The last time Aaron Rodgers was under this much scrutiny, he was in his first season as the Packers starting quarterback. That was 2008, and by the time it was over, Green Bay was a 6-10 outfit, ahead of only the winless Lions in the NFC North.
The 16 seasons prior to that the job had belonged to Brett Favre, and Favre's fanatical supporters were still smarting at how he was unceremoniously run out of town. Not only was Favre a future Hall of Famer, and responsible for bringing another Lombardi Trophy to Green Bay, but he was 13-3 in his final season.
Not surprisingly, Rodgers became the focus of their ire.
Of course, the former 2005 first-round pick has led the Packers to at least 10 wins in each of the four seasons since, including a Super Bowl title of his own in Feb. 2011.
Not surprisingly, Rodgers' detractors have disappeared. At least from outside the locker room.
On Thursday, another former teammate piped up. Donald Driver, who spent all 14 NFL seasons in Green Bay catching passes from both Favre and Rodgers, offered his thoughts what Jennings may have been referring to regarding Rodgers' leadership skills.
“We've always said that the quarterback is the one that needs to take the pressure off everyone else," Driver said Thursday during an appearance on "Mike and Mike" (via ESPN.com). "If a guy runs the wrong route, it's easy for the quarterback to say, ‘Hey, I told him to run that route' than for the guy to be like, ‘Well, I ran the wrong route.'
"Sometimes you ask Aaron to take the pressure off the guys so we won't look bad, but he didn't want to do that. He felt like if you did something bad, you do it. But I think that's the difference. You want that leadership, and I think sometimes you may not feel like you got it. You have to earn that respect at the end of the day, and I think that's what Greg was probably referring to.”
Put another way: It sounds like Rodgers wanted his wideouts to take responsibilities for their failures. (There are worse fates, by the way. Like, say, being on the receiving end of a Mark Sanchez medicine ball -- unless you're the defense, in which case there's a good chance a interception is in your future.) And you know who this reminds us of? Just about every other great quarterback to play this game. You think Tom Brady and Peyton Manning take off the kid gloves at the expense of the offense getting better?
Then again, we don't know the specifics Jennings' beef, something Driver admits.
“No one knows exactly what happened between those two," he said Thursday. "I didn't see anything during the season; I didn't see anything after the season. But you just never know, you never know what types of things happen between them.”
Ultimately, Driver calls Rodgers "a nice guy," adding, "I think that's what you have to respect."
"I played with him five years so I was able to experience everything he went through," Driver continued. "I saw when he first got drafted, he came in with a chip on his shoulder in that draft, and it shouldn't have been Alex Smith [taken No. 1 overall]. That's the way the guy is. I've always told Aaron, ‘Don't forget where you come from because the people are the ones who put you on that pedestal. You didn't put yourself there.' I think that's what we learning now. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, I think he's a great guy. I'm friends with Aaron.”
Actions, as they say, speak louder than words. Rodgers' record as the Packers' starter: 52-26. Over the last two seasons that includes almost 9,000 passing yards, a 68 percent completion rate, and throwing 84 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Greg Jennings, over that same time period, has 103 receptions for 1,315 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“People taking shots at me who aren't relevant to this team and to this locker room doesn't mean a whole lot to me," Rodgers told MMQB.com recently. "Those comments do wash over with me without a reaction, because they don't matter.”
Rodgers' teammates don't have to love everything about him, they just need to do their jobs. The winning will take care of itself.
Hey, listen up!
Got your attention? Good. So here's the deal: Eye on Football has a podcast (formerly known as the Pick-6 Podcast). It runs three times a week, and it features Will Brinson and me. For some reason, people like it (seriously, take a look at the iTunes comments -- we're as puzzled as you are, by the way). We want you to be one of those people.
RG3 still gets wedding gifts, even from Cowboys' fans
Good news: A Cowboys fan sent Robert Griffin III a wedding gift. Bad news: A Cowboys fan sent Robert Griffin III a wedding gift.
It's never too early to look to the 2014 NFL Draft
By all accounts, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the best player in college football. And in roughly nine months, he could be the first player taken in the draft.
So how good is he? NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah asked five NFL executives their thoughts on Clowney and all five agreed: He's the most impressive defensive prospect they've seen in the last decade. The praise ranged from "hands down" the best, to "a slight edge" over Mario Williams, the first-overall pick in 2006. Another said Clowney is No. 1 in a group of prospects that include Ndamukong Suh, Darrelle Revis, Von Miller and Williams.
A lot can change in the coming months but all else equal, this is great news for the Raiders, whom CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco has earning the No. 1 pick in next year's draft thanks to a 2-14 record. You could say the Raiders are, ahem, clowning for Clowney.
About that bag policy…
The NFL introduced its new bag policy this season. It's not going well.
Still can't wrap my brain around NFL bag policy. Never thought in US, adults would be asked to take see-thru bags to anything.— Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley) August 15, 2013
NFL did bag checks, pat downs, metal detectors. Only US place purses not allowed MT @Dudeschopshop don't need to make any easier for crazies— Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley) August 15, 2013
The passive-aggressive response, courtesy of Liz Matthews:
If I had to bring a clear bag into an NFL stadium instead of a purse, I'd fill it with the most awkward and embarrassing items ever.— Liz Mathews 710 ESPN (@Liz_Mathews) August 15, 2013
This isn't help, NFL:
...This is what happens when you don't force an offensive assistant to coach defense. Fired midway through the 2012 season as the Eagles' defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo is now the Ravens' running-game coordinator. And, turns out, he's really good at his job.
“I would say Juan is maybe the finest teacher of football in the National Football League,” coach John Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “He teaches the game as well as anybody you're ever going to see, and those guys – they like to work for him.”
...More from Aaron Rodgers (via MMQB)
On Ryan Braun: “The thing with Ryan was very tough, because he and I were very close friends, and he let me stick my neck out for him and wasn't honest with me. That's not something you can let just wash over you -- you have to sit with that and deal with that, and it's frustrating. I'm dealing with it.”
...We had no idea, but apparently, Brandon Weeden is in a competition for the Browns' starting quarterback job. If so (and left tackle Joe Thomas isn't convinced) it would make for the least compelling QB competition in NFL history.
“Brandon's taking all the first-team reps, so take it for what that is,” Thomas said via the Akron Beacon Journal. “I don't know. I'm not evaluating the quarterbacks. I think Jason [Campell]'s had a great camp, so I wouldn't necessarily say that they're not both playing well because they both are. So I don't know how you evaluate which quarterback is going to be the starter or not. But, I mean, I've got eyes just like everybody else does, and Brandon's taken all the first reps.”
"It's another preseason game, then again, it's not," he said.
...Doug Baldwin, philosopher:
NFL: Biggest pimps in the world— Doug Baldwin Jr (@DougBaldwinJr) August 15, 2013
* Thank you, jesus, Tom Brady returned to Thursday's practice.
Mark your calendars
Attention, masochists, Saturday at 7:30 pm ET, the magic happens: Blaine Gabbert vs. Mark Sanchez at MetLife Stadium.
So we're going to get an entire half of a football game of Gabbert vs. Sanchez! /plays circus music— Achy Breaky Ben (@BJammin84) August 15, 2013
Cue the Benny Hill theme song!