Packers leader Aaron Rodgers takes heat, and high ground
Kelly Hodgson, Packers contributor
Aaron Rodgers.Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will meet with the press in the next few days as he does every week, and once again he will likely be asked to weigh in on a former teammate’s comments.
The ink had barely dried on Greg Jennings’ Vikings contract when Rodgers' former teammate started, first with subtle jabs and then all -out attacks directed at Rodgers as well as the Packers organization.
Jennings seemed to use every opportunity to point out that "The Guy They Have Now" pales in comparison to his predecessor Brett Favre, that he lacks the necessary leadership to direct the team and, perhaps, is above reproach.
It’s easy to write off Jennings’ frequent barbs as nothing more than sour grapes, nothing more than the grumblings of a jilted ex-teammate.
But then fellow former wide receiver Donald Driver added to the chorus yesterday with his confusing comments directed at Rodgers during his interview on ESPN Radio’s "Mike and Mike Show."
Receivers don’t like being called out on their mistakes.
Driver went on the record saying that Rodgers was reluctant to take the heat when a receiver would miss a pass after running an incorrect route and was clearly not thrilled that Rodgers would point out those mistakes instead of taking blame for the missed passes.
"We’ve always said that the quarterback is the one that needs to take the pressure off everyone else," said Driver. "Sometimes you ask Aaron to take the pressure off the guys so we won’t look bad, but he didn’t want to do that. He felt like if you did something bad, you do it. But I think that’s the difference. You want that leadership, and I think sometimes you may not feel like you got it. You have to earn that respect at the end of the day, and I think that’s what Greg was probably referring to."
So Aaron Rodgers is a crummy leader for not taking the fall for teammate’s mistakes?
That doesn’t sound like leadership; that sounds like blowing sunshine where it isn’t warranted.
A good leader doesn’t necessarily give you want you want. A strong leader often needs to play the bad guy and provide you with what you need.
No one likes to get chewed out in front of peers, but no one improves in a vacuum when they think they are perfect and doing no wrong.
A team should never be a mutual adoration society. That doesn’t promote growth. It encourages stagnation and promotes mistakes.
That’s not to say Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a large ego. Chances are he likely does.
Yet that type of confidence — perhaps even arrogance — is at the very core of an effective QB.
The quarterback is called a field general for a reason. He commands respect, sets the tone for a team and pushes he peers to excel.
That job description is no different for the other 31 teams across the league.
For every quarterback, there are a handful of receivers with equally huge egos, each fighting tooth and nail for a piece of the spotlight.
Of course the QB is your best friend when you’re his favored target game after game. His back is also a convenient target for daggers when those passes start falling into other receivers’ hands. It’s no different than siblings squabbling for a mother’s attention.
Teams need strong leadership. Look no farther than Minnesota or Chicago for examples of teams where the quarterback does not command respect or control of the team. Then ask yourself how many championships these teams have won in the past twenty years.
That’s not to say leaders never make mistakes.
Aaron Rodgers is still taking heat for a handful of ill-advised and inflammatory Tweets he made a year ago defending his then-friend Ryan Braun.
Many have used arrogance and ego as terms to describe that type of behavior - hardly the behavior one would expect for a top tier quarterback.
Yet a good leader learns from his mistakes. Outbursts like that are often tempered with age, experience and maturity, and it seems that Rodgers has learned from those mistakes.
Last year he lashed out at critics on social media in those Tweets, but the Aaron Rodgers we’ve seen this year hasn’t taken the bait when it comes to disgruntled ex-teammates.
Sure, it would be easy to sink to Jennings’ level and sling mud toward Minnesota, but Rodgers has decided to absorb the blows, quietly remove the daggers from his back, and keep his focus forward and not in the past.
He isn’t letting attacks rattle him, and he told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, “Those comments wash over me without reaction, because they don’t matter.
And with that, Rodgers answers his critics and demonstrates a leadership that others have questioned.
He’s focused on the inner workings of his locker room, not who used to inhabit it. At the end of the season, name-calling and barbs don’t win championships, and he knows it.
Aaron Rodgers chose to direct his energy and effort elsewhere. He’s tuning the distractions out and has decided to quietly lead by example. Perhaps the most powerful thing a leader can do is remain silent in the face of unnecessary distraction.
Ignore the noise and keep your eye on the prize. Define your future and don’t linger in the past.
Strong advice from the "leader of the Pack."