It's hard to watch the Green Bay Packers operate these last 15 months and not wonder what the hell they are doing. Their words and their deeds and their grievances and the petty way in which they are dealing with them all invite significant examination and scrutiny.
It's almost as if Mark Murphy and the powers that be at Lambeau Field would want you to get the false idea that it is their righteously-disgruntled first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback who is at fault for this mess; that Aaron Rodgers is in the wrong. It's almost like they feel as if somehow each silly statement and misstep is going to shift public opinion in their favor. It's like they keep doubling down on a losing bet, going out of their way to further alienate one of the most storied members of their iconic franchise precisely at the time when this already-sensitive situation is headed to its most delicate stage.
It's like they think their fans and "shareholders" are fools. It's like they can't help themselves, getting in their little shots and playing their little passive-aggressive games and providing fodder and fuel at a time when they should be showing grace and class, behind the scenes and in front of the camera. Is this some kind of game for Murphy? Is the Packers president and CEO enjoying this far too much? Fair questions to ask after the latest antics out of Green Bay.
We know this much, any idea that Murphy and Co. would somehow be taking the high road in this soap opera has long been expunged. Not possible, it seems. It's as if these suits whose ham-handed actions and tactless approach to the drafting of Jordan Love – that initiated this inevitable ugly exit by Rodgers – think they are some kind of victim. And in their haste to play that card Murphy continues to speak out of turn and make sophomoric comments that can only exacerbate this showdown.
Let me offer them some really simple advice. Shouldn't have to say it, but I guess I do: Keep his name out your mouth. Don't speak about him, or write about him, especially unprompted. The less you say and do in the public eye, the better. Have you been paying attention the last 15 years? Did the debacle with Brett Favre's exodus teach you nothing?
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What is the point of writing Q&A posts that aim to point to Rodgers as the villain who's seeking to divide the fanbase, as happened a few weeks ago? Is now the time to be jonesing to get your name into headlines? Really? And then last week, we get the coup de grace, the lowest blow of all. Murphy invokes words (almost certainly private) from late general manager Ted Thompson to try to further sully the All Pro, flippantly mentioning that the man who drafted Rodgers believed he was "a complicated fella." Poor taste and too cute by half and likely to backfire, harshly. The blowback was fast, and, as best I can tell, almost unanimous.
It says so much that those who should know Rodgers best continue to step in their own, eh, mud puddles shall we say. It speaks volumes about a management team who watched as Rodgers evolved, yet is less equipped to read him now than ever. They watched as he spent three years toiling under Favre to quickly emerge as a superstar himself when given the chance; all know he can be stubborn and mercurial and difficult and demanding, and this is how they persist. Feels like they are hellbent on further damaging whatever was left of their relationship with the player by continually displaying their lack of awareness and judgement.
Rodgers has played the game expertly behind the scenes, and can play the media-manipulation game as well as anyone. But even he couldn't concoct as pro-Rodgers a narrative as the one Murphy did for him. And for all the apparent sore feelings, Rodgers has been very careful with his words when speaking publicly about his holdout. He hasn't named names, or called names – as I reported months ago his venom is most towards Murphy and his right-hand man Russ Ball – but has intimated about the culture and philosophies in place, and the need to recognize the people who make things go there. And then Murphy does this, as if to prove the quarterback sage.
Seriously, what can he possibly think he gains from this? How does he think the locker room – a group already passionately behind their best player – will respond to this? If you are willing to create gossip headlines over Rodgers in the press, I wonder what they are saying about their backup tackles behind their back?
As to those who believe Murphy is playing 3D chess here, trying to alienate Rodgers to retire so the Packers can keep all of their money and protect their cap, please, stop it. You are giving them entirely too much credit and missing the point. Without Rodgers, they are a six-win team, at best. They will stink without him, just like they stunk horribly the last time he missed extended time due to injury. And that in the end is what fans care about, not any lame soundbite from June.
Don't let the hyperbole about Love completing passes against air at OTAs fool you into thinking this regime has any intention of letting him see the field this year; if they thought the kid was anywhere close to being ready, they'd have dealt Rodgers before the draft, or certainly by now. If they thought they had any chance to compete in 2021 without Rodgers, they'd have dealt him to get assets into camp who could in fact help them win this season. If Murphy's big 'ol grin when creating another ridiculous news cycle was sincere, and not more PR nonsense trying to win a battle for hearts and mind, then he'd have shipped Rodgers out and been done with this affair already.
If you think Murphy really has the steel stomach his quarterback possess, you are misguided. If you think Murphy is going to be able to cajole or coerce Rodgers to retire for good, you are giving him entirely too much credit. Let's see how much Murphy has to say to the media when his team is 1-4 while Rodgers enjoys life in California. Let's see how that plays in Wisconsin. Can't wait to read Murphy's monthly column on the team's website come October if Rodgers is sitting out. Rodgers should go on Pat McAfee's show every week and critique the Packers offense. How much do you think Murphy would have to say about that? Think he'd be smiling then?
Maybe next time he's riffing for the media, Murphy can quote Lindy Infante, because that is the type of winning percentage this team will have without Rodgers. It's all fun and games at OTAs, and it's easy to get caught up in the sound of your own voice when you are still months away from being exposed in the standings each week. But the way he's playing it, that's where this is headed.
Rodgers is not one to be trifled with. Childish rhetoric isn't going to make this situation any better. He can say more with a stare or a smirk than Murphy could in a 1,000 word blog post. And his silence – and absence – speaks volumes, and already has the Packers brass stammering and looking like their own worst enemies. And we haven't even really gotten started yet.