The Green Bay Packers’ continuing, colossal botchery of the Aaron Rodgers situation is epic. If it ends wrong it will stain one of the NFL’s most storied franchises enough to make the ghost of Vince Lombardi weep.
The impasse got real this week as the superstar quarterback and reigning league MVP became an official holdout, boycotting the team’s mandatory minicamp.
Packers president Mark Murphy said the impasse “has divided our fan base.” He must be kidding.
There isn’t a self-respecting fan who has ever sat at Lambeau under a Cheesehead hat who wouldn’t immediately trade Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur if it meant Rodgers stayed.
Do the people running the Packers understand what they have? Maybe the greatest QB ever? A man astonishingly in his prime at 37 based on last season?
So many franchises — the Miami Dolphins come to mind — work and plot and dream and hope for decades that they might hit upon a generational talent like Rodgers.
Wait. Amend that. Teams will settle for a really good quarterback. Nobody dares think they have just drafted a Hall of Famer, an all-time great.
The rarity of hitting big, Rodgers-big, is hitting the lottery stuff.
Look at the Dolphins with Tua Tagovailoa right now as the 2020 fifth overall draft pick works toward his second season.
Not even the most dedicated Dolfan can say with certainty “He’s going to be great” because not even the expert eyes of GM Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores can be sure yet.
Tagovailoa’s rookie season was uneven, a joust of promise and concern. Recently the kid caused a stir by admitting he was not confident with the playbook as a rookie but is comfortable with it now. Miami gave him a first round receiver in Jaylen Waddle.
Tagovailoa needs to make huge strides this season and show how high his ceiling is.
Yet there are doubts he will prove as good as Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert from his own draft class. Or as good as Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance or Justin Fields from April’s ‘21 class.
Those are the guys he must show he’s as good as before Dolfans are allowed to trot out the next-Marino talk — let alone enter Rodgers’ name in any chatter about how great Tagovailoa might be.
Green Bay has what every team wants, but has managed to louse up its relationship with its irreplaceable QB to a degree is demanding to be traded.
It’s the biggest story in King Sport even amid the Deshaun Watson scandal and the trades of Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz. And amid trades of DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs and now Julio Jones. And 33 first- or -second-round draft picks changing hands this spring.
Rodgers staring down the Packers and not blinking is bigger.
Money is a part of this. He made only $23 million last year and is to make only $21.5M this year if he plays — and yes only fits in the context of what top-tier QBs make. Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year, $450 million deal. It isn’t all about monmey, though. Rodgers turned an offer of $45 million for this coming season.
This is about respect, or the lack of things, in a series of things.
Trading away his receiver and close friend Jake Kumerow without even a heads-up.
Taking the ball from Rodgers hands and kicking a late field goal in last year’s NFC Championship Game loss.
Drafting his eventual replacement, Jordan Love, last year with Rodgers showing no sign of nearing the end.
Not drafting a first-round wide receiver since Jordy Nelson in 2008, Rodgers’ first year as a starter. (Not even drafting a second-round WR since since 2014).
Meantime Rodgers watches and sees all Tampa Bay did to immediately surround Tom Brady with Super Bowl-winning talent last year, and how the Bucs have continued to improve this offseason.
Green Bay could have and should have been the team to trade for Julio Jones. What a gesture that would have been aimed directly at making Rodgers happy. Instead, the Tennessee Titans boldly moved to make Ryan Tannehill’s life easier while the Packers continued to say they want Rodgers back while doing zero to show it.
This may all work out, somehow.
Few expect Rodgers to sit out the season or to retire. And never in NFL history has a reigning league MVP been traded.
But spring becomes summer and the acrimony festers. What will change between now and when full training camps begin in late July?
In Miami and around the league teams with crossed fingers are hoping they have a quarterback who’s really good or maybe even be better than that.
Green Bay has the best there is.
Now the Packers must find a way out of this holy mess of their own creation and start acting like a team that deserves Aaron Rodgers.