A few weeks ago, Aaron Rodgers finally came out of the darkness and eventually broke his silence. In an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers revealed that he has informed the Green Bay Packers of his desire to be traded to the New York Jets, and that, in his mind, “something changed” in terms of the Packers’ plans with him between the time that he went into his darkness retreat and when he came out.
Until Monday, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had not spoken publicly on the matter since Rodgers' reveal, but that changed at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. Speaking to a group of local reporters, Gutekunst gave a very different account of the situation, suggesting that the Packers were unable to contact Rodgers directly after he left the team facilities following the conclusion of the 2022 NFL season.
“As we got out of the offseason or after the season, we had a good conversation and were going to have some follow-up conversations,” Gutekunst told the media, including The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman. “Our inability to reach him or for him to respond in any way, I think at that point I had to do my job and kind of reach out, understanding that a trade could be possible, see who was interested.”
While Rodgers seemed to think that the Packers were actively shopping him while he was secluded, Gutekunst portrayed the team’s interactions with other teams around the league very differently. He added after the previous comments that “shopping wasn’t really part of that.”
Ultimately, Gutekunst’s portrayal of Rodgers suggests that the team actively wanted to discuss with the quarterback whether he might return, but he did not pick up the phone. “You come out of the season, you have a lot of conversations, not only with Aaron (but also) the rest of the team, coaches, and everybody. As you go through that process, you kind of get an idea of where you’re going to move to as a team, how you’re going to go forward. I think I was really looking forward to the conversations with Aaron to see how he fit into that.”
Instead of having those conversations, however, Gutekunst said that they did not take place, confirming that the team reached out “many times” to try to get in touch with the four-time MVP. “Those (discussions) never transpired, and there came a time where we kind of had to make some decisions, so we went through his representatives to kind of talk to him, where we were going with our team, and it was at that time that they informed us that he would like to be traded to the Jets.”
Rodgers has spoken repeatedly about wishing that the Packers would treat their veteran players better towards the end of their careers. If one takes Gutekunst’s comments at face value, the team appears to have made plenty of overtures to Rodgers in January and February while charting the team’s future course, but the quarterback was not interested in engaging in those conversations while his decision on his future was pending. Now, the two sides are clearly beyond any hope of a reunion, with the Jets and Packers left to hash out the details of how to get Rodgers to the Big Apple.
A final polite but coded comment from Gutekunst showed his displeasure with Rodgers spilling his side of the story publicly on a live-streamed Youtube show:
Brian Gutekunst on Aaron Rodgers: "Certainly whenever a player may have issues, you prefer that they talk to you directly and not do it in the media, but that's not necessarily the way he goes about it and that's OK."— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) March 27, 2023
In his recent McAfee appearance, Rodgers said that he “love(s) direct communication.” Surely, the Packers’ GM would love for that to be reciprocated from his soon-to-be ex-quarterback.