Hello Packer Nation,
We are moving into the summer months and are less than a month away from the start of 2021 season training camp. Some highlights coming into the month of July:
1. The Packers made an improvement at ILB with the signing of De'Vondre Campbell, a well respected veteran linebacker. I said last year that Christian Kirksey would be an upgrade over Blake Martinez and that didn't happen. I will predict Campbell will be an improvement over Kirksey. Campbell is a physical player who shouldn't be a liability against the run but can be exploited in the pass game. My prediction is he will eventually be one of the two starting ILB's for this team, with Krys Barnes.
2. Mark Murphy has been a vocal member of the front office regarding the Rodgers saga. He reiterated what Ted Thompson told him in the past that Rodgers is "a complicated fella." While Murphy isn't giving us a line of BS, it is mind boggling he would say anything to outside media sources. Rodgers then responded on a podcast wearing a t-shirt saying "offended" which was a jab back at Murphy's revelation. Murphy said in his Packer blog that "the less both sides say publicly, the better." Well, that goes both ways Mark. Gutenkunst and LaFleur have said all the right things and they are not the source of contempt at this point.
3. We are no where near a resolution to Aaron Rodgers apprehension that is keeping him from being a member of the team. There are two upcoming dates we need to keep an eye on - July 2nd and July 27th.
July 2nd is the last day players can opt out of playing the 2021 season for concerns regarding COVID-19. While it is very unlikely Rodgers would use this route, it would allow him the best way not to play for the Packers without damaging his player stock. He would still be able to collect his salary (although reduced) and his contract would "toll" meaning his current contract would expire in 2024, not 2023. If he makes this decision, he won't be allowed to change his mind and play this year.
If he decides not to take that option, July 27th is the first day of training camp. He could not report and hold out. That would allow the Packers (according to CBA) to fine Rodgers $50,000 per practice day missed and his game day salary for every preseason game missed. This would be an expensive option, but if Rodgers is serious and wants to force the Packers hand, he would hold out and never report. The Packers could then come after him to recoup some of his signing bonus already paid out (roughly $30 million). This is an ugly scenario we do not want to see played out.
While we don't know all the details regarding why Rodgers is not attending any offseason programs, I do see it eventually coming to and end and the Packers and Rodgers agree to a compromise. I think it will happen near the start of the regular season or beginning of training camp. If the Packers give the keys back to Rodgers, there is the reassurance he is looking for. If he comes back and they stick with Jordan Love to start the season, then we have another issue on our hands. But, if Rodgers comes back, it will not be as second fiddle to anyone. It is why the Packers have given all the reps to Love in minicamps. The team needs to know what they have in Love to make a quick decision if Rodgers continues to distance himself from Titletown. Thus far, most of the news was positive regarding Love. Most of the minicamp practices were in shorts so it is very difficult to gauge how much progress he truly made.
LaFleur has made it abundantly clear he wants Rodgers leading his offense. Some of his comments regarding Love show he isn't sold on Love being QB1 just yet, so LaFleur knows the way for the Packers to be successful is under Rodgers, not Love in 2021.
4. Where does all the resentment from Rodgers come from? Personally, when they drafted Jordan Love, it cast a shadow over Rodgers shoulder and his contract basically gave the Packers an "out" after the 2021 season. Rodgers, coming off an MVP 2020 season, felt like he wasn't in the Packers future plans after 2021. He wants to know he will be in their plans for the balance of his current contract, at minimum. Drafting Love (and trading up to do it) started the clock against Rodgers time in Titletown, in his mind. He can say that didn't make a difference, but it did. Also, Rodgers has been adamant about being more involved in how the team moves forward. I think Aaron wants to be a recruiter and use his influence and wants to be more involved with who they bring in from the outside. There is nothing wrong with that.
5. How do the Packers reconcile with Rodgers? That is a difficult question to answer, but first they need to admit their mistakes and do what is needed to appease Rodgers. In order for this situation to be resolved, the Packers are going to need to do the heavy lifting. First, drafting Love and not even notifying Rodgers of the move was dumbfounding and just plain stupid. That communication mishap needs to be shored up. Second, LaFleur needs to be clear with Rodgers in his intentions with the offense in the future. Rodgers showed some disgust with LaFleur not giving Rodgers some hindsight on the last offensive drive in the NFCC game and kicking a field goal after three failed attempts from the 8 yard line. Would letting Rodgers know the plan have contributed to a different result on third down? Rodgers had an obvious hole to run to the end zone and didn't take it. Would he have tried to scramble knowing they were going for the field goal if they didn't score a TD? In Rodgers mind, he likely would have but instead threw the ball at Adams feet not risking the turnover and lived for another shot on fourth down. Rodgers doesn't shy away from being aggressive and he played those three plays like he had four plays in the arsenal.
Rodgers wants to be involved in every aspect of the team's plans. The Packers should have no issues with that, and is likely a sticking point. He has earned the right to be involved. He has earned the right to straightforward communication, but he needs to contribute there as well. This isn't all on Murphy, Gute and LaFleur. Communication from all sides is integral to a positive and healthy relationship. When one or both sides mess up, contempt seeps in.
Is Rodgers a "complicated fella"? You bet he is. He is a unique personality and needs to be handled differently than most players. Will the Packers adjust? We will see...but one thing is certain. There will be irreparable damage to the Rodgers/Packers dynamic. Will Rodgers trust the Packers? Will it hurt Love's development? If and hopefully when Rodgers comes back, will missing all the offseason meetings and practices be detrimental to Rodgers and the offense? For perspective, this is the first time in Rodgers career he has missed any offseason work, including virtual and in person meetings. Rodgers has a pretty good handle of LaFleur's intricate offensive scheme that relies on timing and execution, but being away from the team will hurt communication, execution and timing. There is no way around that, even as good as Rodgers can be.
Being a "complicated fella" has its merits, but also can be detrimental. In Rodgers case, it could lead to deteriorating performance on the field when he comes back. He isn't getting any younger and the thing that sets Rodgers apart from others is his command of the offense, his supreme execution and cohesiveness with his teammates. It will be extremely difficult to duplicate his MVP season even with a full offseason of work, and with how things have deteriorated in the relationship dynamic leading to his vacations in Hawaii and not Green Bay, that could really hurt Rodgers more than he knows. He could be his own worst enemy.
Either way, the Packers need to get Love ready to be the starting QB in week 1. He is the only "known" thing at this point and needs all the work. It is probably something the Packers didn't envision happening this soon, but they will need to make adjustments because Love's learning curve will be steep. LaFleur cannot expect Love to take this offense on without adjustments. When LaFleur made the comment about it not mattering who is the QB (Rodgers or Love) it would be naive to expect Love to grasp all the plays as well as Rodgers could execute them.
Go Pack Go!