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It’s Pretty Absurd to Question Aaron Rodgers’ Leadership at This Point

I don’t usually like to attack other writers. You never know whether the muse will be kind or merciless. There are things you can do to nudge it in the write direction, but good luck with all that if it’s just not there. As such, there are periods in which you have nothing to write about or are unable to make your point lucidly when pen meets paper. Sometimes, columns just don’t come together. When this happens, there’s not too much you can do about it. You just have to chalk it up as an L, keep your head held high, and move on to the next one. Every once in awhile, though, something so absurd and/or intellectually dishonest comes along that it must be pointed out.

Like I said, I can empathize with bad. Insincere pageview trolling is an entirely different subject. Yesterday, Rob Reischel wrote a column in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel entitled, “Aaron Rodgers’ reputation as a leader took some hits this season.” Let’s go through this piece-by-piece:

Their season had been done approximately 14 hours. Aaron Rodgers, one of the leaders of the Green Bay Packers, sat alone at his locker, staring aimlessly around the room. Rodgers was asked if he’d talk about the season that just ended.

“Nope,” Rodgers said.

Instead, Rodgers began eavesdropping on an interview linebacker Desmond Bishop was conducting. After each question, Rodgers made a snide remark about the queries loud enough for anyone within earshot to hear.

“I can’t believe they’d ask that,” Rodgers said.

“Nice question,” he said another time.

Finally, doing his best Drew Rosenhaus, Rodgers bellowed, “Next question.”

Instead of preparing for the NFC Championship Game, Rodgers was now critiquing reporters.

This lede is completely worthless without proper context. We have no idea what questions the media were asking Desmond Bishop, but we are just supposed to assume they were ENLIGHTENING and that Rodgers was being a dick? I’m very sorry that Rodgers was, at this time, unwilling to provide canned quotes that Reischel could use to color in his preconceived agenda, but don’t know if I can blame him. Would you want to answer dumb questions from entitled reporters in the immediate aftermath of your professional shortcomings? “You lost that big account today, Ryan, can you give me any insight into how that feels or what you would do differently the next time?”

Rodgers does not owe the media any more access than the League mandates. Despite that, he graciously does an hour radio spot for ESPN Milwaukee every Tuesday during the season with Jason Wilde. On it, he’s funny, candid, and interesting. He displays an uncanny recall for individual plays – these can be from last week or go as far back as high school – and breaks them down meticulously to give common fans unique insight into what caused them to succeed or fail. Fans who are really interested in access to Rodgers can find it here. We don’t need two-sentence clippings that fit into newspaper narratives.

It’s this type of leadership that had some taking shots at the 2011 most valuable player this season.

This type of leadership – the type that makes it harder for ME to write MY story – must be why the Packers lost to the 49ers. Nevermind the fact that the Packers defense gave up 579 yards and enabled Colin Kaepernick to look like the third coming of Jesus.

Make no mistake about it: Rodgers is one of the NFL’s elite players. He had the league’s highest passer rating for a second straight season (108.0), was second in touchdown passes (39) and was as careful as ever with the ball, throwing just eight interceptions. Rodgers took 51 sacks during the regular season, more than any other NFL quarterback.

At just 29, though, Rodgers figures to be in his prime the next three or four years and should keep the Packers among the NFL’s top teams.

So he was able to persevere through a porous offensive line to perform at a truly elite level? Please tell me more about this poor leadership.

But is there a disconnect between Rodgers and some of his teammates?

While no Packers players have publicly criticized Rodgers, the signs began in September, when Blake Baratz – the agent for Packers tight end Jermichael Finley – took to Twitter to rip Rodgers.

“ARod is a great QB he isn’t a great leader,” Baratz tweeted. “There’s a major difference. Leaders take the blame & make every1 better. He doesn’t.”

Once again, there is no context provided. I can understand why Finley and Rodgers would not have had the best relationship at this point in the season. Finley had been struggling to hold onto the ball and had had far too many devastating series-killing drops. Rodgers had understandably grown frustrated, and had started throwing the ball in other directions. Finley was relegated to being a decoy. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and every other GLORY BOY leader would have done the exact same thing. The entire Packers organization was fed up with Finley at that point, and leaked a story to Bob McGinn that he was almost certainly gone.

What happened next? Oh, Finley and Rodgers rekindled their relationship and Finley’s production increased dramatically in the final part of the season? Interesting. Wouldn’t want THAT kind of leadership, would you?

In October, CBS’ Shannon Sharpe ripped Rodgers on the air. The Packers organization believed that the leak came from one of its own players.

“Aaron Rodgers . . . he strikes me as a guy that, it’s always someone else’s fault other than his own,” Sharpe said. “I’m not so sure, I’m not so sure, that deep down inside, how well his receiving corps really likes Aaron Rodgers.

“I tell you what else, just because you’re a great quarterback and an MVP quarterback that doesn’t make you a great person. There is a difference between the two.”

And Shannon Sharpe has his finger on the pulse of the Packers locker room…how? Why does a local writer need to quote a (generally disrespected) national pundit? Name one thing Shannon Sharpe has ever said that helped you learn about football or think about it differently. You can’t, and he’s been on TV for like 10 years. THESE STRAWS ARE OUT OF MY REACH AND I’M GRASPING.

Rodgers later called those comments “stupid” and “uninformed” on his weekly radio show.

Funny, I felt the exact same way. Oh, and how did Rodgers respond to this criticism on the field? Shhhhhh.

Then in December, Greg Jennings’ sister Valyncia took to Twitter and tore into Rodgers during the regular-season finale against Minnesota.

Among Valyncia’s stream of tweets was this zinger:

“ARod is the most overrated QB in the league! He is no where near Peyton or Brady! It sickens me, Peyton would avg. 5 TD with this squad!!!”

Again, I can understand why Greg Jennings would have been frustrated this season, but there is no context provided. Jennings struggled to overcome a nagging groin injury, came back too soon, and re-aggravated it. In a contract year. The offense didn’t really suffer in his absence and Randall Cobb usurped his role in the slot. I’m sure Jennings harbored resentment in all directions during these developments, but it’s really not something a rational person could use to attack Aaron Rodgers’ leadership.

In addition, Rodgers probably didn’t win any points from coach Mike McCarthy when he openly campaigned for Evan Dietrich-Smith to be his center and for Randall Cobb to stop playing special teams.

TRUE LEADERS KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT AND LET OTHERS DO THE LEADING.

The Packers run game improved substantially when EDS replaced The Guy Who Used To Be Jeff Saturday. Cobb injured his ankle Week 16 against the Titans when he was returning a punt. The injury occurred in the third quarter; the game had essentially been over since the first. Cobb had to miss the next week, a game in which the Packers lost and therefore had to play the 49ers on the road instead of at home. I’m not sure these are examples I’d use to make a point.

Rodgers also ripped the scout-team defense in early October after the Packers offense started the season slowly.

“For whatever reason, the rookies have not picked up what the practice tempo looks like or the importance of the scout-team looks as well as maybe it’s been in the past,” Rodgers said on his radio show at the time.

“There needs to be a level of professionalism that is current through the entire team from the veterans to the rookies that they kind of understand how each part of the day adds to the preparation.”

Three Packers defensive coaches later took issue with Rodgers’ opinion. And one national talk show host called Rodgers’ comments “a lame excuse.”

TRUE LEADERS TOLERATE LACKADAISICAL EFFORT IN PRACTICE.

Also, which national talk show host? This matters. If it was Dan Patrick or Scott Van Pelt, I might think about it for a second before disregarding it. If it was Jim Rome or some other blow hard, not so much.

A little more than a decade ago, Brett Favre was in the process of becoming larger than the Packers organization.

Green Bay must now do all it can to ensure that never happens with Rodgers.

As of right now, this comparison is unfair to make. From 1998-2007, Favre threw 193 interceptions. Two coaches were fired. During several offseasons, Favre held the franchise over a barrel wondering whether or not he’d back. (He was always coming back.) Thus far, we have not seen Rodgers display a level of hubris that comes near enough to that of Favre’s to even warrant mentioning.

One reason Rodgers may have slipped to the 24th-overall selection in the 2005 draft is he was perceived as a know-it-all by many scouts and executives. Rodgers did not display that early in his Packers career, trying to prove that he was the anti-Favre.

You know who I perceive to be know-it-alls? The scouts and executives of 23 organizations who passed on Aaron Rodgers. How many of them do you think would like to have that decision back? How many wouldn’t?

Rodgers certainly had games this year in which he did not play as well as he is capable. In the proper setting, he’d probably be the first to admit that. That being said, his play and his leadership had very little to do with why the team is no longer playing. If I were looking at ways the team can improve in the playoffs last season, everything to do with him is far down the list. Unfortunately, he can’t block, rush the passer, or kick.

No matter how dire the situation gets, Rodgers never gets rattled. His ability to extend plays and make passes that few, if any, others in the world could complete masked some team deficiencies the past two years. He is so brilliant that there are pockets where the rest of the team becomes complacent and waits for him to make plays.

I know that Rob Reischel is working with deadlines and word limits. He doesn’t have an easy job. If he were as accountable as he is asking Rodgers to be, he would take to a different forum — any number of which are available to him — to clarify contextual segments of his argument and admit that this column wasn’t his best work.


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