GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Watch quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ speech when he accepted the MVP award on Saturday night and you might conclude one thing about his future with the Green Bay Packers. Listen to what he said in his 11-minute news conference moments later when he walked off the NFL Honors stage and perhaps you have other ideas. Read the reports, including one by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that came out the morning of the Super Bowl, and you might be swayed to an entirely different direction.
The reality right now is this: Everyone is just reading the tea leaves. If anyone knows what Rodgers has planned for the 2022 season and beyond, it’s probably only him, and perhaps his “inner circle” as he called it on Saturday night.
Rodgers has said repeatedly he won’t take long to decide, and he offered the franchise-tag window (Feb. 22 to March 8) as a possible timeframe, given that it would tie into receiver Davante Adams’ future with the Packers – something that would seemingly be a prerequisite for Rodgers’ return.
While the Packers wait for Rodgers to decide, they’ve taken every opportunity to make it clear they want him back. And while it would seem obvious any team in their position would want the same thing, the Packers’ overtly public approach also says something else: They learned from the Brett Favre divorce in 2008, and they don’t want to lose in the court of public opinion like they did in that case.
Packers president Mark Murphy presided over the awkward Favre-to-Rodgers transition. General manager Brian Gutekunst was an area scout at the time, but he worked under then-GM Ted Thompson. Thompson and Murphy became Public Enemy Nos. 1a and 1b in the summer of 2008. A large portion of the fan base believed the Packers erred in not allowing Favre to return to the team after he unretired.
By making it abundantly clear they want Rodgers to finish his career with the Packers, they effectively shifted the burden to him. If he retires or decides to play for another team, the Packers now will be able to say they did everything they could to prevent it.
Would that sway public sentiment against Rodgers if he does leave? Only the fan base can answer that.
The vibe is different this year. From praising Murphy, Gutekunst and vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball to thanking “our incredible fan base” to saying it has been “an amazing 17 years” to acknowledging the issues he had with the team last offseason have been adequately addressed, Rodgers has made it known that he's not bitter or unhappy with the organization.
He now can walk away -- if that's what he chooses -- and say he also took the high road. One answer from his post-MVP news conference took care of that.
“I was obviously frustrated about some things in the offseason,” Rodgers said. “We had a ton of conversations, and I just felt like there was so much growth, and I’m so thankful for that. I’m thankful for the relationships -– with Brian as much as anybody because there was obviously some things that were voiced in the offseason, privately between him and myself, and I’m just thankful for the response. There was a lot of things that were done to make me feel really special and important to the present, the past and the future of the franchise. And I’ve got to say that Russ and Brian especially had a big hand in that. And it didn’t go unnoticed.”
None of this may impact whether or not Rodgers returns to the Packers, but until a decision is made, there might be more of this to come.