“This was a smear attack by a writer looking to advance his career talking with mostly irrelevant, bitter players who all have an agenda.” Aaron Rodgers didn’t mince words when giving his thoughts on the story that has circulated about him, former coach Mike McCarthy, and the Packers organization. If you haven’t read it, Bleacher Report released a piece, written by Tyler Dunne, that ripped into Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy, and their egos, claiming that their feuds prevented the Packers from winning multiple Super Bowls since 2010.
Beyond the feud, the piece pulled in quotes, namely from Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, alleging that Aaron Rodgers is a bad leader, a bad teammate, and a locker room cancer. In all, the article was nothing short of despairing, leaving players and fans alike wondering at what might of been. Of course, it’s no surprise that the Packers’ fell short of expectations and narrowly missed out on multiple trips to the Super Bowl over the past eight seasons. Since the start of the 2017 season we’ve watched the team finish with back-to-back losing records, hire a new general manager, fire Mike McCarthy, hire Matt LeFleur, and spend big in free agency. The McCarthy era in Green Bay ended months ago, but Dunne’s article felt like the final nail in the coffin. Reading the piece I was reminded of Harry Potter, of all things. In the second installment of the franchise Harry watches a phoenix burst into flames. After staring in horror for a moment he learns that phoenixes burn when they’re ready to die and then they are born again from the ashes. The old era of Packers football has gone and the new one is set to rise from those ashes.
The wake of Dunne’s article has seen numerous current and former players throw support behind Aaron Rodgers. The most direct display of support may have been from James Jones, who took to NFL Network to support his former quarterback.
"When I read this article it makes me sick…"
— NFL Total Access (@NFLTotalAccess) April 4, 2019
Former Packer tight end Tom Crabtree, and current players Tramon Williams and Davante Adams responded to Jones’ video, all in support of Rodgers as well. Other former teammates Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, John Kuhn, and Jayrone Elliott have all supported Rodgers as well. Notable support came from Jeff Janis, who was allegedly a favorite whipping boy of Rodgers in practices, according to the article. Not only did Janis completely deny those claims, he said Rodgers was nothing more than a leader and a competitor. You can read his comments below. In total, Dunne’s article seems more smoke show than reality, and it’s not all doom and gloom in Green Bay as he made it seem.
The takes on the piece didn’t end with former players. As I said earlier, Aaron Rodgers made his thoughts clear. What was perhaps most surprising was the direct nature with which Rodgers responded. The quarterback apologized for a few things, such as his public complaints about the offense after a win over the Bills in 2018, but said that he loved Mike McCarthy and felt blindsided by the article and the comments therein.
Here's the full Aaron Rodgers quote on Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings.
"At what point did J-Mike think I was a bad leader? … It couldn't have been when I was at the hospital the night he broke his neck and spent a couple hours with him." pic.twitter.com/K7ZdFQSa5l
— Zachary Jacobson (@ZachAJacobson) April 9, 2019
Note this about what Rodgers says, he’s right. The critiques on him are shallow and if they were real they should’ve been made while former teammates were on the team. The lionshare of his former teammates and coaches say he is unequivocally a leader who pushes his teammates to be great and doesn’t accept mediocrity. Competitive spirits can fuel fights, but that doesn’t equal hatred or toxicity. It’s required for winning, and we shouldn’t lambast players for a competitive fire and drive.
Ultimately, it was time for a change in Green Bay, everyone could see that. It’s early in general manager Brian Gutekunst’s tenure, but he appears to be the real deal and is bringing his own style to the job. Matt LeFleur will bring a new look to the offense and the team as a whole. They have a promising defense, several defensive additions, and multiple high draft picks. Most importantly, Aaron Rodgers is coming into the season healthy and ready to light up the rest of the NFL. There’s no question, Aaron’s 2018 season was disappointing. Whether he played through injury or not, we didn’t see the quarterback we were used to seeing. Rather than assume one season is the new norm, I’ll posit that the hall of famer we’ve come to know, trust, and love will return to his greatest-of-all-time-form of years past. He’s the best thrower of the football ever, and you can rest assured he’s ready and hungry to prove that to the world once again.
So yes, Dunne’s article may have been the final tongue of flame on a burning phoenix that left us with a pile of ash. That’s not the end of the story, however, it’s the end of a chapter. Many are quick to label 2019 a rebuilding year for Green Bay, but nobody on the team believes that storyline. They want to win. Not in a few years, but right now. With a spirit of change and a chip on their shoulder, we’re in line for the most revitalized, resurgent, and impassioned season we’ve seen in some time. What’s done is done, and the future is bright.