The Packers could win another Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers, but they cannot win their confrontation with him. That’s because no one really wins these kinds of matches. As soon as you are in it, you have lost.
The Packers-Rodgers dispute has been simmering for a year and began to simmer two weeks ago, when ESPN reported that Rodgers wants to get out of Green Bay, and yet the situation is still viewed through the wrong lens.
It is not that one side is right and the other is wrong. It’s soccer, not tort law or a talk show. This is also not a zero-sum game, where one side can beat the other. The advantage of the Packers is that Rodgers is under contract, and if they just refuse to trade him, he has to play for them or retire. But having a miserable star quarterback is not winning. And if Rodgers retires, the Packers lose the league MVP for nothing. When your leverage is also your worst case scenario, you have a problem.
“Fluid organizations have consistency in ownership, front office, training and franchise quarterback,” says agent Leigh Steinberg, who has represented as many star quarterbacks as any other agent. “This is a group that works together over time. A shrewd organization that values its quarterback will value his knowledge of all aspects of the organization. That does not mean absolute ability to make those decisions. It means entrance “.
Steinberg was speaking in general, not specifically about the Packers. But what he said applies to them. Trading draft quarterback Jordan Love in the first round without even telling Rodgers was indefensible. And if Rodgers isn’t satisfied with his contract, he’s also a Packers failure. They have the most precious asset in the sport: a franchise quarterback. Rodgers was the league’s MVP. Keep paying him like this. Be proactive about it. Big franchises don’t fight their franchise quarterback. I don’t agree, sure. But don’t fight. Not that way.
Steinberg saw Russell Wilson’s media tour this winter, when the Seahawks quarterback pushed for offensive personnel and strategies that were more to his liking. Steinberg says: “When I followed the Russell Wilson scenario that seemed to unfold publicly, I was confused, because I would have thought that Russell Wilson would have already had those powers.”
Steinberg has worked for All-Pro quarterbacks since before free agency began in 1992; his firm currently represents Patrick Mahomes. He has seen wages rise and players gain power. But while a popular opinion is that players can now influence decisions more than in the past, Steinberg argues that they could forever influence a large franchise, because those franchises wanted to be influenced.
“A canny executive would see the quarterback as the most essential source of feedback on all of those issues, whether it’s the team’s personnel, the plays, the possible additions in free agency,” Steinberg says. “We used to have meetings with Troy Aikman, myself and [Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones to talk about the season and what happened. We used to have those discussions with Steve Young and [team president] Carmen’s policy on the 49ers “.
It could be argued that the Packers provided Rodgers with enough talent, whether it was consulted or not. But consulting it is an essential part of the process. A quarterback needs to rely on everything from the general manager to the play and the running ability of the inside receiver; Even if the GM is smart, the call is correct, and the receiver is accurate, the confidence must still be there. That trust was broken.
Aaron Rodgers wants out. Packers are only to blame
Still, Rodgers is probably losing too. Sure, Green Bay used a first-round pick from a player (Love) who can’t help a healthy Rodgers win games. But if they trade him, his new team would have to give up several first-round picks just to get it. He would also have to adapt to a different scheme, a different coach, and a new set of teammates. Of course he could. But the best scenario is the one Rodgers wanted all along: staying in one place, with a smart, aggressive organization that involves him.
By listening to Rodgers, the Packers would also benefit. He’d be more inclined to draft players in free agency, and a happy Rodgers is a talent magnet. You could also convert part of your salary into a signing bonus as requested, pushing part of your salary cap into the future. Everyone wins when everyone works together to win.
There’s been a lot of discussion this offseason about quarterbacks using leverage like basketball stars do, but there are fundamental differences between the NFL and the NBA that limit an individual’s power. It’s impossible for a player to build a super team in soccer – winning teams need too many good players, and it’s not feasible to deliver a full roster in an offseason. Free agency is more difficult to achieve (due to franchise etiquette) and doing so carries greater risk, because players have to decline guaranteed money in a high-risk sport. Free agency is also fundamentally less attractive in soccer than it is in basketball, because changing teams is more difficult. Kevin Durant and LeBron James were going to be superstars no matter where they played, but even a great quarterback like Rodgers needs an outline and complementary pieces to suit him. As Steinberg says, “soccer is the most systemic game there is.”
Tom Brady made it to free agency and chose wisely. So did Peyton Manning. Kirk Cousins used free agency to join a better organization and get paid beyond his worth, very good for him. But quarterbacks are generally better off like Brady in New England or Manning in Indianapolis, working in concert with a strong organization to compete each year.
A quarterback could theoretically sign a new one-year contract every year, essentially challenging the organization to bow to him. But it probably sounds better than it would work in practice. It would rob front office of the certainty of building around a specific player, and in Rodgers’ cases, it would have made Love’s selection more likely and defensible, because the Packers would have had to prepare for life after Rodgers.
This is a fluid situation, with several possible conclusions. Rodgers could end up back in Green Bay, with another team or in the Danger! place; the Packers could start with Rodgers or Love. Speculation is fun but also a bit sad. The only place Rodgers and the Packers shouldn’t be is where they are now.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.