10 takeaways from detailed probe of Mike McCarthy's relationship with Aaron Rodgers

JR Radcliffe
Packers News
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Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report took a lengthy look at the complex relationship between former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers and what factors led to its demise, which culminated in McCarthy being fired in December after a brutal loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Here are 10 takeaways from the story posted Thursday:

The fissures in their relationship might even date to the day Rodgers was drafted

The article points out many potential "breaking points" that could have been the moment the relationship between Rodgers and McCarthy turned sour, but Dunne writes that "the worst-kept secret at 1265 Lombardi Avenue was that Rodgers seemed to loathe his coach from the moment McCarthy was hired." 

That's because McCarthy was the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator when the 49ers elected to take Alex Smith with the top overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, while Rodgers famously slid down the draft board and waited for 4 1/2 hours in the on-site green room before the Packers called his name at pick No. 24. Rodgers has been known over the years as a player who never forgets a slight.

Rodgers questioned McCarthy's coaching acumen

"Mike has a low football IQ, and that used to always bother Aaron," a source told Dunne. "He'd say Mike has one of the lowest IQs, if not the lowest IQ, of any coach he's ever had."

A personnel man who worked for the Packers at the time added: 'He's not going to respect you if he thinks he's smarter than you.'"

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) talks to Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on Sunday, September 16, 2018 in Green Bay, Wis.

McCarthy loved the idea of being a quarterback guru

Meanwhile, sources told Dunne that McCarthy loved to promote the idea that he was a "quarterback guru."

Dunne writes: "Whereas (Patriots coach Bill) Belichick despises the limelight and 'removes himself' every way he can, this player says McCarthy loved anointing himself as a quarterback guru. The coach often bragged to players about his time with Joe Montana ... in Kansas City.

"He tried to bill himself as this quarterback master," the player told Dunne. "It was like, 'Buddy, I just want to let you know, Joe Montana did a lot more before he was in Kansas City.'"

McCarthy also rotated his assistants between positions, and as former Packers running back Ryan Grant put it, that meant the players were sometimes more versed in their positions than the coaches.

Did McCarthy miss meetings to get massages?

One eyebrow-raising anecdote: McCarthy was missing for a meeting, and "word leaked that McCarthy, the one calling plays on game day, was up in his office getting a massage during those meetings," Dunne writes. "... One player had the same massage therapist, and she let it slip that McCarthy would sneak her up a back stairway to his office while the rest of the team prepared for that week's opponent." 

One source said he wondered if it was just a rumor and whether Rodgers could have been behind it.

"If you're not a part of meetings, and then you're trying to be pissed about execution, nobody's going to really respect you," a former front-office member from the McCarthy-Rodgers era told Dunne. "They're going to look at you like, 'Where have you been all week?' It sounded like he was really just chilling."

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) talks with Green Bay Packers' Mike McCarthy against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, December 2, 2018 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

McCarthy rarely 'sent messages' to players who underperformed

Dunne said multiple sources suggested McCarthy should have cut backup tight end Brandon Bostick well before he got the chance to make his infamous mistake on the onside kick in the 2015 NFC Championship game. Dunne also said McCarthy rarely fined or benched players who didn't meet expectations.

Dunne writes: "The Packers also rarely hit in training camp, and it angered defensive players "every day" how little interest McCarthy showed in them. He was never around their drills, the former starter says, and it was always the defense sprinting to the offense's side of the field for team drills."

Rodgers told a 49ers player on field that San Francisco should sign Greg Jennings

Much has been written about how Rodgers didn't push for the Packers to re-sign receiver Greg Jennings, and Dunne relays an anecdote from 2012 when Jennings was interacting with 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers during a timeout. Rodgers stepped in to say, "You guys should get him at the end of the year."

"Had the shoe been on the other foot and I said, 'Hey, man, I should come and play with your quarterback,' he would've been so offended by that," Jennings told Dunne. "But when it comes out of his mouth — and we all know there's truth behind jokes — for him to say that and just act as though everything was the same? It just wasn't."

Jennings said he felt betrayed that Rodgers appeared to not want him back the following year. Jennings also said he was uncomfortable with Rodgers scolding him for talking to Brett Favre when Favre was a member of the Vikings in 2009.

Oct 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy (right) talks to quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

A quote from former tight end Jermichael Finley suggests Rodgers isn't going to change

Former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley said of Rodgers: "A-Rod wants his. He wants to eat. He cares about his yards, his completions. He's going to have a hard time. ... That's like an addict. You tell an addict to change his ways when he's been stuck in his ways so long. I think it's going to be very tough. I thought he'd be able to grow out of it, but, s--t, you give a guy more money, there's more attitude, more diva-ness..." 

Grant said the reason his teams fared well was they didn't need Rodgers' leadership

"The reason we did well was because we weren't looking for Aaron to be a phenomenal leader," Grant, who played for the Packers from 2007-12, told Dunne. "He needed to be a phenomenal quarterback, because we were leaders. We handled our own position, and we weren't looking for someone else to be that guy, to be that leader. ... It was, 'We've got this s--t.' When things got out of hand, we were like, 'What's wrong with y'all?' I don't know what this looks like now."

One source said Rodgers changed a third of the plays McCarthy called in 2018

Dunne writes: "A source close to the team says (rookie Equanimeous) St. Brown became frustrated because as much as he wanted to follow McCarthy’s play design, he also heard rumors of Rodgers freezing out teammates if they didn't do exactly what he demanded. So he listened to Rodgers. On one play in New England, Rodgers told St. Brown to run a post route when the play called for a flag. St. Brown ran the post, and pressure forced Rodgers to throw the ball away toward the flag — leading his position coach to grill him on what he was thinking."

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur speaks to media on Feb. 18, 2019, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

Jennings is skeptical that a Matt LaFleur-Aaron Rodgers tandem will work

Dunne writes: "If LaFleur does strike that tricky balance and revitalizes Rodgers, Jennings thinks his old QB can enter the GOAT/Brady stratosphere. He's just not sure how willing Rodgers is when the quarterback's first public comments about the hire, at the NFL Honors, started off with the words, 'A lot of change, in life in general, it's tough at first.' That's all he needed to hear. To Jennings, that quote practically guaranteed how this will go down.

"I know how Aaron operates," Jennings told Dunne. "For him to make that statement, it already lets me know he's going to make it hard on a young Matt LaFleur."

JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or jradcliffe@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.


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