For all attentive to the Aaron Rodgers/Jordan Love saga (who isn’t?) I’d highly recommend this interview Rodgers did with his former teammate and buddy A.J. Hawk on “The HawkCast” podcast. It’s very insightful. Hawk recorded it three weeks ago, and it’s lengthy. What comes through strongly is the high regard Rodgers has for coach Matt LaFleur and his appreciation for the fateful draft drop in 2005 that landed him in Green Bay.
On LaFleur, Rodgers said: “He just cares about [football] so much. He loves the competition part of it. I’m just by nature a little more calm on game days. He’s definitely more amped up. So we’re a good balance for each other. He helps me get into the game mode. When s—’s getting a little bit dicey, I can kind of help him settle down a little bit. We’re a really good balance for each other.” He said he thought LaFleur, as a first-year head coach, “handled himself really well. It was all new for him. He’s doing everything for the first time.”
On falling to the 24th pick in the ’05 draft and going to Green Bay: “It’s the best thing that happened to me. I’m so glad. Who knows what would have happened if I’d gone one [to San Francisco], or three to Cleveland or five to Tampa Bay or eight to Arizona or 15 to New Orleans? Yeah, would have been a lot different. Or 23 to Oakland . . . I get it. I’m so fortunate, and appreciative the way it worked out. And also, I needed a little bit of that humility as well. That’s never a bad thing.”
Three weeks later, I asked Hawk what his friend might be thinking now.
“It does make me wonder now what their relationship will be like,” Hawk said of Rodgers and LaFleur. “I think Aaron’s relationship with Jordan Love will be great. Aaron will be open with him. I think the frustrating part for him, and for the organization, will be this story will not go away after the first press conference for Aaron when the team finally is back together. It’ll keep coming up—not just this year. It probably doesn’t help that [Rodgers and LaFleur] probably won’t be in the same room for a while.”
My take: I don’t think Rodgers should be miffed at LaFleur. I doubt LaFleur pushed for Love. The Green Bay chain of command is crystal clear. The general manager has draft and free-agent authority. The coach coaches the team. I’ve thought LaFleur, steeped in the timing-and-rhythm passing game, would want Rodgers to be more of a timing and rhythm quarterback, getting the ball out quick, instead of sometimes waiting and stringing a play along. Of course, that can be the genius of Rodgers too, waiting and waiting and then making a huge play. But I also don’t think that’s enough for LaFleur to want Rodgers gone.
Rodgers is a smart guy, and he knows this was probably a Brian Gutekunst pick. Will he think LaFleur should have argued against it and lobbied for a receiver instead? (Which he may have done.) Hawk’s right: The best thing for the Packers right now if for LaFleur and Rodgers to sit in the same room soon, or the same virtual room, and lay all cards on the table. They’ve talked. But have they said everything that needs to be said? If the Packers aren’t in the same place till, say, August, that’s a long time for feelings to harden. And if the Packers are serious about being more of a power team, as taking a 247-pound back in the second round and a tight end in the third might indicate, that’s something LaFleur and his quarterback need to discuss at length. Green Bay’s pass-run ratio last year was 59.8-40.2 percent. Going closer to 50-50 would be neutering one of the best passers in the game. All things that will make the Green Bay camp—if there’s going to be one—the most interesting in football to monitor this summer, or fall.