The stretch between the end of June and the beginning of training camps at the end of July is perhaps the longest month for any football fan.
Offseason workouts and minicamps have wrapped up and players are leaving for their summer break before training camps begin. There’s very little for fans to talk about aside from making some way-too-early prognostications about their team’s upcoming season and some early preparations for fantasy season.
The NFL of course has a huge audience and what will the sports media do when there is nothing of substance to discuss? Generate storylines.
Take the, ahem, “disagreement” between new Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers regarding Rodgers’ freedom at the line of scrimmage to audible out of plays he may not like.
If you were to believe the narrative playing out on the internet and particularly on social media, Rodgers and LaFleur have hit an impasse over the audible “debate” and the alleged issue could cause their relationship to sputter before it even gets too far off the ground.
This has set Packers Twitter ablaze with the mindset that the quarterback and coach aren’t seeing eye-to-eye and that the schism could potentially torpedo Green Bay’s 2019 season. The collapse of the relationship between Rodgers and former coach Mike McCarthy fell apart in the coach’s final seasons and the fear is the same issues could arise with a new coach who is only four years older than Rodgers.
If you were to actually read what Rodgers and LaFleur have said on the record instead of carefully selected quotes designed to generate clicks and social media buzz, you would realize that isn’t the case at all.
Rodgers said in Michael Silver’s recent story for NFL.com about a potential change in his abilities or freedom at the line of scrimmage that “I don’t think you want me to turn off 11 years. There’s stuff not many people in the league can do at the line.”
That’s been the quote largely circulated by NFL media and that has led to many people assuming Rodgers is rebuffing at least some of what LaFleur is trying to teach him. LaFleur’s offense revolves around more motion pre-snap and limits the time the quarterback has to make changes. This means Rodgers may not simply be able to do all the same things he did pre-snap that he did under McCarthy.
Some are taking this as Rodgers is rebelling and it just further paints the quarterback with a “coach killer” label that some have tried to apply to him since McCarthy was fired in December. Scroll down in Silver’s piece a little further and you’ll see that isn’t the case at all and Silver acknowledges it.
“This is not a mean-spirited staredown that will necessitate a clear winner emerging as its sole means of resolution,” Silver writes. This means both coach and quarterback are in the process of discovering a happy medium and working through some things. It’s something, and this might be breaking news to some, that every single new coach and quarterback do when they work together. It took a year for Jared Goff and Sean McVay to really gel. It took a year for Mike Sherman and Brett Favre to get on the same page in Green Bay. These things take time. Not everything is going to fire on all cylinders in year one.
LaFleur is not trying to shove his system down Rodgers’ throat nor is Rodgers drawing a line in the sand and refusing to adapt. To quote LaFleur from Silver’s piece on the “learning curve” ahead: “Like I always tell him, ‘Let’s make this our offense.’ And I think certainly I’ve got a philosophy of how we need to do things, but I’d be crazy not to listen to a guy that has got as much experience and has played at the level he’s played at.”
“Let’s make this OUR offense…” That totally sounds like a coach unwilling to bend from a scheme he’s run for a long time, right? You don’t see that quote circulated as much because it kills the narrative and debate some sites have decided to push in this situation.
As for the quarterback, Rodgers knows the offense LaFleur is installing works in the grand scheme of things and he isn’t looking to change the play just for the sake of changing a play. LaFleur knows Rodgers’ improvisation both before and after the snap are great and Rodgers knows what this offense can do.
The quarterback clearly understands he’s going to have to work within the framework of the offense but when the chips are down he won’t be afraid to take at least some command. Per Silver, Rodgers said, “(I won’t call) checks just to call checks. Look, you know the offense is great. And you scheme people up and you have formations and motions, and it should be fantastic. But if we need a little something, it’s ‘cause we need it.”
Any coach in their right mind would let Rodgers take command when the chips are down. His career to this point proves he comes up clutch more often than not. LaFleur will be no different.
Of course, that won’t stop some of the big names in sports media from further unnecessarily stirring the pot and blowing cherry picked quotes out of proportion, like this gem from Trey Wingo, one of ESPN’s main anchors.
This isn’t concrete proof that everything will be sunshine and rainbows between LaFleur and Rodgers. When the inevitable adversity hits this season, how will they both respond to the pressure being put on them both internally and externally? That will be the true measure of how well their relationship will work, not this nonsense being circulated more than a month before their first training camp together.
The Packers are about to embark on a new era. Until the games actually begin, think about the potential for what could go right instead of what could go wrong. Fans finally have gotten what they wanted in a new, innovative offense and Rodgers is undoubtedly fired up by all the shots he took during the offseason.
Super Bowls are not won and lost between the lines of an article or a tweet. They’re won on the field. Rodgers and LaFleur recognize this both by all accounts seem committed to making this thing work.
In the end, regardless of all the noise and hyperbole currently surrounding the quarterback and coach, that’s all that matters.