We're Missing the Point on Why Aaron Rodgers Said What He Said
Just about every national outlet has picked up Aaron Rodgers’ “players play and coaches coach” comment and rushed to give their take.
The interview took place on April 6th during a Milwaukee morning show’s radiothon to benefit Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, a charity Rodgers supports. The fundraiser generated close to $100,000.
After listening to the interview in full, it’s worthwhile to examine the context of the comment Rodgers made in order to offer an assessment. Here's the transcript of those comments (lightly edited for clarity):
Interviewer: There have been some changes in Green Bay in the offseason. Jordy [Nelson] is now with the Oakland Raiders. You were not very happy about that move, or were you just a little unhappy? I don’t want to speak for you, obviously.
Aaron Rodgers: Well it’s a tough part of the business when you get close to guys and spend a lot of time with them. [Cell phone cuts out.] It’s tough when you get to know guys and you don’t get to finish up with them.
Interviewer: On draft night, where are you going to be?
Rodgers: I don’t know. I couldn’t even tell you when the draft is.
Interviewer: You’re not going to be perched on Mike McCarthy’s right shoulder helping him or telling him who you need on your side of the ball this year?
Rodgers: I think it's pretty clear that players play and coaches coach and personnel people make their decisions. That's the way they want it.
The interview didn’t hold up to the highest of journalistic standards
One thing that’s quite clear from listening to the interview (you can do so here) is that the intention of the conversation is just that – more of a conversation and less of an interview.
It’s unknown whether interviewers Bob Madden or Brian Nelson had spoken previously or privately with Rodgers about Nelson’s departure. Even if they had, to state that Rodgers was “not very happy” with the move even before Rodgers had spoken a single word is a leading question.
Rodgers is no stranger to feeling misquoted by the media. Following Brett Favre’s retirement in 2008, Rodgers was quoted in Sports Illustrated as saying that Packers fans "need to get on board (with him) now, or keep their mouths shut."
That quote followed Rodgers for most of his first season as starter and was misapplied to just about any circumstance it could be shoehorned into.
Rodgers hates being misquoted so much so that he told Dan Le Batard in a radio interview that he records all interviews he does with the media to protect himself.
We’re missing the point on why Rodgers is saying what he’s saying
To see the same thing happening again on the “players play, coaches coach” quote is instructive. Bob and Brian prompted that response from Rodgers with a very peculiar question – asking the quarterback if he was going to be “perched on Mike McCarthy’s right shoulder helping him.”
Rodgers’ comments, as I understood them in the context of the conversation, seemed to be more passive aggressive towards the interviewers and less about the Packers organization.
It also further justifies why Rodgers records his interviews. Seeing the quote on its own in a piece by Pro Football Talk or ESPN’s Jason Wilde can certainly draw a different conclusion than listening to the quote in its context.
It’s also worthwhile to note that David Dunn, Rodgers’ agent, has been meeting with Russ Ball and the Packers. The two sides are in negotiations right now on the quarterback’s contract extension. Rodgers and his agent can and should use interview opportunities as leverage to force the Packers’ hand.
The quarterback’s messaging this offseason has been crystal clear: the Packers organization is moving on from people I viewed as important to the success of the football team (Nelson and Van Pelt), and my value to you should increase as a result.