play football again in 2021.
So, on the surface at least, it would seem Packers’ general manager Brian Gutekunst is holding all the cards -- even if Rodgers holds him in such low regard that he allegedly compared him to Jerry Krause, the GM who built and then dismantled the Chicago Bulls dynasty, thus earning the eternal enmity of Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and most of the Bulls’ players.
The beef between Rodgers and the front office is a simple one of love lost and Love found. Gutekunst tried to insure the Packers’ future by trading up last year in the first round to draft Rodgers’ likely replacement, untested Jordan Love. Gutekunst didn’t bother to consult with Rodgers, not that he had to, and Rodgers was none too pleased.
This is understandable, but it is also amusing. Because Rodgers didn’t seem too apologetic to Brett Favre when the Packers drafted him to be Green Bay’s quarterback in waiting in 2005 or when they refused to let Favre “unretire” in 2008 when he changed his mind after playing the same kind of Russian roulette with the Packers that Rodgers is now engaged.
Favre was ultimately traded to the Jets and finished his career in Minnesota. Rodgers went 6-10 in his first season as a starter but eventually won the Packers a Super Bowl but also lost four NFC championship games, making him nearly as frustrated as former Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb, who lost four NFC title games and a Super Bowl while quarterbacking the Eagles.
While the financial numbers seem to be coming down all on the side of the Packers in what is at the moment a standoff in which Rodgers is saying little while letting his minions speak for him out of both sides of both their mouths and his, there are other compelling numbers that would seem to put Gutekunst’s feet to the fire as well if he isn’t totally convinced Love is ready to play.
The drafting of Love certainly lit a fire under Rodgers, who won the league’s MVP award last season while throwing 48 touchdown passes with only five interceptions and completing over 70% of his throws. Meanwhile, back on the bench, Love wasn’t even sitting on that bench because the Packers never dressed him for a game. How ready Love may be is anyone’s guess but one thing is a certainty – he isn’t as ready as Aaron Rodgers, which gets us to the numbers the Packers would rather ignore but know they can’t.
In the 53 years since the legendary coach Vince Lombardi retired after the 1967 season, the Packers have gone 439-370-11. With Favre under center they went 160-93, a 63% winning percentage, reached the playoffs 11 times and the Super Bowl twice and won one Lombardi Trophy.
With Rodgers under center, they’ve gone 126-62-1, a 67% winning percentage, with 10 playoff appearances and one Super Bowl victory.
Now here’s the rub. With every other quarterback in the last 53 years but Favre or Rodgers, Green Bay’s record is 153-215-10, a winning percentage of 41%. They made the playoffs once in those 21 years without Favre or Rodgers directing their offense. Those are numbers just as powerful as the financial ones that lean in the Packers’ favor because fans don’t care as much about ownerships’ money as they do about their team winning.
This is the game of chicken Rodgers and Packers’ management are now engaged in. Is Rodgers willing to take a financial bath to potentially shoot his way out of Green Bay? Are the Packers willing to face the wrath of their fans if they either get nothing for Rodgers but cash if he retires or less than his value if forced to trade him after June 1?
Regardless of who blinks first, this is a high stakes gamble all around and somebody is going to lose. Don’t be surprised if it ends up being both of them
“Will he just swallow his pride and come in?’’ Favre told a Green Bay radio station this week. “Maybe, but I don't see that happening. If there's not a trade, my gut tells me that he'd rather sit out than play. That's just my gut. There's no reason for me to say that other than that's what my gut's telling me, and I think you guys know Aaron fairly well enough to sort of feel the same way.
"I'd like to see him win a Super Bowl in Green Bay, another one," Favre said. "But the thing is, life's too short, I want him to be happy. He's been there as long as I was there, and I know what that means, and he's put up unbelievable numbers. Win another Super Bowl and then do what you want to do, whether it's keep playing, play somewhere else, whatever. But win one more in Green Bay and go out the way you want to go out. You don't want to go out this way, whether it's sit out or play somewhere else."
Brett Favre should know. He did both and still regrets it.