On Wednesday, Mike McCarthy gave his first interview since being fired by the Green Bay Packers. He told ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky that coaching Rodgers was challenging but fun.
He might have a different definition of fun than the rest of us.
Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne wrote a long piece detailing the friction between Rodgers and McCarthy, and according to the story the dysfunction went back further than anyone commonly knew.
It might have gone back to the day Rodgers was drafted, and the San Francisco 49ers — with McCarthy as their offensive coordinator — passing on him for Alex Smith.
Aaron Rodgers-Mike McCarthy friction went back a long way
Many elite athletes find motivation in being snubbed. Some invent slights. Michael Jordan became famous at this.
So the hyper-competitive Rodgers has apparently never let it go that he slipped in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft, while Smith went No. 1.
"Aaron's always had a chip on his shoulder with Mike," former Packers running back Ryan Grant told Dunne. "The guy who ended up becoming your coach passed on you when he had a chance.”
Coaches and players don’t need to get along. They need to work together though, and the working relationship seemed flawed at best. According to Dunne’s story, Rodgers had constant private complaints about McCarthy. Rodgers would call one confidant, Dunne said, to vent that McCarthy “didn't have a clue what he was doing.”
"Mike has a low football IQ, and that used to always bother Aaron," that source said. "He'd say Mike has one of the lowest IQs, if not the lowest IQ, of any coach he's ever had."
It still produced a lot of success. The Packers won a Super Bowl. They went 15-1 the season after. They regularly made the playoffs. They won a lot with a coach-quarterback relationship that one anonymous player called a “large cancer in the locker room.”
Rodgers reportedly would change McCarthy’s plays
Dunne’s story goes deep into the McCarthy-Rodgers relationship and the notion that the Packers should have won more than one Super Bowl. It paints Rodgers as entitled and sensitive, and McCarthy as a coach who didn’t change with the times, lived off past success, and was perhaps defeated by Rodgers doing things like changing his plays in the huddle. There was also a weird passage about McCarthy being missing from meetings about once a week, while he was “in his office getting a massage during those meetings.” In the story, one player even wondered if Rodgers started and spread that rumor, to give some perspective on how bad the Rodgers-McCarthy relationship became.
The story dives into Rodgers changing plays on his own. The great, famous throw to Jared Cook in the playoffs at the end of the 2016 season to beat the Cowboys was drawn up by Rodgers in the huddle, Dunne wrote. By the end, Dunne wrote that a Packers teammate estimated Rodgers changed about a third of the plays McCarthy called.
“Aaron undermined him," a source close to the team told Dunne.
Rodgers isn’t painted as a good teammate —"He's not a natural-born leader," said Jermichael Finley, a former Packers tight end who was harsh on Rodgers in Dunne’s story — and particularly tough on young receivers like Jeff Janis and Equanimeous St. Brown, who was said in Dunne’s story to be torn between running the plays the coach called and the ones Rodgers improvised.
The McCarthy-Rodgers relationship never boiled over into a big confrontation, Dunne wrote, but that “quiet tension defined this relationship.” It’s not so quiet anymore.
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