On Thursday, when news of Aaron Rodgers’ dissatisfaction with the Green Bay Packers came to the forefront of the NFL news cycle, few would have predicted that a lightly-used journeyman wide receiver out of the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater would become a prominent player. However, on Monday, Jake Kumerow’s name stepped into the fray as a key figure in the ongoing soap opera.
For some context, Kumerow signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2015, then spent the next three seasons bouncing around their practice squad. After a two-week stint on the New England Patriots’ practice squad in 2017 campaign, he landed with the Packers before week 17. Kumerow would go on to make the active roster in 2018, but was placed on injured reserve immediately after final cuts, returning for the final five games of that season. He then spent 2019 as the Packers’ fourth or fifth wide receiver and was in the running for a similar role in 2020 before being released at final cuts on September 5th.
In total, Kumerow played in 21 games for the Packers, catching 20 of his 32 targets for 322 yards and two touchdowns.
However, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Kumerow’s release served as a sort of last straw for Rodgers:
“Rodgers, I’m told, also wanted to be more involved in some of the personnel decisions. This is crazy, but it does seem that the one thing that drove Rodgers nuts was when the organization released Jake Kumerow just a day after (Rodgers) praised him publicly. Described as a little bit of a death knell in the relationship.”
As Rapoport mentioned, Rodgers praised Kumerow less than 48 hours before last year’s final cuts, which came a few months after the Packers moved up to select Jordan Love in the first round of the draft. Here’s a look at that praise:
Aaron Rodgers, Sept. 3, 2020: "Jake Kumerow has been such a solid performer for us the last couple of years. I love his reliability. I think he's a fantastic, steady player who's very heady on and off the field..."https://t.co/UCZciuqaR8— Jon Meerdink (@JonMeerdink) May 3, 2021
The Packers would keep five receivers after final cuts in 2020, with former 6th-round draft pick Equanimeous St. Brown and an undrafted Malik Taylor making the squad. Kumerow would go on to join the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad before earning a midseason elevation and catching his only target of the year for a 22-yard touchdown. He was later released and picked up on waivers by the New Orleans Saints late in the season, then released again and signed a futures contract to rejoin the Bills.
Meanwhile, St. Brown caught seven passes for 117 yards and a score over 12 games, while Taylor was active for all but one 2020 contest with five grabs, 66 yards, a touchdown, and a few reps on kickoff returns.
A few weeks into the season, Rodgers was asked about the Packers’ receiving corps and joked about the Kumerow situation, which in hindsight is a clear sign of his frustration about that particular transaction: “I do have a lot of trust about our top 3. I said what I said about Jake and he got released, so I’m not going to go too in depth.” Of course, Rodgers would go on to win his third NFL MVP award without Kumerow on the roster, helping the Packers to a second straight NFC Championship Game.
At best, Kumerow would have been the Packers’ fourth wide receiver in 2020. Had the receiving corps stayed healthy, that would have been a modest role at best with the Packers playing so much 12 and 21 personnel in Matt LaFleur’s offense. However, as a result of injuries to Allen Lazard and Davante Adams during the season, wide receivers outside the Packers’ top three (those two players plus Marquez Valdes-Scantling) totaled 541 snaps on offense over the course of the regular season: 196 for St. Brown, 166 for Taylor, and 139 for Darrius Shepherd, with a few others here and there. That suggests there would have been some opportunities for Kumerow to contribute in a meaningful way.
Regardless of the on-field impact of the decision, however, it clearly was a final straw for Rodgers, who evidently feels that his opinions are not being considered (or are not being considered enough) by the Packers’ front office. This strikes at a deep-seated issue that helps bring more clarity to the reasons for Rodgers’ frustrations with the team’s front office. At the same time, it seems surprising that a decision about a player buried deep on the depth chart would be the trigger for a chain reaction that results in Rodgers going nuclear on the organization months later.