I wasn’t going to weigh in on Aaron Rodgers’ future until after the playoffs, but since the topic has been brought up multiple times in the past two weeks, I’ve decided to chime in. My guess, and it’s obviously only a guess, is that the greatest quarterback in the history of the Green Bay Packers will be throwing passes for another team next season.
This has been my opinion since the day in late August when it was announced that Rodgers had renegotiated his contract and would report to training camp with the rest of his teammates. The new deal voided the final year of Rodgers’ contract (2023) and essentially forced the Packers to either extend him or trade him after this season. By doing neither, general manager Brian Gutekunst would risk losing the future first-ballot Hall of Famer for a measly third-round compensatory pick. This scenario simply isn’t going to happen.
So Gutekunst will either give Rodgers an extension that will allow him to finish his career in Green Bay, or he’ll trade him for a package of high draft picks and maybe a good young player or two. But the choice won’t be his to make. Rodgers will be the one dictating what occurs – a power he acquired in last July’s negotiations.
Could Rodgers decide he wants to remain in Green Bay and sign a massive two or three-year extension? It’s possible. After all, he plays for the team with the best record in the league, and he’s talked for the past couple of months about how much he’s enjoying this season. He’s also talked about loving his coaches and teammates. Heck, he’s even said some nice things about Gutekunst, whom he reportedly referred to as “Jerry Krause” throughout the contentious offseason. Krause, of course, is the executive who’s blamed for prematurely ending the Chicago Bulls dynasty. So yes, sticking around is possible. I just don’t think it’s likely for one simple reason – Rodgers isn’t someone who forgives and forgets.
Rodgers never forgave former coach Mike McCarthy for not drafting him when he was in San Francisco. Never mind that McCarthy was the offensive coordinator and not the GM. Never mind that McCarthy helped develop him into the quarterback who would win a Super Bowl, be named MVP three times, and earn over $250 million. Rodgers still brought up the perceived snub – both publicly and reportedly privately – more than a decade into their relationship.
Rodgers has also never forgiven former teammate Greg Jennings for some critical comments he made after leaving the Packers in 2012. And while Rodgers had every right to be upset with his one-time favorite wide receiver at the time, most people would’ve gotten over it after eight years. But Rodgers isn’t most people, as Jennings explained in a recent interview:
“We don’t text, we don’t communicate like that,” Jennings said. “We haven’t had an official sit-down, like bring it all in for a hug, since I left Green Bay. … We had a great relationship [in Green Bay] … Our relationship now has been non-existent. I tried to reach out to refurbish it but haven’t had any success. The acceptance from his side has just not been there.”
And, of course, there’s his family. Rodgers has been estranged from his parents and his siblings for years. That’s his prerogative, and he may have every reason to be upset, but again, most people don’t possess the stomach to go to this extreme. Heck, I know somebody who reconciled with his parents after they embezzled thousands of dollars from his company.
The point is, Rodgers doesn’t forgive and forget. Once he feels wronged – even by his own family – he cuts the offenders out of his life and moves on. That’s why it’s so hard for me to imagine him reconciling with a front office he railed against all offseason and then took to task in a brutal 32-minute monologue at the start of training camp. Heck, he had more grievances with Gutekunst in the summer of 2021 than the Founding Fathers had with King George III in 1776.
I also remember something Adam Schefter said last spring. The ESPN reporter, who first broke the news of Rodgers’ unhappiness in Green Bay, opined that the star quarterback was tired of making Gutekunst and others – presumably team president Mark Murphy and executive vice president Russ Ball – look good. The clear inference being that the Packers would fall on hard times without Rodgers, and Gutekunst, Murphy, and Ball would be both blamed for the collapse and exposed as mere coattail riders. Again, I don’t know if this is true, but it certainly sounds feasible.
OK, even if all of this is true and Rodgers can’t stand the suits, why would he want to leave a team that makes the playoffs every year? You know, the old “grass isn’t always greener” proverb. Well, Rodgers probably thinks he’d have similar success wherever he’d go. And remember, he’d have a say in any trade. He’s not going to wind up with the Texans or the Jets. You can be sure that his next team would have a coach he approves of and enough talent to win right away.
As for alienating a fan base that’s worshipped him for 14 years? Packers fans forgave Brett Favre, who left on unimaginably bad terms in 2008. Not only did Favre bash his GM at the time (Ted Thompson), but he also tried to hurt his former team after leaving. Remember all those reports of him calling then-Lions GM Matt Millen and offering advice on how to beat Green Bay? Or how about his weaseling his way to the Vikings just so he could exact revenge? Despite this – not to mention accusations of sending dick pics to a young female reporter and sexually harassing two masseuses – Favre was given a hero’s welcome upon his return to Lambeau in 2015. Simply put, Rodgers’ legacy is more than secure.
Could I have it all wrong? Sure. Maybe Rodgers has realized how good he has it in Green Bay and will stay. Maybe at age 38, he’s learned to forgive and forget. Maybe the Packers will win the Super Bowl in February, and Rodgers will want to become only the eighth quarterback ever to capture back-to-back Lombardi Trophies. Anything is possible. That said, people don’t often change, especially people wired like Rodgers. My gut tells me he made up his mind about leaving when he agreed to that renegotiated contract, and despite all that’s happened since then, he’s never wavered about his future – a future I don’t think will be in Green Bay.