The greatest player of his generation and arguably the greatest quarterback of the all-time deserves better.
Aaron Rodgers should be working with a fearlessly innovative coaching staff. He should be supported by a management that consistently surrounds him with playmakers – even if that means taking an occasional risk with someone who has a troubled background.
Rodgers should be given the Tom Brady treatment. That’s not asking too much. Not for someone of his pedigree. Not for a 34-year-old who’s the NFL’s highest paid player.
Instead, he has been consistently handicapped in recent years. Rodgers has 19 touchdowns and thrown one interception this season. He leads the league with 14 completions of 40 yards or more. And yet, the Packers are 4-5-1 – dangerously close to missing the playoffs. According to ESPN, Rodgers has thrown the most touchdowns with one or fewer interceptions of any quarterback with a losing record through 10 games during the Super Bowl era.
Rodgers is so great that he’s overcome cowardly coaching and razor-thin talent to drag the Packers to the playoffs every season from 2009-2016. If Rodgers plays a full season, that usually equals 10 victories and a playoff spot. It didn’t matter than Mike McCarthy routinely and inexplicably coached conservatively in close games, hindering his quarterback. It didn’t matter that Rodgers’ top running back was a converted wide receiver wearing the number 88.
In previous seasons, for the most part, Rodgers didn’t complain. He simply did what he always does. His God-given ability allowed him to persevere despite limitations and lift Green Bay in the playoffs. Heck, he won Super Bowl XLV as a No. 6 seed, winning three road en route to beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Later, the Packers reached the NFC Championship two times in a three-year span. They should’ve beaten the Seahawks in Seattle but lost in overtime 28-22. They were overwhelmed in by the vastly superior Atlanta Falcons, 44-21. That led Rodgers to speak up in the postgame press conference about Green Bay’s deficiencies.
After a lost 2017 due to Rodgers’ collarbone injury, Green Bay moved on from general manager Ted Thompson. For a few years, Green Bay led the league in homegrown talent on their rosters. But it wasn’t because they developed emerging stars. It was more about Thompson’s reluctance to sign free agents. And Thompson’s drafts over his final three seasons were awful. According to ESPN, the Packers have only four players still on their roster from the 2015, 2016, and 2017 drafts. Only the Tennessee Titans (3 players) and the Oakland Raiders (2) have done a worse job.
The jury’s still out on new GM Brian Gutekunst, who’s trying to clean up the mess. But Green Bay’s reluctance to get Rodgers additional help has been maddening. The Patriots have helped Brady, 40, age gracefully by acquiring players like Brandin Cooks last year and taking a chance on Josh Gordon this year. Green Bay’s biggest playmaking pickup in recent years has been Jimmy Graham, who’s been solid but is clearly past his prime.
Rodgers’ excellence allowed Thompson to stay employed longer than he should have been. And this line of thinking brings us to McCarthy the man who sometimes coaches like he has Alex Smith at quarterback and not a Hall of Fame passer.
McCarthy made one of the most perplexing coaching moves of the season when he punted on 4th-and-2 late in the game at Seattle. This wasn’t he even the first time he made questionable moves against Seattle.
Look, McCarthy has won a Super Bowl and his .624 winning percentage ranks third among active coaches, trailing only Bill Belichick’s .680 and Mike Tomlin’s .664. Based on numbers, you’d think he’s a good coach.
But it’s becoming more apparent that McCarthy might be closer to the equivalent of Tyronn Lue. LeBron James is obviously more responsible for Lue’s .607 winning percentage and championship than the other way around. Rodgers made McCarthy. And after an 11-year marriage, it might be time for a change. Even if the Packers miraculously make the playoffs, that might not be enough to save McCarthy’s job.
Rodgers has clearly had enough. There’s an apparent rift between Rodgers and McCarthy over play-calling. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport has reported that McCarthy is certainly now on the hot seat for Green Bay. That report left the door open for McCarthy to keep his job if the team finishes strong. But the record over the final weeks shouldn’t be the main determinant.
Packers management needs to take a hard look at what they can do support Rodgers. Sometimes the best move is a fresh start. This situation is somewhat reminiscent of John Elway and Dan Reeves in the 1990s. Broncos management ousted Reeves after 12 years and a .601 winning percentage and three Super Bowl appearances. Then brought in Mike Shanahan who completely revamped the offense. Shanahan revived Elway and steered Denver to two Super Bowls titles.
Rodgers will turn 35 years old next week. It’s reasonable to assume he has at least five more good seasons left. Brady (41) and Drew Brees (39) have proved that quarterbacks can play still at a high level in their twilight years. Brady won the 2017 MVP and Brees is the favorite to win it this season. They have remained spry and productive because their organizations have been smart. Brady benefits from excellent coaching. Brees benefits from young skill talent.
Where is the superior coaching for Rodgers? Please stop punting on fourth-down and short. Where are the emerging stars? Perhaps Aaron Jones is the solution at tailback.
Green Bay needs to do right by Rodgers. Otherwise, they’re wasting his time and talent.