Three days after April Fool's Day, Ty Dunne, of the Bleacher Report published an article titled 'What Happened In Green Bay.' The article reported about the alleged dysfunctional relationship between quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Mike McCarthy. To paraphrase his byline, from a checked-out coach, a QB who tuned him out and a prima donna, a soap opera occurred when there should have been multiple championships or at the very least, Super Bowl appearances.
The article immediately sparked plenty of online sports coverage and plenty of fodder for daily sports talk shows. In addition, there were several articles published which included responses by Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, and the CEO, Mike Murphy. There were at a few ex-teammates who were quoted in the article who didn't have many positives to say about Aaron as a teammate. To be fair, there were several more of his current and former teammates that indeed had positive things to say about Aaron as a QB and team leader.
I don't know Aaron as a person or football player although I have watched him play over the last 11 years. I've listened to him in dozens of interviews and read many of his quotes. After reading the article several times and read the forthcoming comments by Mike Murphy, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers on this story, I wanted to provide input on what I think Aaron might say about his relationship with Mike McCarthy and the Packers during their tenure in Green Bay.
Did you get along overall with Mike McCarthy?
Overall Mike and I had a good relationship. However, after 13 years, things got stale. It was reported in the Bleacher Report by Ty Dunne recently that while Mike was a coach for the San Francisco 49ers, he thought Alex Smith was a much better quarterback than me. Of course, I knew of Mike McCarthy as a 49er coach before he was hired but it wasn't a personal thing. For me to have to wait almost 5 hours to be drafted was a little humbling but I believed in myself and felt I could be quite successful in the NFL. I don't know if Mike had the final decision on that draft while being with the 49ers. Regardless of who ultimately pulled the trigger to draft Alex number 1, I used that as motivation similar to how Tom Brady used being drafted in the 6th round as motivation to be great.
Honestly, when Mike was hired, he was now my coach and I needed to be coached by him. As time went on and I improved, I had a little more leeway with play calling. Mike and I had our disagreements like any player and coach would have but we got along overall. Yes, it was a more strained these last few years. It wasn't just one thing. I can't get into too many details but not all relationships evolve and survive after that many years.
Is it true that you want your head coach to be smarter than you?
That's a clown question. I don't compare my intelligence to the head coach, assistant coaches or players. I'm there to compete and win championships. I love GB and want to win another Super Bowl.
In terms of a coach, I want someone who will challenge me in terms of strategy and game adjustments. I want a coach who will evolve and develop new plays as the season progresses. I need a coach that will have the courage to change the game plan (if necessary) as the game is played out. Anyway, this didn't always happen, especially with the last few years.
We need to be more crisp and succinct on getting the plays in on time. Too many 'delay of game penalties' over the years. That's on me and Mike. Of course, I'm not a Packer fan sitting at home screaming at their TV and with so many 'delay of game' penalties over the years, I can still imagine what's said at the TV about our offense never fixing this issue over the years. It's got to be frustrating to the average fan.
I'll give you another example of one adjustment we need to do, if we're down by 14 points early in the 3rd quarter and our offense is struggling, why not a hurry-up offense? The chances of us winning at this same pace are quite low so why wait until 8 minutes left in a game before we try the hurry up to get our offense back in sync?
In that same Bleacher Report article, it stated you were verbally abusive towards some of your young wide receivers this past year?
Don't know what you mean by verbally abusive? I was frustrated at times that they didn't run the correct routes. We really had many challenges on defense last year (actually for the last several years) and I felt all the pressure to win games. You have to understand I'm one of the leaders on the team but it shouldn't be designed in such a way that the responsibility to win always should fall on the QB, WRs, OL, etc. Last year was particularly frustrating with the injury against the Bears but to reflect, my patience level was not as high as it should have been. Moving forward, my intent is to be more of a leader for younger players which includes more patience and understanding on where they're coming from.
What's your take on what your CEO, Mike Murphy reported had to say in the Bleacher Report article, which said, "Don't be the problem."
We're all accountable for our lack of success over the last 10 years. Some say Mike Murphy was too corporate these last few years, focusing too much on the bottom line. I know our CEO knew of the strained relationship between Mike McCarthy and me and did nothing. That's a problem. I should have done better but McCarthy and Mike Murphy may also say the same thing if he were honest.
Getting back to Mr. Murphy, during the last few years of Ted Thompson's tenure, he knew Ted had health issues and was no longer mentally fit for the job and effective as a GM in terms of drafting and the lack of signing free agents. Don't know why it took so long to replace Ted. There were some whispers among the veterans that he was too focused on growing the business and developing the area around Lambeau. Look, Ted is a great guy and had some early success but this is a tough business so if you don't deliver, you need to be replaced.
I'm hopeful with our new GM and coach. Our new GM is Brian Gutekunst who is much more aggressive with signing free agents unlike Ted Thompson so that's going in the right direction. If we draft well, we could be back in the thick of things.
One other thing about Brian, his last name is 'Gutekunst' which essentially means 'Quality Art' or 'Good Art'. So when we draft and develop players and sign free agents, it will be a combination of science and art. I hope he's up to the challenge and if his last name is any indication, we'll at least have the 'art' part down.
Our new coach is young and close to my generation so I'm hopeful we can create a quick bond. In terms of Matt LaFleur's age, I'm not worried that he's not yet 40. It's the quality that matters and I trust the Packers' management has made a good hire.
What do you say to the report that there are several players who think you're a prima donna and are above the rules?
Look, I'm driven to win and so I feel it's important to be confident and driven. Do I sometimes push teammates and former teammates to feel the way I do, I guess the answer is yes. I'm a little arrogant but feel I have a tremendous skill set so it's hard not to be a little full of myself. One thing about teammates, there are some current and former teammates that think I'm a prima donna but there are many others who loved to play with me. My sense is that several of my former teammates have an ax to grind about me as a teammate for whatever reason. At the same time, there are many who have spoken on the record that I'm a good teammate so I think you have to weigh all the negative and positive comments to get the full picture.