GREEN BAY – Over the last few years, and especially over the 12 games of this season that precipitated the firing of head coach Mike McCarthy on Sunday, thousands of words have been written and spoken speculating on the relationship between the former Green Bay Packers head coach and franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
That relationship – along with Rodgers’ potential involvement in the search for the next head coach – remained a large part of the national discourse for the nearly 20 hours between the announcement and the news conferences for Packers president and chief executive officer Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and Rodgers on Monday.
With McCarthy yet to speak about Rodgers or the decision to let him go, the trio did their best to keep those topics in their proper place.
“Aaron and Mike, I mean, they had a great run together,” Murphy said. “I mean, they won an awful lot of games together, including the Super Bowl and the playoffs that we talked about. And this decision, it’s not about one player. This is what’s best for the Packer team, Packer organization.”
Gutekunst added: “There’s been a lot written and it’s probably been overblown about that relationship. I mean, the football team is made up of a lot of individuals and there’s tension between coaches and players all the time. I think like Mark said, they’ve had a lot of success here. They’re both very high-level, quality individuals and I think there’s a lot more to it from where we sit right now than that.”
Murphy also made sure to make one thing clear as well.
"The other thing I would say, Aaron was no part at all in the decision to move on from Mike," he said.
At his locker a short time later, a subdued Rodgers addressed the topic.
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“The frustrating thing this year as much as any other year, is the some of the stuff that came out about Mike and I's relationship,” he said. “As I told you all here many times on Wednesdays, we've met more this year than any other year. We spend a lot of time on Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays and Saturdays. A lot of it is about the game plan and about stuff we like or don't like, but a lot of it is just talking about life and lessons and thoughts and dreams. I really always appreciated that time with Mike getting to know him on a personal level.
“As much as what was made, the conjecture about him and I's relationship, it was always built on mutual respect and communication. That's why this is a different day for myself and guys in the locker room. “
Rodgers wasn’t about to say everything was perfect between he and McCarthy, but he chose to speak about the personal time and on-field success the pair shared.
“I think him and I, like any relationship, we have our amazing times, we have our times where we butt heads,” Rodgers said. “But the basis like I said was built on mutual respect and communication. We spent a lot of times here talking off the field, in my house, in his house. We spent time together and growing our friendship and we accomplished a lot together.”
Rodgers won’t be involved in the interview process for hiring the new coach
The Packers made a massive investment in Rodgers in August, extending his contract through the 2023 season for $134 million. Should he see the end of the deal in Green Bay it will take him through age 40, which is a clear frame around the championship window the club has with him under center.
That said, Murphy and Gutekunst made it clear Rodgers’ focus will have to remain on the field and not on the process of finding McCarthy’s successor.
“My door is open,” Murphy said. “Brian's is open. We have good relationships with Aaron, tremendous respect for him. He's not going to be making the decision on who our next coach is, but we'd welcome any input.”
Gutekunst said the quarterback has enough on his plate playing the game and leading the team, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect him to have any say in other organizational matters.
"I just want to say that I've felt since I've been here that I have a very good relationship with a lot of our veteran players,” Gutekunst said. “Certainly, we're in constant communication about how our locker room is and where that is at. From that point obviously we're not going to consult any of our players on the search and have them be a part of it. At the same time, I think we have a very good feel for our locker room. I'll answer it that way."
Gutekunst acknowledged that it’s “incredibly important” that the new head coach fits well with Rodgers, but unlike the situation in Chicago where Jay Cutler was a part of the interview process that eventually led to the hiring of Marc Trestman as the Bears coach in 2013, Rodgers can have a voice, but not a say, in the hire.
For his part, Rodgers agreed.
“I think that those are decisions that will happen down the line and right now I'm just focused on these next four games and the direction we're going with Joe (Philbin),” Rodgers said. “I'm obviously an older player in the league, I still have a number of years on my contract, would love to still play to 40. I think there's an interest in who the next guy will be, but Mark and Brian and I have always had good lines of communication, their offices, as they say, are always open. I've had conversations with them like I've had with Ted over the years.
“I'm not needing to be involved in that process.”
NOTE: The Packers continued to churn the bottom of the roster Tuesday. They signed linebacker Kendall Donnerson to the active roster from the practice squad, signed safeties Tray Matthews and Jason Thompson to the practice squad and placed safety Ibraheim Campbell on injured reserve.
With the moves, 10 of Gutekunst's 11 draft picks from last April are now on the Packers' 53-man roster. The only exception is fifth-round offensive lineman Cole Madison, who is on the reserve/did not report list.