Last week’s blistering Bleacher Report story on the Green Bay Packers painted a picture of dysfunction over the course of years in the locker room centered on former head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers ripped the report Monday in his first public response to the story, calling it a “smear attack” featuring “mostly irrelevant, bitter players” with agendas in an interview with ESPN Radio’s “Wilde and Tausch” hosted by former Packers tackle Mark Tauscher and radio personality Jason Wilde.
Report described disrespect, discord
Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne told a story of dissent between the two Packers power players that existed from Day 1 of their relationship, with Rodgers holding angst toward his former head coach after McCarthy’s 49ers bypassed Rodgers for Alex Smith in the NFL draft when he was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco.
According to the report, Rodgers regularly undermined McCarthy on the field and didn’t respect his head coach whom he believed had a “low football IQ.”
McCarthy comes across as incompetent and aloof in Rodgers’ eyes while Rodgers is described as overbearing and a difficult teammate lacking leadership qualities in the locker room, with anonymous and named Packers sources criticizing the Green Bay quarterback.
Rodgers disputes account of conversation with Murphy
After firing McCarthy during the season, the Packers eventually hired former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur as head coach, a decision that was made solely by team president Mark Murphy, according to the Bleacher Report exposé.
Murphy called Rodgers and told him about the hire made without consulting Rodgers, telling the quarterback “Don't be the problem,” according to the report.
Rodgers: ‘He made that crap up’
Rodgers slammed Dunne’s account of the conversation with Murphy in a snippet released by “Wilde and Tausch.”
— Wilde And Tausch (@WildeAndTausch) April 8, 2019
“It’s ridiculous,” Rodgers said. “It is 100 percent patently false. So it’s either he made that crap up, or what he would probably do as a writer is say this is my sources’ problem, they told me something.
“I talked to Mark last week. And I said, ‘Mark, did you tell somebody about the conversation?’ He goes, ‘That’s ridiculous.’ And I said, ‘Because that’s not what happened.’ ... We had a great conversation, like we always do. That’s just one point of that article amongst a number of highly questionable things. Not to mention unnamed sources. Put your name onto something.”
Rodgers rips former teammates
Two of the named Rodgers critics in the Bleacher report story were former teammates Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley.
Jennings, Rodgers’ top target at wide receiver for four seasons, told Dunne he felt betrayed by Rodgers in 2012 when he said that Rodgers suggested in a game against the San Francisco 49ers that Jennings leave in the offseason to play for them.
Jennings says he walked in free agency after that season with no support from Rodgers or his teammates to return. He left that offseason for the rival Minnesota Vikings.
Finley, Rodgers’ top tight-end target for more than four seasons, described the quarterback as entitled in the Bleacher Report story, telling Dunne he “needs to take a little more blame.”
When asked about Jennings and Finley by Wilde, Rodgers did not mince words.
“If it’s not an article about me, do you ever hear their names anywhere else?” Rodgers asked. “You talk about me being sensitive and petty. At what point do you move or top telling the same stories?”
Rodgers describes good relationship with McCarthy
Rodgers also discounted the discord reported between himself and McCarthy, describing a relationship that had its issues but was overall a strong one.
"I love Mike McCarthy,” Rodgers said. “He's a great man. He's got a huge heart. He really cares about his players, and he showed that to us. ... As far as a player to a coach, it's just two Alpha males who are hyper-competitive and love winning and are both a little stubborn. But, again, we talked through so many different issues over the years, and that made us a lot stronger."
Rodgers’ account of Packers’ play-calling
He specifically addressed the part of the report that described Rodgers as undermining McCarthy’s play-calling.
"The beauty in our on-the-field relationship was that there was a ton of trust,” Rodgers said. “When I read stuff like, 'I'd disrespect him by changing all these plays,' I had a lot of latitude. He knew that and I knew that. I called the two-minute, I'd call stretches of no-huddle offense.
“A lot of times, he'd send two plays in. 'Hey, do you like this or that?' That's what it grew. The trust level was really high.”
Rodgers also expressed regret over publicly criticizing the Packers’ game plan in a win over the Buffalo Bills last season, saying, “I wish I hadn't said anything after the Bills game last year.”
McCarthy ripped report last week
Rodgers isn’t the first person featured in the story to attack the reporting. One of the most talked-about aspects of the story is an account that McCarthy would skip offensive meetings during game weeks to get massages during a period where the head coach was “more and more checked out.
McCarthy challenged that account last week in an interview with NFL Network’s Tom Pellisero.
“I wouldn’t even know where to start and stop with the article,” McCarthy said. “But to say that I skipped a team meeting for a massage is utterly absurd.
“I have a massage scheduled tomorrow, and I can promise you I will not miss my primary responsibility of picking up my two kids from school.”
Reputations are at stake
Dunne’s account of what happened behind closed Packers doors and that of the players involved in the report are wildly differing, and legacies are at stake. As the story has put Rodgers and McCarthy’s relationship in a negative spotlight, Rodgers’ response is to discredit the report at its source.
“The thing is about the article, it's — it's not a mystery,” Rodgers said. “This was a smear attack by a writer looking to advance his career talking with mostly irrelevant, bitter players who all have an agenda whether they're advancing their own careers or just trying to stir old stuff up.”
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