The Thread: In delaying the divorce, the Packers welcome all drama

Green Bay signed up for one more Super Bowl run even though Aaron Rodgers wants nothing to do with them. This may not end well.

He cares deeply about a good narrative. That’s no secret.

And what a narrative this can be. This all fits neatly into the autobiography he’ll script one day. This all, surely, adds to that chip permanently implanted onto his right shoulder. This is the grudge to top all grudges. Aaron Rodgers will play this 2021 season in Green Bay… in spite of his own bosses. And once this season wraps up — per the list of concessions (demands?) laid out by Adam Schefter — the Packers then must be open to trading the quarterback.

They have agreed to “review Rodgers’ situation” after the season. In other words, if Rodgers’ feelings are still hurt then, Green Bay will trade him.

There will also be “mechanisms” put into place to address Rodgers’ “issues” with the organization. Whatever that means. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler hinted that this could mean a public apology from the team, a theory once floated by a Rodgers surrogate.

The final year of his contract, 2023, is voided.

And then there’s a headline straight out of The Onion. Rodgers reportedly wants the team to trade for decomposing slot receiver Randall Cobb. Remarkable.

There are two ways to look at this all.

You could argue that Rodgers’ lost this power struggle, that he clearly wanted out and was unable to get his way. That’s fair. It’s not like he’ll take a knee every down, either. Rodgers plays well when he’s pissed off and the Packers know this. Maybe they’re able to squeeze one more MVP season out of him. The thinking here, however, is that this is an insanely weird arrangement, something like a husband and wife agreeing to get a divorce under the condition that they live together for another seven months. The Packers are kidding themselves if they think all problems will magically disappear. They appear A-OK with bending… and bending… and bending… to the QB’s will. With a chance to send a message and restore order by trading an insubordinate, they gave in.

Rodgers’ pal John Kuhn is working for now. Maybe he’s got 5-10 snaps in him still.

Jake Kumerow is kicking around as the Bills 12th wide receiver. Maybe the Bills can pry a first-rounder out of the Packers.

Where do Rodgers’ demands end? He was a bully all offseason — one passive-aggressive dig at a time — and we all know what happens when you don’t stand up to a bully. They do not stop. They continue to pants you in the high school hallway. With this agreement, the Packers have broadcasted to all of us that they’re OK getting pantsed if it means one more shot at a ring. Clearly, Rodgers wanted nothing to do with you as a franchise and, yet, you begged. You pleaded. You did everything in your power to cling to him for one last ride. Looking at this all strictly as a business decision — devoid of all drama — it still makes more sense to trade Rodgers sooner rather than later.

The Packers just passed on an unprecedented opportunity at getting absolute max return. If they would’ve dealt the disgruntled MVP before the 2020 draft, imagine the return they could’ve scored. San Francisco owned that No. 3 pick and would’ve gladly had a chat. Even after that opportunity passed, one NFL exec believed the Packers could’ve received a minimum two firsts, two seconds and two or three starters from a team.  

One more shot at a ring is not worth missing out on this haul. Nobody has a clue what the market will look like for Rodgers in 2022. He’ll be older. He’ll be more banged up. His trade value will never, ever be higher than it is right now.

Then, there’s all the other stuff. The drama. After making alllll that noise alllll offseason long, no, Rodgers will not morph into happy camper who lets bygones are bygones. This does not undo the selection of Jordan Love. Nothing changes the fact that Rodgers tried like hell to get his GM fired and/or force his way out by publicly humiliating the franchise. He’ll likely sit down with one of his pals in the media and claim this offseason was all a media creation. Smears. Clicks. BS. You know the drill. All along, Rodgers gave himself this plausible deniability when he was the one who manufactured this cluster-youknowwhat.

The Packers are still dealing with a combustible personality who doesn’t forgive, doesn’t forget and — most likely — wanted a one-way ticket out of Green Bay the second he landed in Green Bay last night.

The Packers, in other words, are opening their arms to more cluster-youknowwhat right on into this 2021 season.

Ignore Rodgers’ inevitably labeling Schefter and all in the media idiots. As one person once close to the QB puts, he’s always been someone who “pretends it all away,” who’s a master manipulator that refuses to tackle issues head-on.

And when one Packers vet was asked if this compromise erases all problems, he texted back instantly: “Not even close.” Even this player was shocked by Green Bay’s concessions and thought the Cobb report was a legitimate joke. A report that’s since been confirmed by the best beat writer covering the team.

There’s a reason multiple sportsbooks in Vegas were convinced that Rodgers was serious about retiring as late as Friday. Multiple sources reiterated to Go Long that the quarterback would’ve been willing to not play football in 2021. Over the weekend, the two sides hashed out “mutually-agreed upon terms” and convinced Rodgers to abandon his plans of skipping training camp.   

So, here we go. Hang on tight. It could get toxic.

One player, again, said Rodgers’ comparing GM Brian Gutekunst to ex-Bulls GM Jerry Krause only scratches the surface. Just a few days ago, the QB’s fiancé and fiancé’s mother shared the Stephen A. Smith video ripping the Packers. What happens once games actually begin? When the Packers lose a game? Or, God forbid, Matt LaFleur makes a decision the quarterback disagrees with? The entire world will justifiably be glued to every single interaction between QB and coach, QB and receiver, QB and GM, QB and president, etc… knowing full well that Rodgers does not want to be on the team.

The playoffs should be interesting. If Rodgers falls to 1-5 in the NFC Championship, how is blame spun? As noted by former NFL GM Doug Whaley on our podcast a few weeks back, it’s probably no coincidence that the world devoted months ‘n months of coverage to the unknown future of Rodgers instead of asking why Rodgers didn’t run in for a touchdown on that late third down vs. Tampa Bay.

So there he was on Jeopardy!, yucking it up with a contestant who took a shot at LaFleur’s field goal decision and the joke continued right on with Tom Brady.

And if this Cobb report is true, what a slap in the face that’d be to the likes of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and Amari Rodgers. No, MVS was not the problem at Lambeau Field against Tampa Bay. He’s one of the best deep threats in football.

Cobb is washed at this point. His time has passed.

This all sets up theater to the highest degree in 2021.

Rodgers feasts on the theater, too. He and Davante Adams, of course, simultaneously posted a picture of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen fist-bumping — a reference to the “Last Dance” documentary following the Bulls’ dynasty through their final title run together. Aside from the fact that those two won six rings together while Rodgers and Adams have yet to team up for one, the troll is now proof that Rodgers will have one foot out the door in 2021.

Hey, I get it. He’s talented. Really, really talented. A Hall of Famer. And as we’ve said here before, you do bend for talent… but this all feels five steps too far.

History will judge the Packers’ decision to hang on.

Oddly enough, on Sunday night, I caught up with one person who knows how Rodgers is wired — former Packers backup QB Seneca Wallace — to see if all of this retirement chatter was real. He sure believed it was. He could’ve seen Rodgers walking away or, at least, refusing to play this season because he’s a player who gets that dug in. And Wallace brings a unique perspective to this all, having spent a full decade in the NFL with five different teams. His final team, in 2013, was Green Bay. He lived in that sacred quarterback room every day with Rodgers.

Wallace echoed that this isn’t about the money for Rodgers — reports also indicate there’s no new money in this pact — and warned that trying to force this union for one more season would only make everything worse.

“The last thing you want is a relationship that’s already somewhat tarnished, and you try to bring it back into the building to try to fix it,” Wallace said. “It’s just an awkward situation. Especially if you’re talking about, ‘Hey, we’re going to have him for one year and then we’re going to move on.’ You’ve got to cut your ties.”

Wallace viewed Denver as a logical trading partner and believed at least 10 teams would do everything in their power to trade for Rodgers into training camp.

Teams suffer injuries. Teams lose faith in their starters. When the Vikings were in full panic mode, they traded a first and a fourth for Sam Freakin’ Bradford.

Green Bay isn’t ready to rip off that Band-Aid, apparently all in itself on one final “Last Dance”-like run. (Even Kuhn admits this is likely the QB’s last season.)

Maybe that’s worth it to fans. That shot at one more title. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

But to do that, to win a ring, Wallace is brutally honest. He believes Rodgers must be more accountable for his own play. To him, that decision to throw across his body instead of sacrificing himself at the goal line is a good place to start.

“They were one scramble away,” Wallace says. “Aaron has to look at himself in the mirror as well and say, hey, ‘Did I do enough? Could I have scrambled for 10 yards and just ran the ball in instead of throwing it?’”

Something’s missing when you’re this talented but fall short in the playoffs this many times.

One can only blame the defense so many times. He’s already gotten a coach fired, too.

While Wallace does believe that the Packers have lacked weapons the last six years, he also isn’t shy in critiquing Rodgers’ leadership style.

“Being with the guy, he is the most talented quarterback I’ve been around,” Wallace said. “He’s more talented than Tom Brady. He’s more talented than Drew Brees. He’s more talented than Russell Wilson. He can do everything. He can beat you in the pocket. He can beat you out. Is he going to run for a 60-yard touchdown? No. But he is more agile than you think. He can move. His feet are clean. He can get outside of the pocket. He can do the exact same thing outside the pocket that he does inside the pocket. But when you take a Tom Brady- or Drew Brees-type of guy, those are guys that are mainly in the pocket and going to beat you in the pocket. So he’s a dual threat.

“Now, when you talk about leadership and the things the Tom Bradys and the Drew Breeses and some of these other leaders bring, the Peyton Mannings of the world, that’s not really Aaron. He leads differently. He really does. He’s a different character. He’s not one of those guys that’ll do the little things that you think about as far as team-bonding’ish things. There are some things he would do when I was there. But there’s just certain levels to leadership.”

Everyone will spend all Tuesday debating who “won” and who “lost” this standoff. In reality, nobody won and nobody lost. Yet. Through gritted teeth, everyone reluctantly agreed to just stay together for one more year.

The Packers should know all risk involved. If anyone knows how petty, how petulant Rodgers can be day-to-day it’s the team president who told him not to be the problem two years ago. It’s a team that knows this is someone who had zero problem eliminating family and friends from his life.

Just because he’s still a Packers employee, these ultra-strong feelings won’t disappear.

Wallace saw this side of the QB, too. He called Rodgers a “different cat.”

“If he’s willing to do stuff with his family — where the relationships went south — then obviously what makes you think he wouldn’t do the same thing with the organization?” Wallace said. “With the Green Bay Packers? At the end of the day, if you’ve gotten in 16 years in the NFL, most guys are like, ‘Alright, boom. I’m done. I’m good.’ I can see if it was in those stages of Aaron still trying to prove something to people. And maybe he is. Maybe he still has something to prove. But it’s not like he’s in Year 6 or Year 7 or Year 8. You’re in 16.

“He’s a unique character. He’s a funny cat. From the time I spent around him, I wouldn’t sit there and bash the dude. I just always tell everybody — when they ask about Aaron Rodgers — I just say he’s different. He’s a Northern Cali-, Chico-type of guy if you know those type of guys.”

And that’s someone who believes in conspiracies. He remembers Rodgers looking up into the sky one practice, seeing a jet leave a dust trail and saying that was someone dumping stuff on everyone.

It’s someone who’s always “one move ahead of you.” He’ll always, always, always have a comeback locked ‘n loaded if you try him, Wallace says.

It’s someone who must be in control. Always.

He wasn’t able to take full control this offseason.

He couldn’t trade himself to another team.

Now, we see what happens next.

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Watson Watch

Let’s not pretend like there isn’t another story here. Ten criminal complaints are pending against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

He sure seems like a prime candidate for the commissioner’s exempt list but it’s been all crickets in the league office.

Still, when it comes to football, we saw a major development this past week. The Texans — finally — are willing to trade their star quarterback. They won’t get the haul they could’ve gotten before all of the allegations of sexual misconduct but the mere fact that they’re willing to move him means we can expect a trade. Watson’s private quarterbacks coach Quincy Avery, who joined our Happy Hour here, expects a trade to happen.

Where does Watson go? Back in February, we wrote why the Miami Dolphins make the most sense. They still have the draft capital and the prospects to put together a enticing package. Everything in South Florida hinges on the team’s belief in Tua Tagovailoa… is he a different Tua in 2021? He had an outstanding offseason with trainer Nick Hicks at PER4ORM. Miami added a slew of weapons — there’s speed everywhere. And he is now a full year removed from a catastrophic injury. If he looks like the same Tagovailoa early in training camp, though, the Dolphins absolutely have to consider bringing Watson in.

There is a lot that must still be solved off the field — a lot. But on it? Watson was arguably the best quarterback in the NFL last season.

Remember, too: Watson does have a no-trade clause in his contract so he has some control over his destination.

The other team at the top of Watson’s wish list was San Francisco which moved on with Trey Lance.

Denver has to be another possibility, too.

McDermott’s big test

Football will forever be a cross section of society. We all know people who have taken the vaccine and people who have not. It should come as no surprise that star players are choosing not to take it with a few being quite vocal about it. And no one’s let their opinions be known more than Cole Beasley.

The wide receiver even engaged in a back-and-forth with teammate Jerry Hughes for all to see on Twitter.

Here’s thinking the Bills and Beasley have to find a way to make this work. Releasing Beasley over this stance would be extreme considering he’s so important to Buffalo’s offense. Last season, he was the best slot receiver in the sport, catching 82 passes for 967 yards with four touchdowns. Folks acting like he’s some fringe player could not be more wrong.

So, let’s see what you’ve got Sean McDermott.

As Dion Dawkins explained in our Friday Feature last week, the Bills head coach lets players be themselves. He has fostered an environment — players say — that allows you to be you and the team is better for it. Somehow the team has to work with Beasley. If they’re interested in winning a Super Bowl, it’d be foolish to cut him loose.

Training camp begins today in Orchard Park, NY.

No Huddle

  • Love the Washington Football Team signing Jonathan Allen to a four-year, $72 million deal. The strength of that team is the defensive line. They needed to keep that unit together. Give me the grit in Washington and New York over the glam in Dallas.

  • You cannot keep Chris Hogan down! He’ll be playing well into the 2050s. The receiver who originally entered the NFL in 2011 as an undrafted free agent kicked around with the 49ers, Giants and Dolphins before spending four years in Buffalo, winning two rings with the Patriots and, most recently, joining the Premier Lacrosse League. He’s no Michael Thomas (who’s on the PUP list) but, now, the Saints need something out of this NFL survivor. Their passing game has to be a major concern.

  • We’ll dissect the Ravens’ offense more soon but I found this nugget in Peter King’s latest FMIA column interesting. King wrote that Jackson loves the team moving toward a “short shotgun.” The Ravens used the Pistol 44 percent of the time in 2020 with no other team using it more than 13 percent. By now moving the quarterback closer to the line, the Ravens hope everything speeds up.

  • The Bengals are smart not to play Joe Burrow in the preseason. He’s cleared for football activities, but why rush it? He is far too valuable. A franchise that hasn’t always dealt with their stars well is 100 percent correct to ease the former No. 1 pick back from his disastrous knee injury.

  • Vince Williams retired. The linebacker who took so much pride in playing a violent brand football, in making sure “Blitzburg” is alive and well took the team by surprise in walking away right before the start of training camp. No doubt, this was one of my favorite conversations so far at Go Long. He is a throwback in every way. His leadership won’t be easy to replace.

  • You’ve likely heard this stat but it bears repeating: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are returning all 22 starters. They’re the first Super Bowl winner to do that since 1979. It’s not easy to repeat but if anyone can keep a team hungry for more, it’s Tom Brady. Even with Rodgers back, Tampa Bay will be the favorite in the NFC.

  • Miss our chat with Chris Simms on the podcast? You can download the episode on Apple and here on Spotify here. Simms relived the moment he could’ve died on a football field with gripping detail.

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