“Well, my quarterback coach didn’t get retained, I thought that was an interesting change, really without consulting me. There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterback coach, and that was an interesting decision.” – Aaron Rodgers
If you don’t know by now, the Packers let go of quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt this past offseason. Apparently Aaron Rodgers didn’t know about it, and, as made blindingly clear by his comments, the two-time MVP and demigod-turned-quarterback that is Aaron Rodgers was none too pleased by the move. Now, you football purists and traditional folk may think, “Who cares? Players play, coaches coach, managers manage.” In some sense, that is how the game works. In another, very real sense, that isn’t at all how things work, at least not for future hall of famers like Rodgers. The fact of the matter is, without Aaron the Packers aren’t good, they’re hardly average. Keeping 12 in Green Bay is of the utmost importance. While the quarterback has given no indication of an intent or desire to leave, there are several people around the league who think he should leave, including Colin Cowherd and Stephen A. Smith, two prominent voices in sporting media. Smith went so far as to say “Aaron Rodgers should demand to be traded” in the wake of the quarterback’s comments, and that Rodgers should walk into the executive offices and say “if you can’t show me the respect my talent deserves, then you can kick rocks.” You can watch all of Stephen A. Smith’s comments below.
This article isn’t about the potential anger of Aaron Rodgers. It’s not about his contract, which runs through 2019. It’s about the quarterbacks coach. The new man in town who will replace Alex Van Pelt. Ultimately, if the move proves a good one, the replacement effective, then all this talk of Aaron’s ire over the move could be for naught. So, without further ado, let’s look at the new man in town, Frank Cignetti.
Now, it’s not drastic to assume the name Frank Cignetti doesn’t inspire much reaction in you. It didn’t in me either. It’s not often a position coach is hired to great fanfare. Heck, it’s not often most of us have ever heard of a position coach before they come to town. So, let’s take a quick look at Cignetti’s resume.
Cignetti began coaching in 1989 as an assistant at Pittsburgh University. He worked his way through the ranks and first took a position as a NFL coach in 1999 as an offensive assistant with the Chiefs. A year later, in 2000, he began working as the quarterbacks coach of the Saints. Since 2000 he’s bounced from the NFL to Division 1 and back again a few times, serving as an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach or both in every instance. Save for a brief stint as the Rams offensive coordinator in 2015, he’s proven successful in every position he’s held, often leading players such as Sam Bradford, Jeff Blake, and Eli Manning to career-years (his lack of success in St. Louis likely has as much to do with the lack of coaching talent around him and the poor, if not terrible, direction of Jeff Fisher).
So, what should you take away from this career abstract? A few things. First, Frank has proven successful with several quarterbacks at the NFL and college levels. He may not be a quarterback guru (or maybe he is), but he’s certainly no slouch. Secondly, he’s never had a top-flight quarterback, unless you consider Eli Manning or Sam Bradford an elite arm talent (in which case you and I need to have a serious talk). It’s nearly impossible to predict how a capable and esteemed coach will mesh with a great and proven talent because the two often have large egos, which is understandable. In the case of Aaron Rodgers, however, all others must step aside. If Cignetti can work alongside Aaron and respect the quarterback’s talent and experience, merely trying to improve and refine rather than rework, things should be alright.
What’s the point? What’s the conclusion of all this? Good question. Should you be worried about all of this as a Packers fan? Maybe a little, at least until we see how things shake out with Aaron, the team, and Cignetti. Should you be irritated with the team for not discussing the change with Rodgers in advance, regardless of if they chose to give him any say in the matter? Absolutely you should. Ultimately, however, this move won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, in the event Rodgers does ever leave the team. It’s simply a move that may improve the play of Aaron and the other quarterbacks after we saw a year of inept play behind 12. It has been an offseason of drastic change in Titletown, the most change we’ve seen in a while. Cignetti, along with the other changes that have been made and are to come, could spell a brighter 2018 than the year that’s passed. Here’s hoping it does.