The relationship between Aaron Rodgers and his new head coach was immediately ripe for scrutiny, and things are not off to a good start.
Into his 13th season as head coach, with a stale offense and his relationship with Aaron Rodgers clearly deteriorated, Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers had to part ways last December. Pairing a first-year head coach with a veteran quarterback like Rodgers felt like a bad idea, but that’s just what the Packers did.
Matt LaFleur came to Green Bay after one mediocre season as Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, and with the requisite tie to Sean McVay since he was offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams in 2017.
In May, Rodgers said he was looking forward to being able to put his stamp on Green Bay’s new offense. LaFleur countered in June, pointing to a system he picked up a decade ago that has never giving a quarterback complete freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage. With one season as an NFL play caller on his resume, since we know McVay calls the plays for the Rams, some adaptability to the situation in his first year as a head coach seems to be an order.
Leaving the audible ordeal aside, the Packers and Houston Texans held joint practices earlier this week. One Texans’ player was literally kicked off the field for being too overtly physical, and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was knocked down despite obviously wearing a red, non-contact jersey.
After the session on Tuesday, LaFleur said he “absolutely 100 percent” wanted to do joint practices again. Rodgers was on the complete other end of the spectrum, and called out one specific aspect of the practice sessions.
We bring a team in, I understand the point of it, but I don’t think doing live special teams drills are very smart,” “I think the [NFL Players Association] is going to look at that, for sure. Kickoff especially is one of the most dangerous plays in football and that’s why they’ve tweaked different things over the years to do — close to a live kickoff drill, I don’t think is the best use of inter-squad practices.
Rodgers pretty much blew the whistle on LaFleur there. Add the joint practice thing to the idea he won’t be allowed to audible, and Rodgers hasn’t had to work too hard to find conflict areas with his new head coach. And the Packers haven’t even played their first preseason game.
If this comes down to a battle of wills, Rodgers will win. LaFleur is not going to bench him for DeShone Kizer, and he’s not going to be traded (though it’s fun to imagine some scenarios). But if Rodgers’ performance starts to drop substantially this coming season, he’ll lose some power and ground may be broken on an eventual path out of Green Bay.