Aaron Rodgers has never been about other people, regardless of what his most recent ESPN interview has him saying otherwise.
For me, my clarity on Aaron Rodgers came from a single instance, and it had little to do with football. To be fair, I always “hated” what he did on the field in the sense that I disliked the way he dismantled the Bears, and I resented how Green Bay of all teams managed to land back-to-back Hall-of-Fame caliber quarterbacks. However, I tried to respect the player. Up until a certain point, that was easy.
Then, in 2013, Todd Sutton called out Aaron Rodgers for his support of his business partner Ryan Braun, and Rodgers (who has an enormous power edge in terms of platform for his comments) came back at Sutton. Instead of choosing the high road and ignoring the comment, he engaged with a fan and actually said he would bet the fan a year’s salary on the outcome. When Braun was affirmed guilty of PEDs, not only did Rodgers not honor the bet, he never even apologized to the fan. In short, he acted like a petulant bully who was more than content to use his financial and status-oriented power to push around someone who disagreed with him. He wasn’t even willing to own up when it turned out he was in the wrong.
I can’t respect that.
But I probably should not have been surprised.
Rodgers has since proven time and again that he chooses himself over others, and that he uses his position with little regard to those “beneath” him. Consider the reports that came from Greg Jennings and Donald Driver about the way Rodgers (rarely among quarterbacks) chose to apply the spotlight on his receivers’ failings instead of taking blame upon himself. It’s a small thing, but on most teams there is the notion that a team leader tries to share some of the blame, especially when he generally has the reputation and the accomplishments to do so with little to no risk. Is it theater? Yes. But it’s theater that shows respect to the other people in his organization. Rodgers didn’t do that. In fact, this is what Driver had to say about his attitude:
“We’ve always said that the quarterback is the one that needs to take the pressure off everyone else. 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.”
Of course, there’s more of that to be found. In 2019, with McCarthy’s departure, there were frequent reports of him making receivers choose between his instructions and those of the coaching staff. That seems awkward for the people in the situation, doesn’t it? This was after spending 2018 calling out his receivers publicly as “piss poor.” Sure, a little fire and honesty can be good leadership, but if he consistently uses his platform of power to call other people out for their mistakes, and if he puts those without the protection of power (in this case, his receivers) in a position where they are either vulnerable to either him or to the coaching staff, then he is being a bully—short and simple.
Now, supposedly, there’s a power struggle in Green Bay. I’m not surprised, and nobody else should be surprised.
He can and will probably get away with continuing to throw teammates and coaches under the bus (the man does have a phenomenal arm). He can and will probably continue to use his profile to push around those him disagree with or challenge him. He’s a generational talent. He is one of the most gifted at his position. But Aaron Rodgers has never been about people as part of a football organization. He’s always been about himself.