The NFL Today on CBS is one of the top two or three Sunday morning pregame shows (see what I did there?), and as such, it tackles all the pertinent, interesting topics around the league just before the games kickoff.
Last Sunday, the show’s cast talked about Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose team lost its opener to the New Orleans Saints in blowout fashion.
And having the segment was smart because, after all, Rodgers had been newsworthy the entire offseason and remains so now that the season has begun. Plus, he remains one of the NFL’s best players and his performances — good or bad — demand attention.
But the segment devolved into something of a takedown of a great player and, yes, future Hall of Famer in a manner that bordered on mean-spirited and personal.
Here’s how it went:
James Brown: “Is there reason to be concerned about the reigning MVP?
Boomer Esiason: “You, know, let’s face it: He is a complicated, brilliant, unbelievable football player. And I kind of think he’s bored in Green Bay, to be honest with you. And I think today he’s going to have a bounce-back game against Detroit just because this is just in his background. Look, he’s got a man-bun this year. He’s found his inner peace in the offseason. Everything’s going to be fine in Green Bay, everybody just needs to relax.”
That’s as nice as it got.
Nate Burleson: “No, I don’t think it’s going to fine. He could come back tomorrow with another bad game. You know, how many times in the offseason, coach, have you said to your young players, ‘The offseason is important. I need you guys to show up, even when it’s voluntary.’ And Aaron Rodgers took the entire offseason — just call it what it is — making it about himself, sending a message, yes. And I don’t need notes and I don’t need to look at the camera and tell Aaron Rodgers how much I love him and appreciate him. I’ve been covering him for five years. I know how good he is. What he did this offseason is a direct result of why he played so bad. As far as relaxing and seeming like he’s bored, his disposition was bad on the sideline, too. He almost seemed like he was uninterested in what was going on. So for me, I think it all started in the offseason, and it all fell apart last week.”
Bill Cowher: “I think it all started when they drafted Jordan Love last year. And I think he played with a chip on his shoulder last year, which is fine. But then, all of sudden, he talks about where he’s at and maybe he should move on. He starts talking about other things and personnel moves. You know what, Aaron, he’s a quarterback, you’re a player, you play. The people in the front office will make decisions. Don’t worry about Jordan Love. To me, he’s now made it personal. He looks very selfish. He almost looks aloof. And I agree with you, I always say perception is reality. And you look at him on the sideline, and he looks like he doesn’t care. I know it’s no time to panic. Yes, I hear relax. And he’ll have a great game on Monday night. But show me you care. Show me it’s important to you. That the team is more important than who you are. And right now, I have not seen that.”
Phil Simms: “So many things you say are so true. Right now, I agree with this point: He wasn’t there the whole offseason. So he did no OTAs — organized, you know, team activities. He didn’t do that. He wasn’t there for minicamp, right? You didn’t play in the preseason. So how can you do it? And also, you’re in the locker room, it’s a distraction. Everybody comes up, ‘Hey, James I want to talk to you. What do you think about Aaron Rodgers?’ That’s all you hear, that’s all that was talked about. To make it short, the best thing that can happen to the Green Bay Packers, they went down, as we say in Kentucky, ‘They went down there and got whupped by the New Orleans Saints.’ And that will straighten them out and give them a chance to focus and play better.”
Esiason: “Sounds a lot like Brett Favre did a many years ago. Remember, he missed OTAs, and Aaron Rodgers took over.”
James Brown: “We still look at the QBs for leadership, and body language says a lot.”
And now Mando’s rebuttal, if I may:
I don’t care if the dude has a man-bun or a horn sticking out of his forehead, if he can play well. I’m pretty sure the hairstyle has nothing to do with his two-interception outing against New Orleans or the four-touchdown outing against Detroit.
Rodgers missing mandatory minicamp was indeed not good. Why? It’s mandatory.
But the rest of the offseason? Rodgers missing OTAs was not the “direct result” of him playing poorly in the opener — or vice versa, which should have been the way it was phrased.
Finally, the idea that a player of Rodgers’ caliber and standing within an organization should not get to voice an opinion about what goes on within the organization is very 1950s. Rodgers is in his 17th NFL season, and to believe he cannot be a resource that management should tap into for an opinion on the direction of the franchise is obtuse.
Bill Polian, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, would avail himself to opinions about the direction of the team from both Jim Kelly in Buffalo and Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.
Did he do what the players said every time? No.
Did he find out what the players thought every time? Absolutely.
Finally, body language does matter, especially from a team leader. But going there implies that you know what’s in a guy’s heart. And doing it off of one game, when a player has 192 NFL starts and 416 touchdowns passes to his credit, is a leap.