Green Bay Packers
MIKE ROEMER, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Anybody who knows me or has read/listened to any of my stuff knows that I am not the biggest fan of Aaron Rodgers. To me, it seems as though he’s a bit a jerk, to put it lightly. That being said, there is no denying that he is one of the very best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Make no mistake, the Green Bay Packers owe a massive part of their success to Rodgers.

Since joining the Green Bay Packers in 2005, Aaron Rodgers has become one of the most decorated quarterbacks in NFL history. In his 16 seasons as a Packer, Rodgers has for 51,245 yards and 412 touchdowns on his way to a Super Bowl Ring, three NFL MVP Awards, five All-Pro team appearances and nine Pro Bowl invitations. By all measures, Aaron Rodgers is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. On top of that, his record as a starting quarterback is 126-63-1 despite a painfully mediocre coach for most of his career in Mike McCarthy. When Rodgers is playing, the Packers win. It’s that simple.

It seems that Matt LaFleur, on the other hand, wanted to make it clear right off the bat that he wanted things done a certain way. LaFleur’s offence is quite different from what Aaron Rodgers had been used to under McCarthy. The new Packers head coach sought to transform Green Bay’s offence from a West-Coast philosophy to a style with a strong run game that’s supposed to set up the play-action pass.

Think about the elite quarterbacks in the NFL from the past 10 years; Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Patrick Mahomes. The list goes on. With the exception of Brady (Bill Belichick is notoriously hard-headed and set in his ways), every single one of these quarterbacks has had an active role in shaping the offence and its personnel. Hell, even Joe Burrow, who’s played only 10 games in the NFL, was asked for his input (which the Bengals clearly followed) during the 2021 NFL Draft. If you think that Burrow wasn’t a huge reason why the Bengals drafted Ja’Marr Chase instead of going the smarter route with an offensive tackle, you’re insane.

This is how it should be, right? Your signal-caller is arguably the most important piece of the offence (other than the hog-mollies upfront, don’t worry big men, I got you) and shouldn’t such an important player be directly involved in game planning, decision making and personnel? Not according to Matt LaFleur or Brian Gutekunst. It seems like from the second that Gutekunst and LaFleur were handed the keys to the kingdom, they have been actively trying to put Rodgers in his place. The only issue is that the place they’re trying to put him in is nowhere near fitting of his pedigree. By drafting Jordan Love and AJ Dillon with their first two picks of the 2020 NFL Draft, LaFleur and Gutekunst went out of their way to go against Rodgers’ wishes by drafting players that likely wouldn’t contribute to the offence. Since then, despite being named the 2020 NFL MVP, Rodgers has become increasingly unhappy, clashing with his head coach as well as his GM. This all boiled over in the hours leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, when it was reported that Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay. The Packers proceeded to draft Eric Stokes, a cornerback from Georgia, with their first-round pick.

Look, I’m all for a coach trying to get his house in order. New head coaches do that all the time. Their job is to shape the team in a way that they feel helps them win football games and championships. Here’s my issue: how does alienating your best player (and it’s not close) help you win football games? The short answer is that it doesn’t. Rodgers still has many good years left in him and there’s no reason to push him out just yet.

The Packers have a choice to make: who is more important to them? LaFleur and Gutekunst or Aaron Rodgers? For me, it’d be a pretty easy pick. If you’re the Packers, you need to be doing everything in your power to make sure that your starting quarterback is happy. Either way, they’re going to have to decide soon or they may find themselves without a starting quarterback or any trade value to show for it.

It seems to me that they could go one of two directions. Either they make a directed effort to listen to Rodgers’ input and take it seriously, or they trade him for a king’s ransom and go with Jordan Love. At this point, the former may mean firing Gutekunst for sure and potentially LaFleur as well. The latter would involve letting one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks ever play for a different team. Now, which one of these seems smarter? The answer is obvious: coaches that can win games with Rodgers are a dime a dozen, but can LaFleur win without Rodgers? I would argue that Rodgers has proven that he can win with a mediocre head coach. All that LaFleur has proven is that he can win games with one of the best quarterbacks ever and he seemed to even struggle with that at times. After all, it wasn’t Rodgers’ decision to kick a field goal down eight points with two minutes left in the NFC Championship. If I had Aaron Rodgers and eight yards between me and a potential game-tying touchdown to give me a shot at the Super Bowl, I know what I’m doing and it doesn’t involve a field goal.

Honestly, it blows my mind that I’m even writing this article right now. Are the Green Bay Packers seriously going to let Rodgers walk over Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst? It seems to me that that would be an awful decision, but hey, I’m not an NFL executive. It seems obvious that you should keep a quarterback like Rodgers happy, but what do I know?