Accumulation of information is right, even if Adam Schefter’s explanation of his reporting is a bit wanting. The standoff between the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers didn’t happen overnight. In fact, this goes back years, well over a decade despite plenty of on-field prosperity for Rodgers and Green Bay including three MVPs, a Super Bowl win, and the most Conference Championship Game appearances in the NFC since he took over as the starter.
Here’s a look at the touchstone moments that created the current situation based on the reporting we have.
April 2005 — San Francisco 49ers take Alex Smith, Packers take Rodgers
Don’t laugh. This seminal moment not only forged the biggest chip of Rodgers’ career but provided him a cudgel over Mike McCarthy (then the 49ers’ offensive coordinator) for years, one he reportedly used relentlessly to tease him after he became the Packers’ head coach.
Rodgers has spoken often about what it would mean to him to retire as a Packer, to play his entire career with one team the way Kobe Bryant did, the way Tim Duncan did. Green Bay’s selection of Rodgers presented monumental risk from the incumbent quarterback, a factor ex-executive Andrew Brandt often references. That balance required a deft touch and the management of myriad egos.
January 2006 — Packers hire Mike McCarthy
Back in 2019, Ty Dunne described Rodgers’ antipathy for McCarthy as “the worst kept secret at 1265 Lombardi Avenue,” and former Packers running back said “Aaron’s always had a chip on his shoulder with Mike.” Said another player to Dunne, “That was a large cancer in the locker room. It wasn’t a secret.”
The Packers didn’t hire McCarthy to coach Rodgers; they hired him to coach Brett Favre, so it’s not as if the team had any requirement to placate Rodgers with this year, not to mention the franchise had no idea Rodgers was Rodgers yet. Still, this has to be mentioned.
April through July 2008 — Ted Thompson chooses Aaron Rodgers, trades Brett Favre
If we’re going to include grievances, we have to also include moments of support. The Packers, in clear terms, chose Rodgers over their own future Hall of Fame quarterback who had retired that offseason. That came months after the team lost at home in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl champions.
This belongs on the list for the symmetry alone, but the fact this team took Rodgers with profound risk and then stuck with him, when they could have brought back their beloved franchise face, speaks volumes.
From here, the early journey for the Packers with Rodgers features mostly peaks and few valleys. Green Bay made the playoffs in his second season as a starter and won the Super Bowl the following year. In 2011, Rodgers lit the world on fire with one of the all-time great seasons en route to an MVP.
In 2012, Dom Capers’ defense offered no resistance to Colin Kaepernick who set a playoff rushing record in a demolition of what was other wise a very good Packers team. It was already the third playoff loss of Rodgers’ young career where the defense allowed 37 or more. For some context, Tom Brady’s playoff defenses only ever allowed 37 or more twice in 45 career games. The Patriots lost both.
December 2013 — Rodgers asks for cover from team on toughness questions
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Rodgers insisted on calling his continued absence due to a broken collarbone an “organizational decision.”
“So why the emphasis on organizational decision by Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy on Friday to the point where McCarthy mentioned it eight or nine times by media count? That’s because Rodgers insisted vehemently on a message of organizational decision, sources said, with an emphasis that he is a tough guy,” Mort reported.
“One source says the quarterback’s sensitivity that his injury absence would be compared to Brett Favre’s reputation for toughness was a driving force behind McCarthy’s message, which created a palpable tension between the coach and the quarterback. And sources say McCarthy clearly understood Dr. Patrick McKenzie’s unwillingness to give Rodgers medical clearance and there was no real organizational decision about it. It was medical.”
March 2014 — Packers let James Jones walk
”I was assured, when my deal was up, that we were going to keep things in place,” Rodgers told Pam Oliver of signing his top weapons in September of 2013. “Signing those guys is going to be a top priority.”
For the team to subsequently let James Jones go functions as a clear breach of trust. Remember this is the same Jones who broke Rodgers’ contract extension in 2018 and someone who recently said he believed the Packers could work things out with Rodgers. He maintains a close relationship with Rodgers to this day.
Green Bay brought Jones back in 2015, but only after injuries ravaged the roster. This move doesn’t get referenced often, because Rodgers didn’t make cutting public comments about it afterward, but it’s worth mentioning here.
January 2015 — Packers lose 28-22 in NFC Championship Game after holding 19-7 lead
“It’s going to be a missed opportunity we’ll probably think about the rest of my career,” Rodgers said after the game.
“At times, we just weren’t playing, we weren’t playing as aggressive as we usually are,” Rodgers told the media after the game indirectly referencing two field goals inside the five-yard line. When asked to elaborate, he quickly replied, “No, I can’t.”
According to Dunne, “If Rodgers has a problem, he rarely chooses to address it,” including whatever issues stemmed from the play-calling in this game.
Sept. 2015 — “I desperately want to be coached”
After the heartbreaking loss in the NFC Championship Game, Rodgers told The MMQB how much he wanted to take coaching. It wouldn’t take much of a leap to view this as a shot at McCarthy, who helped mold Rodgers early in his career, but according to numerous reports their relationship soured and the attitude from the coaching staff turned much more laissez-faire.
If, as has been reported, Rodgers didn’t believe McCarthy to be on his level intellectually, then the full quote as intended was likely more along the lines of “I desperately want to be coached by someone who can actually teach me something,” with the implication being that guy wasn’t McCarthy.
It’s fair to wonder if the Packers had an owner, if Rodgers would have communicated this directly to him or her. If the above quote about his conflict aversion is true, though, nothing likely changes.
October 2016 — Packers convert Ty Montgomery to RB
Don’t underestimate this one. Before Gutekunst traded up for Amari Rodgers in the 2021 NFL Draft, Montgomery was the last receiver the Packers drafted in the top-100 way back in 2015. He showed flashes as a rookie with big-play potential and even in a modified role as running back/receiver hybrid, he produced in a major way with 805 scrimmage yards on 121 touches during the 2016 campaign.
This was a guy the Packers hoped to grow into a Randall Cobb-esque player, someone who excelled after the catch and who could play in the slot, in the backfield, or on the boundary. The Rodgers pick this month serves as a do-over, but what happens if they can leave Monty where he was and allow him to develop?
We may have avoided his ouster following a fumble vs. the Rams, a trade that The Ringer half-joked was because of Rodgers. Even if that was a half-joke, Rodgers was all the way pissed about it.
“Aaron was hot,” a Packers coach told Mike Silver. “And he had a right to be. He yelled, ‘Take a f------ knee!’ He was very, very mad.”
The one receiver they get in the top 100 over a 5-plus year span, and the Packers have to trade him. It’s a tough look.
November 2016 — Pre-“Run The Table” drama
Between lackluster play and passive-aggressive comments about the head coach, there was open speculation about how a down season would impact the Rodgers-McCarthy pairing with headlines like “Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy relationship inching closer to implosion.”
One of the all-time sliding doors for the Rodgers era comes from 2016: If they don’t run the table, does McCarthy survive that season? And if not, would they have done something like hiring Kyle Shanahan? Imagine that.
January 2018 — Packers let Alex Van Pelt leave
According to Dunne, part of the reason McCarthy allowed Van Pelt to pursue other options stemmed more of AVP’s close relationship with Rodgers, who subsequently went on an ESPN radio show and questioned the decision.
“I thought that was an interesting change, really without consulting me. There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterback coach, and that was an interesting decision.”
Per Rodgers’ side, McCarthy never consulted him about such a change. This is typifies the relationship the quarterback and team seem to have no matter who is running the show: the team makes a decision it doesn’t believe Rodgers need to be privy to, while the quarterback stews over a call he wasn’t allowed to have input in making, even if he didn’t voice the desire to be a part of said conversations (and we don’t know if he did or not, but presumably if he had said “Keep AVP” and they still didn’t, he would have said so).
January 2018 — Packers demote Ted Thompson, hire Brian Gutekunst, alter team structure
Mark Murphy consolidated power. Instead of the new GM running the show, both he and Russ Ball received promotions with Ball reporting into Murphy instead of Gutekunst, a kind of co-equal front office structure disjointing personnel decisions from the purse strings. Whether Rodgers had thoughts on Gutey’s hire, and there have been whispers he did, we have no reason to believe the team consulted Rodgers (or McCarthy for that matter) on the structure.
Ultimately it was Murphy who made the call to fire McCarthy later on that year — Gutey had no power to effect such a move — and the new hire would report to Murphy although the Packers president did hint eventually he would restore the old structure as appropriate. Both McCarthy and Rodgers had their issues with Thompson’s hands-off free agent approach.
March 2018 — Packers release Jordy Nelson
One of Rodgers’ best friends gets cut and, according to Jason Wilde, the front office did tell Rodgers of this move before it hit the newswires but only as a matter-of-fact heads up, not a back-and-forth on whether or not it was a move he’d approve.
Wilde suggests this amplified Rodgers’ frustrations with his lack of communication from the front office on these kinds of moves, which tracks with how Rodgers was feeling a few months later during contract negotiations with the franchise.
April 2018 — Rodgers frustration over personnel decision pre-2018 mega contract
The lede of this Charles Robinson story reads “Aaron Rodgers would like more inclusion when the Green Bay packers are making major personnel decisions that impact him.”
That’s three years before the current tension that includes issues with communication and a lack of input from the star quarterback. When Adam Schefter says his reporting was based on an “accumulation of information,” that information goes back a long way.
We have to include in this section that the Packers did, in fact, pay Rodgers a handsome sum that August, making him the highest paid player in league history. He’s still on that contract.
Nov. 2018 — SI piece comes out a week before McCarthy is fired
“Aaron won’t be upset this story is being written and some of these frustrations are getting out there,” a source close to Rodgers told Sports Illustrated.
In it, the story illustrated a front office reticent to make moves, a coach who has failed to evolve, and a franchise stuck in “byzantine” cultural times with no backward hats on the sidelines or individuality. That culture is something Matt LaFleur worked to undo when he joined the team a few months later.
Such that there was a power struggle between Rodgers and McCarthy, this was a TKO.
January 2019 — Packers hire Matt LaFleur and ‘Don’t be the problem’
Those were Mark Murphy’s words to Rodgers when he told the quarterback who the next head coach would be, according to Dunne’s reporting. By all accounts, the Packers did not consult Rodgers or include him individually in the process of selecting the head coach. They did meet with the leadership council as a whole, however, to talk about the team to get a handle on what the team needed and the kind of personality to target.
Murphy also reportedly grew “tired of the diva stuff” from Rodgers. Remember too, Rodgers liked a tweet suggesting the Packers should have hired Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, and LaFleur likely was not who QB1 would have chosen, even though that pairing has worked out well for the team.
June 2019 — The summer of the audible
“I don’t think you want to ask me to turn off 11 years (of recognizing defenses). We have a number of ‘check with me’s and line-of-scrimmage stuff. It’s just the other stuff that really not many people in this league can do,” Rodgers told reporters during his first minicamp with LaFleur, a clear signal he either believed his new head coach would not allow this, or to assure he would get freedom to accomplish it.
Whether it was ever actually much a story we don’t really know, but that line, the approach, and tone are consistent with how we’ve seen Rodgers handle these types of situations.
Ultimately, it appears he got that freedom, a fact LaFleur later said came down to finding a way to implement it within the confines of the offense. In short, he said, they had just never had someone like Rodgers run the offense, someone so capable of taking any player, adjusting that player’s job slightly in some unique way, and finding the best outcome.
January 2020 — Rodgers overrules LaFleur calls in NFC Championship Game
According to multiple sources, Rodgers ignored or changed Matt LaFleur’s play calls in the 2019 NFC Championship Game against the 49ers during the Packers’ second-half comeback attempt — and in the fourth quarter in particular. This went beyond the usual ‘check-with-me’s at the line to what was described as an “I got this,” attitude from the quarterback.
Dunne recently reported the details of it and APC sources confirmed it. It worked and there’s no indication from players or coaches based on available reporting anyone had a problem with it.
This is before the Jordan Love selection.
April 2020 — Jordan Love and four fingers of tequila
In an interview with NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt for Spotify, Rodgers admitted he thought the move up for Love would be for a receiver. Subsequent reporting suggests the Packers wanted to move up for Justin Jefferson, but the Vikings wouldn’t trade with them, and the team also coveted Brandon Aiyuk before the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan traded up for the Arizona State wideout. Either way, Love ended up as the pick and Rodgers said he wasn’t “thrilled” with it, adding he poured himself four fingers of tequila to cope with what he knew would be a bombardment of texts from people asking him about it.
Some will say they knew this was when it was over, including some reports Rodgers hinted to teammates as soon as last fall he would be somewhere else in 2021.
Sept. 2020 — Rodgers praises Jake Kumerow, who is cut the next day
Seriously. Ian Rapoport reported this as the “death knell” for the relationship between the Packers and Rodgers, with The Athletic’s Bob McGinn specifically citing Rodgers’ agent David Dunn as the source for this story.
Later on in the season, when asked about the Packers’ rumored attempts to add a receiving weapon at the trade deadline, Rodgers would deliver a shot at the front office disguised as an offhand joke. “We’ve had many conversations about this type of thing over the years. I truly understand my role. I’m not going to stump for anybody. Last time I stumped for a player, he ended up going to Buffalo.”
Jan. 2021 — The “beautiful mystery” and teary-eyed goodbyes
Even before the loss to the Buccaneers, Rodgers made public claims about the uncertainty of his situation on the team. The Wednesday before the NFC Championship Game, the soon-to-be three-time MVP said of his future, “I hope there’s more opportunities, but I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t. That stuff is out of my control. My future is a beautiful mystery I think.”
After the loss, to many observers, Rodgers treated his press conference as a goodbye of sorts, dropping more cryptic hints about his future.
“A lot of guys’ futures that are uncertain, myself included.” Rodgers told reporters. “That’s what’s sad about it most. Getting this far. Obviously there’s going to be an end to it at some point whether we make it past this one or not. Just the uncertainties is tough and the finality of it.”
It’s worth noting that a short time after making these comments, Rodgers went on Pat McAfee’s radio show and said he saw no reason why he wouldn’t be back with the Packers in 2021. If the reporting around this is true, and Rodgers was telling players as early as exit interviews to come follow him wherever he headed next, that stands in stark contrast to what Rodgers was saying publicly.
He even said of his contract, “There’s really not a story there.”
Feb. 2021 — Tom Brady wins the Super Bowl
This may seem like a weird one to put on here, but it fits perfectly with the timeline and MMQB’s Albert Breer previously suggested the Brady-Buccaneers partnership where Brady got to call the personnel shots reverberated around the league.
Sure, Tampa Bay might have won the Super Bowl with Scotty Miller taking all of Antonio Browns’ snaps and Cameron Brate playing for Rob Gronkowski, but that’s not the point. They never trade for Gronk without Brady, nor do they sign AB. In fact, to borrow a political trope, Bruce Arians opposed signing Brown before he supported it. Guess what changed?
Not only was this not how the Patriots operated while he was there, but it’s not how the Packers operate either. It’s no coincidence that three superstar quarterbacks have gotten into very public spats with their franchise over a lack of input all since Brady won his 7th title as a quarterback and first as a pseudo-assistant GM.
April 29, 2021 — The Adam Schefter bombshell
This was the moment when tensions that were simmering under the surface exploded into the national consciousness. The afternoon before the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Schefter reported that Rodgers had told people with the team he would not return over what amounted to irreconcilable differences. The team’s brass made multiple trips to meet with Rodgers and try to smooth over the acrimony but to apparently no avail.
Schefter later insisted there was no specific leak that led to his reporting this explosive news on draft night, a claim that defies belief and his own words in the original report. Regardless, the news got out there on Day 1 of the draft and the story blasted off from there.
Schefter said no trade request was made and Rapoport reported the two sides had been working on some kind of contract extension despite their differences. Rapoport later reported Rodgers would be willing to retire rather than play in Green Bay and would gladly host Jeopardy! instead.
May 2021 — Rodgers vs. GM zero sum standoff
As news of the standoff swirled, Charles Robinson reported a change in GM could be a way to help ameliorate a frustrated Rodgers. Though the report doesn’t say Rodgers specifically asked for such a move, and Brian Gutekunst for his part says Rodgers never said anything to him like that, that nugget suggests the rift between Rodgers and the team starts with his perception that the GM lacks faith in him and wanted to replace the three-time MVP with Love as soon as this offseason.
The same day this story came out, Rodgers demurred with Mike Tirico on the Kentucky Derby broadcast, declining to speak on camera and saying only that he loved Green Bay and the team and he was disappointed the news of his unhappiness leaked.
Since draft weekend, therehas been little reporting on the current situation between the two sides. Those closest to Rodgers in the media, including former players like James Jones, A.J. Hawk, and John Kuhn, suggest this is mendable. One of Rodgers’ closest confidants in the media, Jason Wilde, believes the same.
For now, that’s all we have is those beliefs, though Rapoport said the two sides have had “some engagement” on contract talks with the latest reporting putting the Packers offer as a top-of-market deal.
APC will update this timeline as necessary.