Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy once famously called Aaron Rodgers “a complicated fella” and he was quickly mocked for it, especially as the team was trying to make peace with their franchise quarterback.
As we await the Great Rodgers Decision of 2023, almost two years after Murphy made that remark, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Packers fan who didn’t at least slightly agree with what the Packers’ president said.
He is a complicated person and that’s not necessarily an insult.
On the field, he’s been a wizard. The highlights speak for themselves, and they can’t help but bring a smile to even the most jaded fan. Rodgers made jaw-dropping plays the norm in Green Bay and fans have been spoiled because of it. After 30 years of hall-of-fame play at the quarterback position, Packers fans are used to the extraordinary being ordinary but that’s the price that comes with being blessed with that length of quality play at football’s most important position.
From hail mary throws to playing 4D chess with coaches during personnel shifts to catch 12 men on the field, Rodgers has been an absolute joy to watch. If you did not get a chance to see him play in person, especially at Lambeau Field, you missed out. Watching Rodgers take a snap, roll out, and throw a ball with pinpoint accuracy with the Green Bay faithful sitting silently only to erupt when Jordy Nelson or Davante Adams hauled in the pass was a truly special experience.
Defending Rodgers the player is easy. He has been nothing but excellent even if a couple of seasons haven’t met our (and his) lofty expectations. His play makes you go “How?!” on a regular basis. There truly has never been a more precise thrower of the football than him.
This is all on the field.
Off the field is where things get a little fuzzy.
Before anyone sets the comments on fire, to be clear this has zero to do with his statements in recent years on astrology or retreats or panchakarma or ayahuasca. The man is a grown adult, and this is America. He can believe what he wants to believe. You may not understand it or even agree with it, but he has that right.
He’s also not been near the distraction that players who get into legal trouble are. Players who drink herbal tea, even hallucinogenic herbal tea, are much preferred to have in the locker room over guys who commit domestic abuse or sexual assault or other heinous acts. Rodgers has been an upstanding citizen by all accounts, even if he can be a little quirky.
The questionable part of Rodgers’ off-field behavior has been how he’s been speaking about his role on the team the past two or so years and especially his contract.
It hasn’t made the Packers better. In fact, it’s made them worse and he (along with the team themselves) deserves to be blamed.
First off, it should be noted Rodgers had the audacity to put Jordan Love through the same “will he or won’t he?” dance Favre put him through and it started in 2021.
When Rodgers finally showed up for training camp that summer, he famously aired his grievances over how he was shut out of personnel decisions. He cited other players (like Tom Brady) who had input on roster decisions and he felt that he deserved the same.
The Packers, perhaps terrified of a repeat of the Favre drama of 2008-2010, didn’t just give him input. They borderline gave him the keys to the car.
It started with acquiring old friend Randall Cobb shortly after Rodgers arrived for camp in the summer of 2021. It wasn’t clear how Cobb would directly help the Packers but it helped placate the quarterback and that was enough for them.
Then came last offseason and Rodgers’ feeling that he deserved to be paid like the top quarterback in the NFL. The Packers gave in and now have themselves boxed in with regards to the salary cap, even if they can somehow “kick the can” down the road in terms of a massive salary purge (aka rebuild). It also gave the Packers extremely limited resources in adding new talent.
That would come back to bite Green Bay (and Rodgers) when Davante Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders. Rodgers says he knew Adams leaving was very much a possibility when he signed his new contract but his contract still limited them in terms of adding veteran talent.
Instead, they were forced to rely on rookies and a veteran in Sammy Watkins who was released before the season even ended.
Rodgers’ frustration was on display for all to see and he had arguably the worst season of his career. His thumb injury played a role but the lack of talent and experience at pass-catching positions was on full display. The Packers finished 8-9, their worst record since 2018, and missed the playoffs.
When it comes to blame for the disappointing season, there’s plenty to go around and the quarterback deserves his share.
You need to look no further than players like Brady or Drew Brees in terms of legendary quarterbacks giving teams flexibility when it comes to their contracts and allowing their teams to spend to acquire needed talent. Rodgers didn’t do that. He drew a line in the sand and got his bag, which was his choice but it came at the expense of potentially ending his career with a dud.
So as we await Rodgers’ next move and what the Packers will do, it’s more than fair to weigh Rodgers’ career and legacy.
When it’s all said and done and time passes, he’ll be remembered fondly as he should be.
Yet, it’s also fair to look at the end and wonder if it could have ended on a much happier note. Even if he does come back one more time, does anyone really think the Packers can win a Super Bowl next year?
Not with the albatross that is that contract and in the end, that should be a part of his legacy too.
It’s not a complicated point, especially for such “a complicated fella.”