There had to be a break. An incident, an argument, a loss, a moment that condemned the footballing marriage of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy.
Anyone could see that the Packback quarterback and the head coach had opted for the divorce in December, before the unimaginable 20-17 defeat of the low cardinals, which had finally dismissed McCarthy. Rodgers' death glare and defiance had remained constant for years.
But how far do you have to go back to find the beginning of the end?
Was it the third week of the 2017 season when Rodgers was captured by cameras? bark "stupid f – call king!" with his coach?
Or, back to the NFC Championship Game on January 1
Or even earlier, until 2013, when Rodgers and McCarthy were about to throw Heumacher through a loss in Cincinnati?
Those who have observed this relationship from the beginning say that one must go on.
Back to the honeymoon. Even as the packers went 15-1 in 2011, with Rodgers as league MVP. Even as they won their last Super Bowl title in the 2010 season with Rodgers as Super Bowl MVP. Even then, Rodgers cooked on his coach.
So move on. Until the moment when these two were first brought together. Early 2006.
The worst kept secret on Lombardi Avenue from 1265 was that Rodgers hated his coach from the moment McCarthy was hired.
There is no grudge in any sport like Rodgers. When it comes to Rodgers, the resentment does not float happily. They stick. They grow. They refuel.
No, Rodgers would not forget that McCarthy had helped sustain his four and a half hour wait in the NFL Draft Green Room last year. His nationally embarrassing embarrassment. McCarthy, the 49ers' offensive coordinator, chose Alex Smith as # 1 overall. Not Rodgers.
No, Rodgers would not understand that as a funny accident.
"Aaron's always had a chip with Mike," says Ryan Grant, the launch of the Packers runs from 2007 to 2012. " The guy who eventually became your coach has passed you by he had a chance. Aaron was upset that Mike had handed him over – that Mike had actually said verbally that Alex Smith was a better quarterback. "
Another one longtime teammate agrees:" That was a big one Cancer in the locker room, it was no secret. "
In all successful seasons, occasional observers could easily have missed this cancer. To confuse success with bliss and harmony and to assume that life between the two was good.
But even in the best of times, when confetti should still be clinging to clothes, a person close to Rodgers recalls calling on a regular basis to complain that McCarthy had no idea what he was doing. He would tell him that McCarthy had often called the wrong game. That he used the wrong staff. That it ran games that worked in practice one of 50 times. This McCarthy was a buffoon he was constantly rescuing.
"Mike has a low football IQ, and that's what bothered Aaron," says the source. "He would say Mike has one of the lowest IQs, if not the lowest IQ, of any coach he has ever had."
Add a staff man who worked for the Packers at the time: "He will not respect you if he thinks he's smarter than you."
And then, as time progressed, and Team Plateau reached, the facade fell away. Cracks in the basis of this arranged marriage were not ignored.
"They start arguing, they start losing, and when the money is bad, you argue," says DuJuan Harris, a packer running back from 2012 to 2014. "They begin to hate how someone breathes. They start to hate how someone chews their food."
Then it's over.
Which legacy remains? It's not as if the Packers have been epic failures for the past decade. McCarthy has named a street after him in the shadow of Lambeau Field. Rodgers is a future first-grade Hall of Famer. The two made the playoffs together for eight years in a row. But this should have been a patriotic rule. History. A former team-mate thinks Rodgers should have won a minimum of six Super Bowl wrestling matches under McCarthy, and the team from 2011 should be remembered like the '72 Dolphins.
Instead, there was never a surefire dynasty.
Instead, Rodgers hopes to get back up at 35, McCarthy is out of work, and everyone else asks a question: What the hell happened?
Bleacher Report spoke with dozens of players, coaches, and staff members spending time together in Green Bay with Rodgers and McCarthy looking for an answer.
Almost all agree that this era of Packers football rings are missing. Many rings. And sure, there is guilt that can be spread. Some cite former General Manager Ted Thompson, who literally fell asleep in meetings until the end of his term. Some cite the innate ability of the defense to destroy itself every January.
However, the focus is on the two Packers that last the longest.
McCarthy and Rodgers .
Where Jermichael Finley sees a Packers tight end from 2008 to 2013, sees a self-titled quarterback and a bad leader. Grant thinks it's idiotic for someone to complain about such a transcendent talent. While Greg Jennings, a Packers recipient from 2006 to 2012, sees Rodgers as an ultra-sensitive source of toxicity, others scold McCarthy for wasting a gift from the football gods.
A former Packers scout handles both. He describes Rodgers as an arrogant quarterback accusing everyone but himself – one who is "not as smart as he thinks he is" – he kindly points out that McCarthy has basically left his team.
No one is sure where Rodgers and the Packers will do it go from here. How long this next marriage with the new head coach Matt LaFleur will last.
But a former teammate who laments this colossal what-if lamentation makes one point clearer about the past.
"If you wrote a headline," he says, "that would be right there: How Egos held down the Packers. "
At its peak, the Rodgers-McCarthy Packers crime had a feeling absolute certainty.
Coaches tried to build up opponents and the players would giggle inside. "We would literally say, 'They can not stop us,' says Grant.
There was no doubt.
The pieces were simple and worked like clockwork, and McCarthy recognized and planned the game for endless disagreements could not double Jennings, Linebackers could not control Finley, Jordy Nelson was invincible, Rodgers had his shoulder on his shoulder, James Jones bullied corners, Randall Cobb added to the embarrassment of wealth, and playing against Rodgers Zone was like a zone against the Golden State Warriors: A Capital Punishment.
The cherry at the forefront of Rodgers was the growing freedom to change games on the series of scrimmages, and an ever-growing inclination in the middle of waiting, waiting, waiting for anything to happen Larger developed in the field.
McCarthy could live with it, of course, the packers won so much.
Eric Gay / Associated Press
Yet al As Green Bay's talent waned, that freedom became a problem.
Think of mankind's never-ending debate on artificial intelligence, says Grant. "When you put a quarterback in a position and you talk about how cerebral he is, and you give him flexibility to make changes, you know what? … You develop AI because she has the ability to walk without you And then, when she walks Without you, it's like "Wait a minute!" But in the same breath, if you're not really able to stay ahead, it'll reconsider you and say, "If I make the decision
And so Grant adds, "You're living and dying by its size."
The problem for McCarthy was that when the talent ran out, he did not innovate A staff man says McCarthy "got his own juice full." He believed that his system-not the absurdity of the Packers-was the basis for offensive success, but raw rookies can not become one to one, like like Jennings or Nelson or Jones.
The argument with Rodgers about gambling behavior became part of the DNA of the offense. Rodgers considered the system boring, so he increasingly played Superman.
Many believe that Rodgers, the QB with the highest rating for Career Passer (103.1) in NFL history, was 100 percent eligible to override his coach's play and that the Packers would have gotten worse worsens if he had not put on the cloak. The staff man says the Packers 'offense was essentially "get open" and they had been driving the same routes for seven years, to a point where competitors' competitors were "constantly" calling games before snatching and leaping ,
No wonder the once deadly crooked route had died out.
Where were the route combinations? The movement? The misdirection? "It's like" Dude, you have to adapt! The league is changing! "The staff man says." You must be humble enough to obey it. If you can not adapt, you die. He definitely did not adapt. You can not cover 90 shoulders. I do not care who you are Things got so stale.
Rodgers had no choice but to take control, and each year he took more.
That ridiculous throw for Jared Cook in the 2017 playoffs? Raised in the pub. Rodgers ordered a face-up guard to come with him "That's what you're dealing with," says a former Packers coach, "a guy who does that. He might mess up a game that called Mike … [but] You must ascribe the good to him. "
This separation created tensions – a system that once seemed so unstoppable became bland and archaic strange contests that could be called better games, and the reluctant Rodgers felt more and more empowered to surpass McCarthy, the man who dared to beat Alex Smith better than him.
McCarthy's continued hand, however, seemed to be more and more under control, causing many to sympathize with Rodgers.
The sight was strange at first.
About once a week, a meeting began, and McCarthy was a MIA, and players were not sure where he was, for example, when assistant coach coached the team's final preparation on Saturday before a game ss McCarthy, the one who called on the match day, got a massage in his office.
One player had the same massage therapist, and she let McCarthy sneak her back stairs into his office while the rest of the team prepared for this week's opponent.
"Back then, the guys were like," What the hell? "Everybody was like" Really? Wow. ""
Rodgers in particular was not thrilled.
Not that there was no logic. "Over the years, McCarthy and his team attempted a rather CEO- He would routinely refuse external interviewing opportunities for assistants when they were under contract, which was his way of giving them more responsibility to prepare them for promotion elsewhere, and back problems are common to all football coaches And while McCarthy probably did not get a massage every time he had a meeting with an assistant, the look was bad, and when he stepped back he looked distant and lost respect from the players.
"If If you do not attend meetings and then try to get annoyed with the execution, no one will really respect you, "he tells a former front office member member of the McCarthy Rodgers era. "They will look at you like this:" Where have you been all week? "It sounded like he was just chilling."
Put yourself in Rodgers shoes – in the shoes of a player who eats, sleeps, breathes the sport. As some sources say, "How do you think he felt?" Of course he would take control.
Although Rodgers is not a Tom Brady-style locker room, he is still by far the best quarterback in NFL history for a former offensive teammate. "And it was McCarthy's job to do this, take the lead and make the life of his quarterback as stress-free as possible, and do everything in his power to make that talent shine."
"His job no. 1, and Mike has always missed that point, is leading Aaron, "says the former team-mate," this is your driver. That's your engine. Aaron is your engine for the entire team. Whether you like it or not, you have to make sure the guy is happy. At the end of the day – and it does not sound like a fun job – when you're happy, you win.
"It's not your job to go there and throw passports, your job is to manage people."
And if Rodgers is not Brady's leader, McCarthy has never been as good as Bill Belichick. While Belichick despises the limelight and moves "in every possible way," McCarthy says he loves to anoint himself as a quarterback guru. The coach often bragged with his players about his time with Joe Montana … in Kansas City.
"He tried to call himself a quarterback champion," says player "Buddy, I just want to let you know that Joe Montana did a lot more before he was in Kansas City."
McCarthy felt he was the one who created this monster of misdeed. "That was McCarthy's big mistake, he wanted to be the guy, he wanted to be the reason and he was not that good."
It did not help McCarthy to move his assistants between positions every year. He wanted them to gain more experience, but as Grant says, it did not necessarily help players. Many times they felt they knew more about their position than their own coach.
Many agree that McCarthy could have saved himself had he swallowed his pride and hired a clever offensive mediator to challenge Rodgers. In Alex Van Pelt, who coached running races in 2012 and 2013 before becoming one of them in 2014 Quarterbacks changed. McCarthy felt threatened, according to McCarthy, by Van Pelt, who joined Rodgers. The Packers decided not to keep Van Pelt at his contract after the 2017 season, which did not match well with Rodgers.
What made the grudge worse.
And the rest of the team? There were mixed opinions about McCarthy.
Some interpreted his laissez-faire style differently, it was refreshering Hing. From backups like Jayrone Elliott ("I respect him only") to starters like Grant ("Mike is a great coach, I'm surprised he's not training right now"), they always describe him as a player's trainer. But even a defensive starter who starts a conversation by praising McCarthy soon admits that the culture he uses creates a soft team.
When Thompson hired McCarthy, he called him "Pittsburgh macho." Nevertheless, the coach rarely matched his no-bull rhetoric in press conferences with no-bull action. A staff man calls him "a fake hard guy". McCarthy rarely imposed fines or banknotes or sent messages to players and paid the price almost every season – even more so than in the game, at the moment that distinguishes him in the eyes of many Packers fans. Several sources from the team say McCarthy should have been dissatisfied months before the 2015 NFC title game. Instead, he was in the field for a late Seahawks kick-out, and instead of blocking his man, decided to catch it. The ball bounced off his helmet and Green Bay collapsed.
Elaine Thompson / Associated Press
The Packers also rarely met in training camps, and the defensive players "annoyed" every day how little interest McCarthy showed in them. He was never near her exercises, the former starter says, and it was always the defense that sprinted for team practice on the side of the attack.
"What the guys did in defense did not matter," he says. "This is an offensive-minded team, and our quarterback is expected to kick us out, and we used to talk about it as a defender, it's like," We beat her ass in the camp today. Will they finally run to us "Respect us?"
The answer was a clear "no", and this player says the result was a "gentle mindset" that kept pushing his ugly head backwards.
When Rodgers missed seven games in 2013 In In nine games in 2017, the player remembers that his teammates had finished the game.
"That was the time when the true coaching, the real identity, the true character came out of everyone," he says. I've seen the guys give up if we do not have a star quarterback. I see that the boys will not give anything when their backs are turned against the wall. "
Even as they built a 19-7 lead during the NFC title game in 2015, despite being the most physical team The NFL was injured and bleeding for 56 minutes, it was only a matter of time before her inner softness became apparent, McCarthy gave in, the defense gave in, and it was no coincidence.
"This Seahawks game has our team exactly There determined, "he says." We had no finishers. "
After losing 28-22 Rodgers made his frustrations clear.He criticized the team's lack of aggressiveness, but he did not blast directly at McCarthy, which everyone interviewed Tranquil tension defined this relationship, and one player who learned about McCarthy's massages even wondered aloud if Rodgers had started this rumor and tried to pass it on to anyone who listened in. Neither Rodgers nor McCarthy could be reached To comment on this story, but no one with whom B / R spoke, recalled a contemptuous, exaggerated confrontation between the two when such an accounting was required.
When Rodgers has a problem, he rarely decides to address it directly.
A person close to the quarterback but who has since been eliminated from his life describes Rodgers as "conflict-repulsive." As passive-aggressive to the utmost. As someone who prefers to put problems deep inside and pretend there is no problem, instead of communicating these issues with his trainer and strengthening relationships.
Rodgers usually opted for midgame tantrums during constructive talks.
"I guarantee you, he never has – maybe once or twice – but most of the time, there's never been anything in the way of Mike," says that person. "Which means that everything was just done and poisoned."
That's how it was. And later. And firmer.
So, no, McCarthy is not the only one to blame.
It was 2012 and the Packers host the 49ers when Carlos Rogers in the meantime asked Eckers Corner why he made so many runs short distances.
"You know what it's like," Jennings told him. "Contract year."
At that time, Rodgers came in to say, pro Jennings, "You guys should get him at the end of the year."
Jennings went back to the herd speechless.
"I do not think he realizes what he said and what it did," says Jennings. "If the shoe had been on the other foot and I said, 'Hey, man, I should play with your quarterback,' he would have been so offended but when it comes out of his mouth – and we all know you're behind the truth is that he says that and just behaves as if everything was the same? It just was not. "
The next day, Jennings told his position coach Edgar Bennett, he knew this was his last year at Green Bay , "That was my headspace," he admits.
He had been Rodgers' No. 1 in four seasons, with a total of 4,619 reception halls and 34 touchdowns from 2008-11. He was on the receiving side of Rodgers iconic Super Bowl thread the needle. He had opened the doorstep of his Rodgers family for Thanksgiving, knowing that his quarterback was alone in a new city.
Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press
And now Rodgers did not want him cheated on Jennings felt.
This season kept pedaling. The Packers diagnosed Jennings' sports hernia as a groin injury. When he entered the free agency, Rodgers made no move to persuade him to stay. No calls. No lyrics Not a single conversation. Goodbye.
Before you bombard your Twitter account with bad words, you need to be aware that Jennings is aware of himself. He admits that steam will pour from the ears of the Packers fans. Any ex-packer who praises Rodgers in full is quickly ashamed. He gets that. But Jennings insists he just tells the truth – and in this case "provokes" the truth.
He is not the only one.
Maybe Rodgers can throw a football on a rope from every nook and cranny every Sunday, masking McCarthy's mistakes. But a group of people who have spent a lot of time with Rodgers and the Packers believe that you must go beyond statistics and emphasize and understand that Rodgers is also responsible for the Packers' decline in mediocrity.
Then they give the reasons for this.
He is self-entitled.
The moment Rodgers signed his new contract, which could bring him up to $ 180 million, Finley knew that a storm was brewing. Because Finley, Rodgers No. 1 is scarce for four and a half years, recalls the claim that his QB even had as a beginner in the first year, "when he was as f-k broke".
gave a man $ 200 million, "Finley says." He's the GM. He is the organization. He is the quarterback. And he is the head coach. He already has a sense of entitlement, and then give him $ 200 million. They make him one of the highest paid in history. It comes to it I think Rodgers, man for man, has to take on some more guilt.
He's going to throw you in the kennel.
A former Packers scout says Rodgers can be brutally tough on young players Sometimes it's necessary Other times Not so much.
The scout points to Jeff Janis, a 2014 rookie of the seventh round, with rare size (6 & 3; 220 pound) and speed (4:42 in the 40's), who quickly became a fan favorite – and Rodgers & # 39; Favorite boy whipping. It was enough to alert the scout, even though he was not so high on Janis as a player.
"Janis came to the doghouse very fast and did not let him out," he says. "He did not even give the child a chance and the hard part is that Janis is actually a good person and they cared for him dog ." Other people did what Aaron did. They used to Dog Janis. "
What does this doghouse look like? Easy. Rodgers can not go wrong. "He makes no mistake, it's always the debt of the recipient."
He's overly sensitive.
This word is constantly displayed when you ask about Rodgers. Where should I start? "Sensitive is sensitive," Jennings begins what you want to hear, perceive what you want to perceive, nothing else.
By way of illustration, he points out his own broken relationship with the quarterback, because he is confident that he has done everything in his power to improve it. Rodgers has not, as he emphasizes, "from every side of the imagination.
When Jennings covered a Packers game as a member of the media, he tried to catch Rodgers's attention, but the quarterback refused to acknowledge him. Jennings talked to McCarthy. He talked to the coaches, he talked to anyone he could to have a man-to-man conversation, no cameras nearby, and he never looked back. Not that he was surprised.
This is the same quarterback who scolded him for daring to speak to Brett Favre when Favre was a Viking. He still remembers an angry Rodgers who said to him after the 2009 game, "Why do you have to do that? "as if he accused Jennings of choosing sides.
"I can not have any relationship with him because you have a problem with him?" Jennings says. I'm not that. "
So in 2013, there was Jennings, a Viking himself. He could say that Packers' recipients were afraid to greet only when Rodgers probably made their moves hyperanalytical from a distance. That's sad for him. It should not be like this. He sees the relationship that Brady has nurtured with Julian Edelman and all his recipients, and says, "Everyone wants that." These two spend time together outside the field and contribute what is important in the field. Brady builds bonds for life, and that can be the difference between division titles and super bowls.
Between Brady's Legacy and Rodgers Legacy.
Meanwhile, Jennings 'former friendships with Nelson and Randall Cobb, two of Rodgers' closest allies, have blown. Hell, there is no chance that the "Perfect Pack" group posing on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2011 would do so again.
In Rodgers World, a former friend says, "When you get out, you're out." He eliminates everything he finds negative. As you know, in 2014 his family and close friends were suddenly cut off. He said in December that he would celebrate his birthday with his "people," but sources close to the family say that this has led them to reconciliation. They do not have it, and those who have been eliminated still can not understand why.
"I do not know how someone changes completely," says one of them. "This whole flip? For no reason, I can not even understand how anyone does that."
Some people around the Packers are wondering if Rodgers is affected by this absence of the family, if his rejection of his psyche is detrimental. A former Packers man describes him as someone who is "truly in his emotions," who is not somehow sensitive – he is truly sensitive ". There are bad guys in the NFL, he assures, and Rodgers is not one of them. But he is different he says. Not in the way in which Brady is not overwhelmed with the profit. Just different".
It's as if Rodgers can not hear millions of people calling him a walking Hall of Famer.
As if Rodgers is still the child with the spiky hair that falls free on the day of the draft. 19659002] Every fraction of the negative press, everyone is considered by a teammate, a coach, anyone who "disturbs something of his heart" as low, says this source: "It hurts him. It's like 'dude. You are Aaron Rodgers . Relax. People are trying to crown you the biggest, and you've just won a Super Bowl. " Es ist so tief in seinem Kopf verankert – dass alle gegen mich sind – dass er das einfach nicht überwinden kann. "
Der Chip an Rodgers Schulter war immer eher ein Felsblock aus der Nullabteilung I bietet McCarthys 49ers die Wahl, sich für Smith zu entscheiden, und seine eigenen Fans, die ihn während der "Family Night" ausbuchen, als Brett Favre versuchte zurückzukehren. Als er älter wurde, brauchte Rodgers eine neue Treibstoffquelle, und dieser Treibstoff wurde zu seinem eigenen Trainer.
Auf eine verdrehte Weise ist diese Haltung auch Rodgers 'Geschenk. Teamkameraden pissen Trotzt seinem Trainer. Brennende Brücken fürs Leben. Dies können unbequeme Nebenwirkungen für den Attentäter sein, den Sie sonntags sehen.
Grant entlässt alles, was seine ehemaligen Teamkollegen sagen – "Mann, geh hier raus" – weil für ihn der Chip keine schlechte Sache ist. [19659002FeindseligkeitistaucheineWaffe
"Mit Aaron, seinem Chip auf seiner Schulter und seiner Sensibilität ist das eigentlich, was ihn großartig macht", sagt Grant. "Es ist Teil dessen, was ihn motiviert und wer er ist. Sie können es also nicht schlagen. Nur weil Sie es in eine Richtung mögen, bedeutet das nicht, dass Sie es in alle Richtungen mögen werden."
Mike Roemer / Associated Press
Ein anderes langjähriges Mitglied des Packers-Frontoffice stimmt zu und behauptet, Frustration, die Rodgers mit Janis empfand, ist wahrscheinlich, weil dieser Spieler nicht so arbeitet, wie Rodgers arbeitet. Denken Sie an Jordanien, Kobe und jede Legende. Sie sind alle so anspruchsvoll, dass Teamkollegen sie verachten. Fragen Sie Magic Johnsons Teamkollegen, was sie von ihm halten, sagt die Quelle. "Sie würden sagen: Dieser Kerl war ein Trottel!"
Mit dem Superstarakter kommt die Erkenntnis, dass alle Augen auf Sie gerichtet sind, um zu liefern.
Jordan umarmte es. Kobe auch.
Hier sehen Jennings und Finley einen starken Unterschied in Rodgers. Er ist nicht verantwortlich. "Er ist kein von Natur aus geborener Anführer", sagt Finley.
Nun steigt der Druck auf Rodgers wie nie zuvor, fügt Jennings hinzu, "ob er es will oder nicht."
"Nicht so sehr mit seinem Spiel, Weil wir wissen, dass sein Spiel seinesgleichen sucht ", sagt Jennings. "Aber wie kann er Beziehungen pflegen und mit einem Cheftrainer zusammenarbeiten, einem Spielmacher, der mehr auf seinen Teller bringt, um die Mannschaft zu verbessern? Nicht so sehr für Sie, statistisch gesehen, mit allen Ihre Zahlen. Sie werden Ihre Ehre bekommen. Aber jetzt werden wir Sie bitten, Ihr Ego zu unterdrücken. "
Fügt Finley hinzu:" A-Rod will seine. Er will essen. Er kümmert sich um seine Yards, seine Vollendungen. Er wird es schwer haben … Das ist wie ein Süchtiger. Sie sagen einem Süchtigen, er solle seine Wege ändern, wenn er so lange in seinen Wegen geblieben ist. Ich denke, es wird sehr hart werden, dachte ich er würde aus ihm herauswachsen können, aber s – t, du gibst einem Mann mehr Geld, es gibt mehr Haltung, mehr Diva-Ness … "
Seine Stimme versagt.
Nichts hat sich geändert . McCarthy konnte nichts dagegen tun, und vielleicht kann es niemand.
Nicht, dass McCarthy es nicht versuchte.
Quellen sagen, McCarthy begrüßte Rodgers in seinem Haus und empfahl ihm sogar, das Telefon zu nehmen, um ihn anzurufen Mutter. Aber Rodgers war kein Fan von McCarthys Storytelling – er zog es vor, bei den X und O's zu bleiben. Und auf den Rat der Familie sagte Rodgers McCarthy in so vielen Worten, er solle sich um seine eigenen Angelegenheiten kümmern. McCarthy forderte mehr von Rodgers "als Mann", sagt ein Ex-Freund, "und Aaron wollte es nicht hören. Er will nicht, dass er sich irrt."
Alles eiterte weiter, Probleme nie ging er weg, und aus irgendeinem Grund trat niemand ein.
Die kalte Front der Selbstzufriedenheit wehte jedes Mal durch den Nordosten von Wisconsin, als die Packers kurz vor einer weiteren Lombardi-Trophäe fielen.
Nachdem die Riesen diese 15- 1 Packers.
Nachdem Colin Kaepernick seine Verteidigung zackte (zweimal).
Nach dem Zusammenbruch von Seattle.
Nach einer Niederlage in NFC-Titelpartie in Atlanta.
Jedes Mal überwies der General Manager das Team from 2005 to 2017 did…nothing. Or close to nothing. That's what the ones banging the table for both Rodgers and McCarthy stress. They point to Ted Thompson sticking his head in the sand every offseason. To his ignoring the building tension between the two men he brought together to lead his franchise. And to how his stubborn reluctance to sign veterans, despite the rising salary cap, made life more difficult for both.
As one player put it, Thompson assumed the Packers system was automatic and he could just plug cheap rookies in.
In the process, the Packers lost the leaders that Rodgers and McCarthy never were, never would be, and they never found replacements.
Gone were gnarly, take-no-prisoners guards Josh Sitton (a Packer from 2008 to 2015) and T.J. Lang (2009-2016). Both were never afraid to speak their minds. Gone was fullback John Kuhn (2007-2015), who several players cite as a major vocal leader. Gone were all those receivers. Gone were defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (2006-2013) and defensive back Charles Woodson (2006-2012). Gone was defensive tackle B.J. Raji (2009-2015), who one player claims held everyone accountable on defense. Thompson lowballed Raji, choosing instead to pay big money to fire-breathing defensive tackle Mike Daniels. While Daniels has been hell-bent on trashing Green Bay's "soft" label, one teammate says guys are turned off by his "hypocritical leadership."
Thompson wanted the Packers to stay young. In the process, he gutted the team of its heart and soul.
It got so bad, one player says, that offensive and defensive players almost never hung out off the field. Camaraderie was shot.
"Guys really started feeling like, 'I can't get paid here,'" one player says. "How are you letting certain guys walk who proved themselves?"
The leadership exodus pushed Rodgers further and further into an ill-fitting role. He never had to worry about speaking up back in 2010 or 2011. He played football. That's what he prefers. Multiple sources say Rodgers misses those days, with one adding he's become worn down and bitter about everyone's expectations of the type of leader he should be. In other words, as a former Packers scout puts it, Rodgers "is Brett Favre 2.0. He used to say, 'Oh, I'll never be like that guy.' And he literally is."
Back in Grant's day, the Packers were armed with legit leaders at every position.
Those teams self-policed. McCarthy never had to intervene. Rodgers never had to speak up.
"The reason we did well was because we weren't looking for Aaron to be a phenomenal leader," Grant says. "He needed to be a phenomenal quarterback, because we were leaders. We handled our own position, and we weren't looking for someone else to be that guy, to be that leader. … It was, 'We've got this s–t.' When things got out of hand, we were like, 'What's wrong with y'all?' I don't know what this looks like now."
Chances are, Rodgers would be less apt to defy a coach with more vets in the room.
Players his age, who've seen it all, wouldn't put up with his antics.
"There's no one there to hold him accountable," Jennings says.
How Thompson failed to grasp this dynamic baffles people in the organization, although they also believe someone above Thompson should've stepped in because the GM's health was deteriorating. One personnel man recalls Thompson moving "really slow," with slurred speech, falling asleep during film sessions. "I'm like, 'This is the GM?'" Thompson was dealing with obvious physical issues, and Mark Murphy, the team president since 2007, didn't step in.
Morry Gash/Associated Press
Thompson kept on serving as the team's preeminent judge, jury and executioner.
Until, finally, he didn't.
After the 2017 season, Murphy replaced Thompson with Brian Gutekunst as GM.
In December, Murphy fired McCarthy.
There's no official "owner" in Green Bay—no one with a Jerry Jones-like heavy hand—but a decade after standing by Thompson, McCarthy and Rodgers when Favre tried to take his job back, Murphy is now wielding his power as de facto owner.
Only Rodgers is left now.
And Murphy made it clear that whatever happened last season cannot fly agai n.
A t its best, the Lambeau mystique during the Rodgers-McCarthy era looked like this: Rodgers fakes a handoff, Rodgers boots, Rodgers chucks it 60 yards to a wide-open receiver, beers are spilled, "Bang the drum" roars, Rodgers does a little skip with a defiant uppercut of a fist pump.
When the Lambeau Field mystique evaporates, when the Packers offense inches closer and closer to collapse, it erodes to this: McCarthy sends play in. Rodgers does not approve. Rodgers calls own play in the huddle and/or tells a receiver to change his route. Exasperated sighs and snarls are exchanged all around. Nobody in their right mind is thinking, "They can't stop us."
The Packers finish 6-9-1.
The Packers suffer back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1990 and 1991.
Whoever's fault it was, it got ugly in 2018. Real ugly.
After signing the richest contract in NFL history, Rodgers took more liberties than ever before the snap. A talent drain and McCarthy's stubbornness were undoubtedly major issues. But Rodgers also showed virtually zero trust in his three rookie receivers, J'Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. No. 1 wideout Davante Adams was targeted 169 times, one shy of Julio Jones' NFL high.
Rodgers had the leverage, and McCarthy knew it.
Maybe Rodgers had no choice but to railroad a rotting offense. Maybe Rodgers should have respected authority—after all, this offense helped him earn all that money.
Either way, he freelanced more than ever. One source with close ties to the team estimates Rodgers changed about a third of the plays McCarthy called. "An alarming amount. That is embarrassing. And they don't work!'" Realizing early on that his days in Green Bay were numbered, McCarthy would not rip Rodgers publicly. Not even as fans lambasted him for failing to feed dangerous running back Aaron Jones—while Rodgers simultaneously audibled out of runs.
That tendency to audible out of runs is just about the only issue Grant ever had with Rodgers as a teammate. That wasn't a problem in 2011. It was in 2018.
Life sure wasn't fun for those rookie receivers, either. On-the-fly route changes put them in a no-win situation. They didn't know whether to listen to their coaches or Rodgers.
A source close to the team says St. Brown became frustrated because as much as he wanted to follow McCarthy’s play design, he also heard rumors of Rodgers freezing out teammates if they didn't do exactly what he demanded. So he listened to Rodgers. On one play in New England, Rodgers told St. Brown to run a post route when the play called for a flag. St. Brown ran the post, and pressure forced Rodgers to throw the ball away toward the flag—leading his position coach to grill him on what he was thinking.
St. Brown told him he was "improvising" so he didn't upset Rodgers.
Knowing what was up, McCarthy told him to stick with the routes called.
"That's when it went off the rails," the source close to the team says. "This s–t was terrible. He f–ked McCarthy over. Aaron undermined him."
The A.I. was operating on its own. Nobody was going to rein this in.
"Of course, it comes to a head, and what does he want to do?" says a source who was once close to Rodgers. "He wants to cut him out of his life, just like he cut his family out."
Rodgers refused to take scheduled throws underneath, instead waiting for a deep shot that rarely materialized. The lack of experience did not help. These rookies simply did not have the thousands of reps Rodgers once had with Nelson and company, so he couldn't make subtle audibles play after play with them. In one red-zone drill in practice, St. Brown didn't pick up on a signal, and Rodgers lost it. No, he wasn't exactly giving these rookies a chance to grow, either. A source close to one of the team's skill-position starters says Rodgers was the one "sinking the ship" with zero interest in developing Valdes-Scantling, St. Brown or Moore.
The slightest mistake faded them out of his peripheral vision and sent him back to zeroing in on Adams.
"If they don't make plays, you can't just not go to them again," this source says. "You have to keep building trust in them."
Instead, he chose not to throw the ball to rookies open in one-on-one coverage. It's likely no coincidence Valdes-Scantling faded out of the offense down the stretch. He ran the routes as they were called from the sideline, and his targets declined. Rodgers would look his way, then pat, pat, pat the ball for something else to develop. Why? A source close to the team says Valdes-Scantling told him Rodgers just didn't like him. That he wasn't doing exactly what Rodgers asked him to do, so the quarterback started to freeze him out.
"Can you imagine Mike McCarthy trying to coach through all this s–t?" that source asks.
Paul Sancya/Associated Press
McCarthy had lost all control of the machine, basically conceded defeat and was fired.
The knee injury Rodgers suffered in Week 1 did not help. Jennings acknowledges that. But even if the expiration date on McCarthy's offense had passed, he believes this kind of insubordination cannot be ignored. He even hints at a tinge of strategy to Rodgers' cavalier ways.
"When something gets stale, you're not as motivated," Jennings says. "You're not as invested. Because even though you want to perform well, you're still out to prove, 'I told you so.' There's a fine line of saying, 'Was he purposely doing things?' or, 'Was it just McCarthy?' Because it had been so successful before, it's hard to just say it was all McCarthy and none of Aaron. …
"Is it enough for him to say, 'You know what, I'm going to have a record-breaking year that's eventually going to keep McCarthy for another year.' Is he willing to do that? I don't think so.
"Just because change happens doesn't mean the problem still doesn't exist."
Grant blames neither Rodgers or McCarthy but admits so many seasons with the same coach can turn that coach's voice into "white noise." Change was needed. The marriage was years beyond repair. From afar, Finley barely recognized the coach he loved Green Bay, the one who'd invite him into his office and snipe, "It's time to catch the f–king ball!" Finley loved that authenticity. His best games came after talks like that.
And last season, to him, McCarthy looked "fed up and washed up. Just tired, period."
For years, Rodgers built up a justifiable benefit of the doubt. Two MVPs, a Super Bowl title and ridiculous Hail Marys tend to make all of this drama, all of these headaches, worth it.
Now, it appears that benefit has been squashed. By Murphy.
Right before the Packers announced LaFleur as their new head coach, the source close to the team says Murphy called Rodgers to tell him who they were going with. He didn't ask for permission—he told him who the choice was. There was a brief pause on the other end of the phone before Rodgers eventually spoke. Murphy made it clear that Rodgers would need to accept coaching. "Don't be the problem," he told him. "Don't be the problem."
Whoever's to blame, Murphy does not want drama engulfing his team again.
The source close to the team says the president is "tired of the diva stuff."
Over the years, Rodgers has preferred to surround himself with "Yes men," multiple sources say. That's why many thought Murphy would hire a "Yes man" to be the next head coach. To keep the peace. One former personnel man in Green Bay insists Murphy should've gotten Rodgers' input and approval because, in his view, Rodgers is the one who makes the Packers relevant. Instead, Murphy made it clear to Rodgers that the organization was behind LaFleur.
The Packers' brass did not feel the need to get Rodgers' approval on whomever it hired. Murphy wanted a young coach who'd challenge the entire team, not just the quarterback.
Excitement's in the Lambeau air again. Gutekunst inked a trio of defensive starters in a matter of 24 hours: edge-rusher Za'Darius Smith, safety Adrian Amos and linebacker Preston Smith. He's the anti-Ted, determined to toughen up this soft defense. LaFleur is bound to be more creative than McCarthy. New offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is a Type A who'll push Rodgers. Luke Getsy, the new quarterbacks coach, is a straight shooter who's been in Green Bay before.
Only one question remains.
Will Aaron Rodgers be the problem?
Nobody outside of the state of Wisconsin is shedding a tear for the Packers. This is still a franchise that's enjoyed nothing but Hall of Fame quarterbacks since 1992. Pull up the highlights of Rodgers and McCarthy celebrating, not the ones of Rodgers and McCarthy fighting, Harris implores.
The ex-Packers back surely speaks for millions in saying this generation of Packers fans is spoiled.
Then he offers a warning.
"The Packers went through their terrible time of losing before," Harris says. "History can repeat itself."
There's some concern it could, some concern the Packers are becoming too corporate. One former team personnel man describes Ed Policy, the team's chief operating officer, as a quiet "puppet master" angling for more football power. He adds Policy "has way more clout than people think” and that everyone in power got drunk off the team's success over the years.
The business of the franchise has expanded tremendously with the new "Titletown District" across the street from Lambeau booming. Some in-house worry the business side of things could infiltrate actual football decisions. Even Grant heard it's not as family-friendly as it used to be in Green Bay.
Right now, Murphy's in charge, and he cares deeply about the product on the field.
Rodgers' game might reach a new stratosphere with LaFleur. The optimists see a coach who'll insert this combination of gifts—muzzleloader right arm, Houdini-like escapability, a QB Grand Maester intellectually—into an X's-and-O's equation that'll now spit out an endless stream of MVPs and Super Bowls as it should have all along.
After dismissing anything Jennings and Finley say—"F–k those guys"—one former c oach says Rodgers has matured an d dismisses the idea that he'd blow off anyone who can't match his IQ. He says Rodgers simply wants a coach "who isn't going to bulls–t him" and expects Getsy, who was in Green Bay from 2014 to 2017 and spent last year at Mississippi State, to be precisely that.
And isn't last season what McCarthy and the Packers basically signed up for from the jump? To him, you can't have it both ways.
"You give a guy a green light to do whatever he wants and then criticize him for it. Which one do you want?" the coach says. "Do you want him to be creative, or do you want him to be exactly what you tell him?"
Mike Roemer/Associated Press
This fine line will be central to anything LaFleur implements on offense. That's why Grant is more interested in what the offense looks like schematically than any wins and losses in 2019. This is a cerebral game now more than ever, and he knows Rodgers is frustrated that time is running out. Grant expects change to rejuvenate the quarterback.
And yet some do expect the 35-year-old player to railroad the 39-year-old first-time head coach.
"He already had a sense of entitlement, then you give him $200 million," Finley repeats. "Then you give him a young head coach. I think in Aaron Rodgers' heart, that's what he always wanted. He wanted to take control."
The challenge for LaFleur will be to strike a balance between showing confidence in himself and being a Tom Coughlin-like drill sergeant who Rodgers would tune out. Something like a "really, really hard cheerleader," one ex-personnel man in Green Bay says, chuckling, as though he's skeptical such a coach exists.
If LaFleur does strike that tricky balance and revitalizes Rodgers, Jennings thinks his old QB can enter the GOAT/Brady stratosphere. He's just not sure how willing Rodgers is when the quarterback's first public comments about the hire, at the NFL Honors, started off with the words, "A lot of change, in life in general, it's tough at first." That's all he needed to hear. To Jennings, that quote practically guaranteed how this will go down.
"I know how Aaron operates," Jennings says. "For him to make that statement, it already lets me know he's going to make it hard on a young Matt LaFleur."
To him, Rodgers doesn't need to sacrifice too much. It's as simple as what Brady did in the AFC title game, handing the ball off to backs 47 times to keep Patrick Mahomes off the field. LaFleur has already hinted at wanting to run the ball more.
Newfound humility would help the quarterback with five fewer rings.
"Now it's, OK, are you willing to swallow all the sense of entitlement? All your pride?" Jennings says. "You don't even have to swallow all of it. But are you willing to suppress most of it and say, 'You know what, whatever it takes, I'm willing to do'?"
With McCarthy gone, all eyes, all pressure, all scrutiny, will be directed toward Rodgers. It's on him to make that sacrifice, to work with others. After all, he brought the magic to Lambeau before.
He can do it again.
Even Jennings acknowledges that reality.
"Just as much as he is a part of the problem," Jennings says, "he's a big part of the solution."
Tyler Dunne covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TyDunne.