One of the people I most respect in the journalism field is Lowell Cohn. He once cautioned me about making opinions about people you haven’t met. It happens in sports columns all the time, the writer will refer to LeBron James, Aaron Judge or Stephen Curry as if they knew them.
I realized with his hard line fact based mentality, Cohn was not going to delve into an athlete's character without firsthand knowledge. Cohn held his responsibility to his readers with reverence and lived up to higher standards than I have yet achieved.
I don’t have any firsthand experience with Aaron Rodgers … although I kinda feel like I have. I have chronicled his career from Cal Berkeley to the Green Bay Packers to now. Yes, he is still with the Packers, but the relationship is akin to one being featured on Housewives of Beverly Hills.
The Cal campus is just over the hill from my office, and my brother and I took in some Cal games and Rodgers was special. So special, that in 2005 the Oakland Raiders traded up from the 26th to the 23rd pick in the first round to get in front of the Packers knowing both teams were in search of a quarterback. I was poised to post the Raiders pick when a different name was announced from the New York draft site.
Seemingly before the last syllable of the Raiders pick was read, the Green Bay Packers put in Aaron Rodgers with obvious jubilation in their draft headquarters.
Turns out the Raiders themselves were expecting Rodgers to be the pick, but Al Davis had one of his moments. I’d seen him show up with footage on some kid he was sure to be the next superstar.
“This could be the next Willie Brown,” Davis gushed while the coaches and personnel staff looked on in horror. This was where former player personnel director Ron Wolf would have the tact to reign Davis back on the paved path, but he was long gone and the men in the room that day were no match for Davis’ desires … as misguided as they were.
‘With the 23rd pick in the 2005 draft the Oakland Raiders select Fabian Washington, defensive back, Nebraska.’
And the celebration followed in Green Bay.
So, do I know Rodgers yet?
Never met him.
But I admired everything he did in the most difficult of transitions. Rodgers was following Brett Favre into Green Bay, and Favre was clearly the most popular man in the state. Farve didn’t make it any easier on Rodgers after mentoring him with his on-again and off-again retirement plans. Finally, the Packers front office, led by Ted Thompson, took a position in favor of Rodgers and Favre was off to finish his career with two more teams; the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings.
Rodgers rewarded the Packers confidence in him with more than a decade of excellence that includes winning Super Bowl XLV while earning the Most Valuable Player award. He has also been named league MVP three times, including last season.
He’s won a Super Bowl and followed up one Hall of Fame quarterback with another, and yet the Packers made two swipes at his legacy in the past couple years.
First, the Packers had been to the championship game the prior season and had a solid defense and with one added offensive weapon Rodgers saw his chance to win a second Super Bowl. Instead of adding a weapon for Rodgers, they used their first choice in the 2020 draft to select a quarterback out of Utah State, Jordan Love. The only offensive position on the field that is certain not to add to Rodgers’ arsenal would be a quarterback. With Love on the sideline, Rodgers did all he could to get the Packers over the hump, but he came up one offensive play short … maybe because he was one offensive player short.
In a move that has no defense for the coach, Matt LaFleur called for a field goal on fourth and goal from the eight-yard-line trailing by eight points with just over two-minutes remaining in the National Football Conference Championship Game. Even with the short field goal, the Packers would still require a touchdown to win. With a touchdown here, a two-point conversion knots the score at 31.
“It’s Aaron Fucking Rodgers,” I yelled at the television while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sidelined applauded LaFleur’s decision.
So, the organization and coach didn’t give Rodgers help with their first draft pick or the chance to tie the score from inside the ten-yard-line in a title game.
Of course, the two-time Most Valuable Player is going to bristle.
I still don’t know Rodgers by the standards adopted by Lowell Cohn, but from what I’ve seen and read I think the two punches from the Packers to Rodgers has left the quarterback a bit aloof.
To me, he seemed arrogant the other night and the kind of guy that one might call a dick after he leaves the room.
But, don’t listen to me, I’ve never met Aaron.
As for the Packers, you can scratch them from Super Bowl consideration.