Aaron Rodgers has never been one to back down from a challenge. He famously fell to the 24th pick despite being viewed as one of the top quarterback prospects in his draft class. He then sat behind Brett Favre for three years before the Green Bay Packers finally handed him the keys to the franchise. The two-time NFL MVP has overcome injuries and constant personnel turnover to become one of the best quarterbacks of all time. But the former Super Bowl champion’s reign as the king of Green Bay has officially ended. Ironically, the person to knock him off his throne is none other than Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.
Aaron Rodgers has been the face of the Packers for over a decade
It’s truly incredible to think the Packers have had essentially two starting quarterbacks since 1992. That’s what happens when you plan for the future in the present. Green Bay may have shocked the NFL world by drafting Aaron Rodgers with Brett Favre still at the helm, but that decision has more than paid off in the last 15 years. Replacing a living legend is next to impossible, yet Rodgers managed to do just that.
Falling in the draft put a major chip on his shoulder. So did sitting on the bench for three years. But once Rodgers took over the starting job in 2008, he flourished. In just his third season, he led the Packers to their first Super Bowl title since Favre accomplished the feat in 1996. As one of the NFL’s premier arm talents, Rodgers has earned eight Pro Bowl selections and captivated fans with his ability to seemingly strike out of nowhere. However, he’s also missed time with significant injuries. In 2019, his 95.4 quarterback rating represented his lowest mark since 2015.
Matt LaFleur’s relationship with Rodgers
For more than a decade, Aaron Rodgers played under Mike McCarthy. To say the relationship ran its course would be a massive understatement. So last offseason, the Packers hired former Tennesee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to be their new head coach. With just a few years of experience as an OC under his belt, the move definitely seemed like a gamble by Green Bay. And considering LaFleur and Rodgers are only a few years apart in age, it naturally led to questions about who exactly would be running the Packers. It didn’t take long for trouble in paradise to arise.
According to John Breech, at the 2019 combine LaFleur told ESPN that, “We traditionally haven’t had a whole lot of audibles, per se, in our offense. Not to say that that’s going to be the way we’re going forward because, again, we’re going to build it our way. We try to give the quarterback as many tools as possible. There’s going to be a lot of play-calls where there’s two plays called.”
Rodgers fired back later on by telling NFL.com that, “I don’t think you want to ask me to turn off 11 years (of recognizing defenses). We have a number of check with me’s and line-of-scrimmage stuff. It’s just the other stuff that really not many people in this league can do.”
The audible topic generated plenty of buzz. And while the Packers did go 13-3 in the first year under LaFleur, Rodgers’ offense finished just 14th in scoring and dropped from 12th in yards in 2018 to 18th.
Packers head coach made ultimate power move by drafting Jordan Love
With a high-priced quarterback lacking a complete cast of weapons, the Packers inexplicably traded up to select raw quarterback prospect Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. The move rang eerily similar to how Rodgers himself joined the Packers as the long-term replacement to Favre. Passing over the opportunity to give Rodgers a premier weapon certainly seemed like a stark message from LaFleur. And according to longtime Packers reporter Bob McGinn, the Love pick represented a shift in power in Green Bay.
“Public niceties aside, my sense is LaFleur, fresh from a terrific 13-3 baptismal season, simply had enough of Rodgers’ act and wanted to change the narrative. With a first-round talent on the roster, the Packers would gain leverage with their imperial quarterback and his passive-aggressive style.”
If that’s truly the case, then Matt LaFleur just sent Aaron Rodgers one hell of a message that the Packers are now his team.
Will LaFleur trade Aaron Rodgers?
Though Rodgers’ massive dead money hits in 2020 and 2021 could be roadblocks to a trade, that could change quickly. After all, there aren’t many quarterbacks who flex their power as much as No. 12. Who’s to say that Aaron Rodgers won’t demand a trade after watching the Packers waste another first-round pick on a player who can’t help him?
LaFleur would have to convince the Packers to eat the money. That may be difficult, but dealing with a disgruntled star quarterback could be worse. Ultimately, this situation is far from over. But by drafting Jordan Love, Matt LaFleur just pulled the ultimate power move and toppled Aaron Rodgers off his Packers throne.