When Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed a record-breaking contract extension with over $100 million guaranteed last offseason, people questioned if the two-time NFL MVP was really worth it. Yet, when head coach Mike McCarthy was fired last season, nobody said too much and many thought it was the right move at the time. There are always two sides to every story, but the relationship between the star player and his coach was worse than perhaps anyone really thought.
What most people know is this: Since McCarthy was hired by Green Bay in 2006 — the year after the franchise selected Rodgers No. 24 overall in the 2005 NFL Draft to eventually replace Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre — the two accomplished quite a bit. The Packers won a lot of football games, Rodgers won two MVPs and made it seven Pro Bowls, and the franchise won Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Little did anyone know what was going on behind the scenes.
Thanks to a fascinating Bleacher Report story titled "What Happened in Green Bay," we now know things between Rodgers and McCarthy were downright terrible and even cancerous. As former running back Ryan Grant put it, "Aaron's always had a chip on his shoulder with Mike."
Several former Green Bay Packers players spoke to BR's Tyler Dunne for the story, including Grant, wide receiver Greg Jennings, tight end Jermichael Finley, and few more anonymous ex-Packers. The stories and opinions, well, they were wild.
The stories range from Rodgers being upset that McCarthy drafted Alex Smith for the San Francisco 49ers over him in 2005. They included play calls in crucial losses against the Seattle Seahawks to attitude problems in team meetings to Rodgers saying McCarthy has a low football IQ. It continued with the front office not retaining people close to Rodgers like quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt (now with the Cincinnati Bengals) and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown becoming frustrated and conflicted. The story really details the toxic relationship inside and outside of the Lambeau Field lines.
Naturally, when a story like this comes out, especially after McCarthy was fired last year, sports analysts everywhere are quick to debate it. You can count ESPN's Marcus Spears as one of them.
Spears, a consensus All-American for the LSU Tigers former first-round draft pick who played for the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens, went on ESPN's "Get Up!" with Mike Greenberg to let his voice be heard.
While many have pretty mixed opinions about Mike McCarthy, Spears went after Aaron Rodgers and called him "toxic."
"Aaron Rodgers is toxic. If it wasn't for his talent level, we would probably have a different view and conversation about Aaron Rodgers. When former players come out and talk about a player.... When you've went to war with a guy, for you to come out talk of him ill and speak negatively of him, he's done some things that you've seen that has created the ability for you to go out and express that."
— ESPN NFL Analyst Marcus Spears
That's some rather harsh criticism, but also a fair point. When you have a quarterback making $100 million, people are going to get jealous. When your former Packers teammates talk smack about you, there was likely a problem.
Look, it's hard to find a better quarterback in the National Football League than Aaron Rodgers, the former college standout from California. Sure, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has more Super Bowl rings, but the Green Bay signal caller has the top passer rating in NFL history.
Nobody is perfect. That includes Aaron Rodgers. But as he begins to build a relationship with former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator and new Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleuer, all eyes — from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in-between — will be on Rodgers to make sure this situation is much better than the last than with his former coach.
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