GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers disputed the notion that he and former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy couldn’t coexist and denied that team president Mark Murphy told him to not be the problem when the two discussed new coach Matt LaFleur.
Both assertions were made in a story published last week by Bleacher Report that detailed claims of organization-wide dysfunction.
Rodgers spoke to ESPN Milwaukee radio on Monday, the first day of the Packers’ offseason workouts, and called the story a “smear attack.”
“The thing is about the article, it’s — it’s not a mystery. 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,” Rodgers said. “What happens is the same tired media folks picking it up and talking about it. This just emphasized their opinion about me already. So it’s … the crazy thing is there’s super-slanted opinions in that piece stated as facts, and then there’s quote-unquote facts which are just outright lies.”
Rodgers said he felt the need to clear up a few things, including the idea that the Packers are “worried about me as the leader of the football team moving forward.”
“I want to say two things: One, if they knew that, why would they offer me a contract last year?” Rodgers said during the interview with former Packers tackle Mark Tauscher and radio host Jason Wilde. “And two, which goes into my second central thesis point that I’m going to take down, is if I really disliked Mike so much, why would I re-sign knowing that if I play well and we do what we do around here — we made the playoffs eight straight years, and then I got hurt and we missed the playoffs — it’s going to be me and Mike my entire career? So if I really disliked him that much, do you think I’d re-sign? Is the money that important to me? I’ll tell you it’s not. Quality of life is important.”
Rodgers’ relationship with McCarthy has been a topic of conversation for years, and it reopened in earnest last season after Rodgers ripped the game plan following a 22-0 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 — something Rodgers said he now regrets.
“Oh, man, I wish I hadn’t said anything after the Bills game last year,” Rodgers said on the radio show. “I wish I had just gotten with him in person. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to him, but I know how it came off. That’s what I told him when I met with him face to face.”
Although Rodgers didn’t deny the two had disagreements and that he was frustrated with McCarthy at times, he said he that didn’t get in the way.
“The beauty in our relationship was that it grew year after year, and we learned how to communicate with each other,” Rodgers said. “The beauty in our on-the-field relationship was that there was a ton of trust. 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. I know it might make it tough on a playcaller when I’m going in a no-huddle period or I’m going in a two-minute of knowing exactly what’s called, but that’s the trust that we had, and that’s why I appreciate getting to play for him for so many years.”
When asked if he liked McCarthy more as a person than as a coach, Rodgers said: “I love Mike McCarthy. 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 echoed what McCarthy said of their relationship when it came up during an interview last week with ESPN.
“When I think about my relationship with Aaron, you’re talking about 13 years,” McCarthy said. “That’s a very long time. It’s been a privilege to watch him grow in so many different ways and see him do so many great things on the field and off. To think you can be in a relationship that long and not have any frustrations, that’s unrealistic.
“As far as coaching him, I’d use a lot of words. He’s challenging, very rewarding and fun. We had a lot of fun. Some of my greatest one-on-one conversations, accomplishments, adjustments and adversity we fought through have been with Aaron.”
Last week, McCarthy told ESPN that one of the allegations in the story — that he skipped meetings to get massages in his office — was “absurd.”
Rodgers said in the radio interview that “I think we need to honor Mike and respect him the right way.”
“We had a hell of a run,” Rodgers said. “We had 13 years, four NFC championships, one Super Bowl, eight straight playoffs, 19 straight wins. So, instead of trashing this guy on the way out, let’s remember the amazing times that we had together. Packer fans, remember this, especially those of you who live in Green Bay: Mike lives here. Mike has young kids here. So Mike has to be here. Think about how difficult it is for him. My favor that I would ask of you, strongly, is if you see Mike, shake his hand. Tell him thanks for the memories. Tell him thanks for the coaching job that he did. Tell him how much you appreciate him being a part of what we built here.
“Things change from ’06 to ’18. We came off of a bad season in ’05, and we built something special and had sustained success, so instead of trashing this guy on the way out — last year was tough, no doubt about it — but let’s honor him and his legacy as the second-winningest coach in Packers history. If you see him, please, just show him the respect that he deserves. Not only does he have to live in Green Bay, he wants to. He loves it here. He’s going to be here. So, if you see him, do him that favor and show him the respect that he deserves.”
As for McCarthy’s replacement, Matt LaFleur, Rodgers said he talked with both general manager Brian Gutekunst and Murphy before LaFleur was offered the job. Gutekunst asked Rogers to call LaFleur, and then after that conversation, Murphy called Rodgers to discuss, Rodgers said.
“He said, ‘Hey I know you talked to Gutey already, we’re excited about Matt, there’s going to be some changes, but it’s going to be great, glad you feel good about it and excited about the future moving forward,'” Rodgers said. “I said, ‘Yeah, Mark, I know it’s been a good process, you guys interviewed a lot of guys, but I’m excited that you guys feel great about him, and I had a good conversation, and it’s going to be a great thing moving forward.'”