Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Dysfunction in the NFL is nothing new. Hell, Terrell Owens once did sit-ups in his driveway while doing a press conference, days after he was suspended following a shouting match with coach Andy Reid.
But after considering the dysfunction B/R colleague Tyler Dunne uncovered in Green Bay during the Aaron Rodgers-Mike McCarthy era, you’re left wondering how in the hell did that group win even one championship?
The issues in Green Bay were bad. They still are.
And all of it just dropped into the lap of new coach Matt LaFleur like a giant flaming bag of dog poop.
If you think the firing of McCarthy will fix the Packers, as bad as his relationship was with Rodgers, you’re not paying attention. If you think the firing of general manager Ted Thompson will fix the Packers, well, um, no.
Rodgers is still there, and he needs to be coached and won over. And how is someone just 39 years old with no previous head coaching experience going to do that?
Answer: He’s not.
Since Dunne’s story dropped like Thor’s hammer, I haven’t found a single person in the league who has a bad word to say about LaFleur. He is liked and respected. He’s seen as innovative, someone who can recharge the Packers offense.
However, all of those people who praised LaFleur also tell me they’re not sure how this ends well. No one indicted his character or brought up past mistakes he’s made, but everyone acknowledged that LaFleur is in a brutal situation.
Before we get too deep into that, I have to say that I’m a huge Rodgers fan. He has always been kind and gracious to me. Rodgers has sat at his locker multiple times and explained the complexities of NFL offenses and defenses to me like I was a fourth-grader. At his core, he is an incredibly decent man. He is also, to be blunt, one of the few white players in the sport who understands the complexities of race relations in the NFL and the country. Trust me, he does, and that’s impressive.
Beyond me, a legion of NFL journalists greatly respect Rodgers.
That doesn’t mean I’m blind. Dunne’s story accurately portrays Rodgers as an egomaniacal diva. Even if you like Rodgers, this cannot be denied or ignored.
Mike Roemer/Associated Press
If you blasted Owens or Antonio Brown for being a jerk to teammates or coaches, it would be remarkably hypocritical to give Rodgers a pass.
Much of Rodgers’ behavior with McCarthy, I believe, stems from the problem many people who are the best at their jobs have—a lack of tolerance for those who don’t bust their butts the way they do. Rodgers bleeds football and wants his coaches to do the same, not get massages, as McCarthy reportedly did. (For his part, McCarthy denied he missed any team meeting for a massage, according to ESPN’s Packers reporter Rob Demovsky.)
But there’s also something pathological and kind of disturbing about how Rodgers treated some people around him. A desire to win isn’t an excuse to freeze out teammates or make them verbal targets for ridicule. McCarthy wasn’t good at his job as he let the game pass him by. But Rodgers isn’t without plenty of blame for the atmosphere in the Packers locker room.
This brings us back to LaFleur, who will have to try to win the trust of a superstar only four years younger with 100 wins and two MVP awards. It may not be impossible for LaFleur to win Rodgers’ respect, but it sure isn’t going to be easy. It is easy to see Rodgers, the minute something goes wrong, saying: Why am I listening to this guy?
Rodgers operates as if he is a player-coach and the actual head coach is ornamental.
Is it possible Rodgers will learn from all that has gone on and adapt his style? Will he self-reflect? He’s a bright guy. Anything is possible. Still, Rodgers is 35 and has been in the league for 14 years. I’m not sure he can change.
I could be wrong. I hope I am.
At some point, though—as sure as anyone at Lambeau Field in January will be freezing—there will come a game plan or play call from LaFleur that Rodgers won’t like. He will ignore some part of it, or all of it, and go rogue.
Then, what does LaFleur do? Bench Aaron Rodgers?
Don’t forget, Rodgers signed a four-year, $134 million contract extension in August. He’s also the best QB in football. Quarterbacks don’t get fired. Coaches do.
Unless Rodgers’ play falls off a cliff and he morphs into Nathan Peterman, he’ll be the boss, and LaFleur will have to get used to being the lieutenant.
Welcome to Green Bay, Matt. One piece of advice…
…only get massages before or after meetings.
Not during them.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.
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