Never mind that NFL training camps are still weeks from opening. The brand spankin’ new relationship between Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur, the Green Bay Packers’ first-year coach, is already offering up questions and debate about just how the new dynamic will work.
For Brett Favre, it’s pretty simple. It isn’t a matter of how Rodgers will adjust. This is on LaFleur’s shoulders.
“Aaron will be fine,” the Hall of Fame quarterback said Saturday (via the Journal Sentinel) at the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison, Wis. “I think that the thing is he needs to remain the same. And I don’t have to give him any advice. You know, he’ll handle it well.
“The question is, how will they handle it with him? And obviously, that’s very important. I mean, there’s more to the team than Aaron, but we all have to admit that when he’s playing and playing well, which generally when he’s playing he is playing well, you don’t want to change what’s working. There’s other factors that you have to work on.”
In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t break it and then try to fix it.
“I think you let him play his game and not disturb that very much,” Favre said. “And it’s going to be interesting to see if that happens.”
It sure is, particularly given how last season went. The 2018 season was marred by the deterioration of the relationship between Rodgers and Mike McCarthy, a decline so precipitous that Rodgers was openly challenging the coach by changing plays and McCarthy was fired before the season ended — a rare move in Green Bay.
With LaFleur in place, the topic of the coach-QB dynamic reared its head again last week because of a story by the NFL Network’s Michael Silver. LaFleur, known for the success he has had as a quarterback whisperer (especially with the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan) hinted that the relationship would be more of a two-way street than Rodgers is accustomed to. Will Rodgers call audibles and invent plays on the run, or will he comply with LaFleur’s calls, which are geared toward setting up the game plan?
“Aaron and I have had some good talks, and we’re going to have to talk a lot more — and one thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur said. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle [Shanahan] in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up. But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?”
It’s a tricky spot for a rookie coach who’s only four years older than the two-time MVP.
“It’s a conversation in progress,” Rodgers said in mid-June, offering up what Silver described as a short chuckle. “I don’t think you want to ask me to turn off 11 years [of recognizing defenses]. We have a number of ‘check-with-mes’ and line-of-scrimmage stuff. It’s just the other stuff that really not many people in this league can do.
“That’s not like a humble-brag or anything; that’s just a fact. There aren’t many people that can do at the line of scrimmage what I’ve done over the years. I mean, obviously, Tommy [Brady] can do it, no doubt. Peyton [Manning] could do it. Drew [Brees] can do it. [Patrick] Mahomes will be able to do it. Ben [Roethlisberger] has called the two-minute for years. There are a few of us who’ve just done it; it’s kind of second nature. And that’s just the icing on the cake for what I can do in this offense.”
Rodgers was warned by Packers President Mark Murphy that he had “to embrace” the change. “I think he is. I hope he adapts well,” Murphy said at the NFL combine. “I’m excited. I know he’s excited. I’ve had some discussions with him.”
In a Yahoo story about the Packers’ dysfunction, Murphy reportedly took it further, telling his quarterback, “Don’t be the problem.”
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