He’s a three-time MVP adored by his fan base, the face of the franchise in the modern era and one of the biggest names in the NFL. Yet Aaron Rodgers was missing from the opening day of organised team activities for the Green Bay Packers on Monday as the ace quarterback’s edges ever closer to an exit after 16 incredible years at Lambeau Field.
The 37-year-old has spent much of the last two years railing against various decisions made by the Packers’ front office and management, and now he looks destined to leave the club and open the door to 2020 first-round draft pick Jordan Love, whose arrival has helped speed up Rodgers’ expected departure.
After signing a new five-year deal in 2018, it didn’t take long for Rodgers himself to question whether he would stick around for the duration, telling reporters: “I don’t think this guarantees anything other than maybe the first three years of the deal.”
Since then he has had various things to say about joint team training camps, the need for new coaching staff, and his doubts about his future within the franchise, particularly after the signing of Love last summer.
For most Packers fans, there was incredulousness in January when coach Matt LaFleur decided to send kicker Mason Crosby out for a 26-yard field goal when eight points down with just over two minutes left of the NFC Championship Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rather than give Rodgers the chance to tie it with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Not only did it lead to their side’s defeat, but supporters also foresaw an increase in tensions as a result of the move.
And so it is that Rodgers has vented his dissatisfaction some more. On Monday he took to ESPN SportsCenter to ask for people to remember who really make the difference for NFL teams amidst the backdrop of some fans and neutrals taking the club’s side in the ongoing stand-off.
“I think sometimes people forget what really makes an organisation,” Rodgers blasted. “History is important, legacy of so many people who've come before you. But the people, that's the most important thing. People make an organisation. People make a business, and sometimes that gets forgotten. Culture is built brick-by-brick, the foundation of it by the people, not by the organisation, not by the building, not by the corporation. It's built by the people.”
He insisted that he holds no grudge against Jordan Love, the man who now looks set to lead the Packers into the 2021 season – “It’s never been about the draft pick, I love Jordan, he’s a great kid” – but his relationship with general manager Brian Gutekunst is now being likened to that between Michael Jordan and Jerry Krause at the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. After the Packers traded up to bring in Love without consulting Rodgers first, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the current impasse came to a head.
What next for Rodgers? Well an entente cordiale with the Packers appears highly unlikely, and a player who has stated in the past that he wants to play into his forties will find himself looking elsewhere to finish his magnificent career. Just as his predecessor Brett Favre ended his playing days away from the Lambeau Field surface on which he had made so many memories, Rodgers will almost certainly be wearing something other than Packers green in 2021 and beyond.