Sports Illustrated’s Kalyn Kahler went long on the simmering frustrations inside the Green Bay Packers, who are 4-6-1 and careening toward a second straight playoff-less season. There are lots of juicy morsels in there about the staid culture that was created under longtime former GM Ted Thompson, who moved into a consulting role this year. But the most savory bits involve the choice beef being cooked up by head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
McCarthy, like Rodgers, is an alpha male. When people familiar with the two were asked to describe their relationship, most say it is defined by tension. Until this year, it was a healthy tension that lifted both quarterback and coach. In 2018, something has been different.
McCarthy is the play caller, but because Rodgers is so intelligent and such a good improvisational player, the quarterback has the green light to change plays on the field as he see fit. He does, so often that it can be hard for McCarthy to get into a rhythm as the play caller. McCarthy might call the same play three times in a game, without the play actually being run as he called it. And if McCarthy calls a play that Rodgers doesn’t like early in the game, that can sour the mood for the rest of the game. Several sources familiar with the inner workings of the organization say that it devolved into a competition over who can call the better play, and both want the credit when things go right.
The questions about the coach-quarterback relationship have heated up with every Packers loss this season. Even after a win over Buffalo, Rodgers criticized the offense and blamed the game plan. “It was as bad as we’ve played on offense with that many yards in a long time,” he said. “There was no flow to the game… We were championship defensive level and non-playoff team offensive level today. That was not great, by any stretch of the imagination.” (Rodgers later clarified that he put most of the blame on himself rather than the coaching staff.)
That mini-controversy was nothing compared to what CBS cameras captured during a victory over the Bengals last season. After taking a sack late in the third quarter, Rodgers looked to the sideline. It didn’t take an expert lip-reader to decipher his message. “Stupid f***ing call!” And then again for good measure. “Stupid f***ing call!” The following week, when Rodgers walked into his individual meeting with McCarthy, the head coach had the broadcast clip pulled up on the screen, ready to review and discuss. Early in Rodgers’s career, McCarthy spent a lot of time coaching him to better control his body language when he was frustrated. That day, they had something of a refresher course.
“Aaron won’t be upset this story is being written and some of these frustrations are getting out there,” says a source close to Rodgers.
Saucy! Kahler’s story dovetails perfectly with fellow SI staffer Andy Benoit’s piece from earlier in the week. Benoit wrote an unconvincing defense of McCarthy that was built around some vague descriptions of formation usage and a single example of Rodgers failing to execute a play as it was designed. But Benoit’s broader point—that play calls have been getting disregarded or are simply poorly run—suggests exactly the kind of disharmony Kahler’s reporting winds up confirming. Her story is worth your time, and makes it sound like this partnership has to end sooner rather than later. Go read it here.