Rodgers makes an average of $22 million under the terms of his most recent contract, which he signed in 2013, with $54 million guaranteed. He has nine playoff victories and a Super Bowl ring. Smith has two and zero. Kirk Cousins, poised to make similarly outlandish money as a free agent, has yet to win a playoff game.
Rodgers is about to get paid, in other words, but first he’s going to make the Packers sweat by barely disguising his disdain for one of the team’s coaching moves this offseason. Appearing Thursday on ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo” program, Rogers didn’t sound all that thrilled that the team got rid of quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, who had been in that position since 2014. Van Pelt’s contract was up after this past season, and the Packers chose not to renew it. The Bengals snapped him up to perform the same role.
“My quarterback coach didn’t get retained,” Rodgers said Thursday. “I thought that was an interesting change — really without consulting me. There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterback coach. And that was an interesting decision.”
“My quarterback coach.” (Emphasis added.)
“Really without consulting me.”
“That was an interesting decision.”
There’s no reading between the lines here, because nearly every phrase in that response is dripping with intent: Rodgers clearly did not agree with the decision.
To be fair to the team, Packers Coach Mike McCarthy treated Van Pelt as he has treated other assistant coaches in the past, and Van Pelt has higher career aspirations than being a quarterbacks coach, longtime Packers reporter Jason Wilde noted:
Still, it was indeed an “interesting” move for a team that will have to break the bank to pay its franchise quarterback, even if he’s getting on in years (Rodgers turned 34 in December) and is coming off a second broken-collarbone injury.
Rodgers wasn’t done critiquing the team’s makeup. He was also asked how far the Packers are from playoff contention, after Green Bay missed the postseason for the first time since 2008.
“I’d say we’re not too far off. If you look at the final four teams that were in it, three of the four have dominating defenses, and the other one is the Patriots, which are often the most well-coached team in the NFL,” Rodgers said. “You’re looking at what Jacksonville did with their defense; what obviously Minnesota, what they do with their defense; and Philly was phenomenal. We need to get back to playing championship defense.”
Green Bay hasn’t done that since early in Rodgers’s career. For the second straight year, the Packers finished 20th in the NFL in defensive DVOA, a measure of efficiency. Their pass defense ranked 26th. Green Bay ranked 22nd in yards allowed per game, the seventh straight year under defensive coordinator Dom Capers that it finished outside the top 10. McCarthy had already acted before Rodgers spoke out, firing Capers and hiring former Browns coach Mike Pettine, who led some fairly strong defenses as the Jets’ coordinator from 2009 to 2012.
In any case, it’s hard to see Rodgers ending the productive portion of his career anywhere but Green Bay, which likely will pay him handsomely for the privilege. But Rodgers’s comments Thursday offered a glimpse into his relationship with McCarthy, which certainly appears to be at least a little strained.