Green Bay Packers: What has happened on Lombardi Avenue?

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images /

Tyler Dunne published an explosive article on Thursday chronicling the collapse of the relationship between Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and former Head Coach Mike McCarthy.

The story that Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report put together takes a look at the relationship between Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former Head Coach Mike McCarthy, highlighting where things went wrong, how Rodgers reacted to certain situations, and how McCarthy dealt with his star player toward the end of his tenure.

There was a lot to unpack and digest with this article, so let’s start at the very beginning:

"“The worst-kept secret at 1265 Lombardi Avenue was that Rodgers seemed to loathe his coach from the moment McCarthy was hired. Nobody holds a grudge in any sport like Rodgers. When it comes to Rodgers, grudges do not merrily float away. They stick. They grow. They refuel.”"

This quote seems difficult to believe. Rodgers and McCarthy made beautiful music together, essentially from the time Rodgers was named the starting quarterback. If Rodgers hated his coach from the beginning, it would lead many to believe they could never win at the level they did for an extended period of time. Rodgers may not have always had the ultimate respect for McCarthy, but they were together for 13 years. If Rodgers never liked the coach, it seems logical this would have come to a head much sooner than it did.

As expected Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings had to give their opinions on the matter and while there is likely some truth in what they say, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Finley and Jennings have been unable to stop talking about Rodgers since they left the Green Bay Packers. It’s become clear they have an ax to grind and it’s how they’ve stayed relevant. That being said, that doesn’t make the negative points surrounding Rodgers any less noteworthy. It was not just Jennings and Finley quoted in the story. Both of these things can be true.

This next quote is the most damning portion of the story for McCarthy:

"“About once a week, a meeting would start up and McCarthy was MIA. Players weren’t quite sure where he was while, for example, an assistant coach would run the team’s final prep on the Saturday before a game. Eventually, word leaked that McCarthy, the one calling plays on game day, was up in his office getting a massage during those meetings.”"

The idea that any coach was missing meetings for any reason is poor. Something that easily could have been done in his spare time? That’s even worse. McCarthy stated through Tom Pelissero on NFL Total Access that the statement was “utterly absurd.” Fair or not, perception can create an unfair reality for some teams. McCarthy intends to coach again someday, however, the league is already trending toward young, innovative coordinators. McCarthy would have to buck that trend in addition to overcoming some of the statements made in this story, including the one mentioned above.

As we move on to the Aaron Rodgers portion of the article, a former scout discussed Jeff Janis’ time with the Green Bay Packers:

"“Janis got into the doghouse really quick, and he just never let him out,” he says. “He didn’t even give the kid a chance. And the tough part is Janis is actually a good person. And they used to dog him. Other people did what Aaron did. They used to dog Janis.”What does this doghouse look like? Easy. Rodgers can do no wrong. “He doesn’t make a mistake. It’s always the receiver’s fault.”"

Some of this isn’t new information. Rodgers’ sensitivity is something that’s been widely addressed before this story came out today. Jeff Janis’ fan base was always quick to point out he could have been a player if Rodgers had given him a chance. While it appears the rest of the NFL agrees that Janis was not anything special, this illustrates a deeper problem with Rodgers. He’s become a “trust thrower”.  We’ve often heard over the years how Rodgers needs to trust his receivers, while that has some value, at the same time he needs to throw to the open player regardless of whether he trusts that player or not.

Former Green Bay Packers running back who was also interviewed dismisses anything that his former teammates have to say about Rodgers:

"“Dude, get out of here”—because to him, the chip isn’t a bad thing.“With Aaron, his chip on his shoulder and his sensitivity is actually what makes him great,” Grant says. “It’s part of what motivates him and who he is. So you can’t knock it. Just because you like it in one direction doesn’t mean you’re going to like it in all directions.”"

This is fair. Rodgers has often been praised for having a chip on his shoulder, a competitive nature, that’s bound to rub some people the wrong way at one point or another.

Of course, what is an article on Aaron Rodgers without talking about his leadership?

"“The leadership exodus pushed Rodgers further and further into an ill-fitting role. He never had to worry about speaking up back in 2010 or 2011. He played football. That’s what he prefers. Multiple sources say Rodgers misses those days, with one adding he’s become worn down and bitter about everyone’s expectations of the type of leader he should be. In other words, as a former Packers scout puts it, Rodgers “is Brett Favre 2.0. He used to say, ‘Oh, I’ll never be like that guy.’ And he literally is.”"

Time is a flat circle. Twitter was not around when Brett Favre played, but I imagine it would have been very easy to write this story in 2005. Change the names from Rodgers/McCarthy to Favre/Sherman and you have your story. Rodgers’ leadership gets questioned often. There are other teammates such as Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, David Bakhtiari, among others that have said Rodgers is a good leader and teammate.

Retire linebacker Ray Lewis is seen and portrayed by the media as a leader, but former teammate Joe Flacco said that many people tuned him out when he started talking. That’s not to say Lewis isn’t a leader, just that people respond to different leadership styles. This situation is no different.

While Rodgers and McCarthy are going to take the brunt of the negativity, this was an organizational issue:

"“How (Ted) Thompson failed to grasp this dynamic baffles people in the organization, although they also believe someone above Thompson should’ve stepped in because the GM’s health was deteriorating. One personnel man recalls Thompson moving “really slow,” with slurred speech, falling asleep during film sessions. “I’m like, ‘This is the GM?'” Thompson was dealing with obvious physical issues, and Mark Murphy, the team president since 2007, didn’t step in."

This is one of the few talking points about Ted Thompson in the story. It’s sad on one hand because Thompson really was one of the all-time greats when he was at his peak. It does appear, however, that Murphy allowed Thompson to hang around for too long.

The next two quotes are a bit concerning as the rookie receivers were having to choose between their quarterback and their head coach:

"A source close to the team says St. Brown became frustrated because, as much as he wanted to follow McCarthy’s play design, he also heard rumors of Rodgers freezing out teammates if they didn’t do exactly what he demanded. So he listened to Rodgers. On one play in New England, Rodgers told St. Brown to run a post route when the play called for a flag. St. Brown ran the post, and pressure forced Rodgers to throw the ball away toward the flag—leading his position coach to grill him on what he was thinking.Instead, he chose not to throw the ball to rookies open in one-on-one coverage. It’s likely no coincidence Valdes-Scantling faded out of the offense down the stretch. He ran the routes as they were called from the sideline, and his targets declined. Rodgers would look his way, then pat, pat, pat the ball for something else to develop. Why? A source close to the team says Valdes-Scantling told him Rodgers just didn’t like him. That he wasn’t doing exactly what Rodgers asked him to do, so the quarterback started to freeze him out."

Two separate quotes, but a similar theme. Rodgers didn’t trust rookie receivers and changed the design of a play called by the Head Coach. Valdes-Scantling flashed some ability throughout the season but did fade down the stretch. Whether that was intentional is anyone’s guess at this point.

A fair question is if Rodgers does not like the receivers he has, wouldn’t it have behooved the Green Bay Packers to pursue veteran wideouts harder than they did this offseason? This also leads back to the training camp quote where Rodgers publicly ripped his receivers for being unprofessional. That’s something that likely festered into the regular season. Rodgers has to buy in and trust what he’s seeing. He also needs to, as previously stated, throw the ball to the open receiver.

Now, for the most damning part about Rodgers in the story:

"Right before the Packers announced LaFleur as their new head coach, the source close to the team says Murphy called Rodgers to tell him who they were going with. He didn’t ask for permission—he told him who the choice was. There was a brief pause on the other end of the phone before Rodgers eventually spoke. Murphy made it clear that Rodgers would need to accept coaching. “Don’t be the problem,” he told him. “Don’t be the problem.”"

This paints a picture that Mark Murphy knew Rodgers was not receptive to coaching as he had been in years past. Murphy may have been at fault for the previous point about Ted Thompson and allowing things to fester for too long between Rodgers and McCarthy. In this statement, however, Murphy handled things perfectly. They did not give the quarterback say in who the Head Coach will be. That’s the way things should be handled.

The Chicago Bulls were successful largely because they had someone in Jerry Krause to tell Michael Jordan no. Lebron James was most successful in terms of championships in Miami where he was famously told by Pat Riley to “go back downstairs.” after James asked Riley if he ever felt the itch to coach again. The Green Bay Packers are bigger than any player, that’s how the best teams operate. Bill Belichick has routinely chastised Tom Brady in front of the entire team. It’s clear who is in charge and the Packers structure is correct. Now, Rodgers needs to accept that and be part of the solution, not the problem.

As we look ahead to the future of the Green Bay Packers, all of the pressure is on Rodgers:

"“With McCarthy gone, all eyes, all pressure, all scrutiny, will be directed toward Rodgers. It’s on him to make that sacrifice, to work with others. After all, he brought the magic to Lambeau before.”"

The Head Coach is gone, along with all the other excuses. Rodgers will no longer be seen as a martyr that’s generational talent is being held back by an incompetent Head Coach. Instead, the eyes are on Rodgers now to see if he was indeed the problem over the last several years as the offense deteriorated. All eyes are on the quarterback, it’s up to him to bring the magic back to Green Bay.

There are a plethora of reasons that this relationship failed, but a quote from a former personnel member sums it up:

"“If you were going to write a headline,” he says, “that would be it right there: How Egos Took Down the Packers.”"

That is essentially what this all boils down to. Between Thompson, McCarthy, and Rodgers, the three men wanted to be credited for all of the success. Egos get in the way of smaller things, but it appears it got in the way of multiple championships in Green Bay.

dark. Next. Reaction to the Mike McCarthy interview

On a similar note, it really gives you more appreciation for what Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have accomplished in New England. Stories have been published similar to this one, and they’ve continued to roll like a machine. That fact may be what makes them the greatest dynasty in the history of sports.