The Green Bay Packers, maybe more than any other team, must be happy to finally play a game.
It has been a while since a relationship between a quarterback and first-year coach has gotten as much attention as the Aaron Rodgers-Matt LaFleur pairing. It’s understandable, and tiring. At least when the Packers play the Chicago Bears to kick off the 2019 on Thursday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports mobile app, there will be something new to talk about.
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Green Bay is a small market, and that means Packers coverage is intense. The Packers are the main topic of conversation 365 days a year in Wisconsin. Everything is dissected. So when there was a question at the scouting combine in February about how much Rodgers could audible at the line, it is a story that has lingered for months.
“You guys just will not stop with this audible thing. It’s unbelievable,” a frustrated LaFleur said on Tuesday. “What do you guys want me to say?”
It has been a long offseason, but that doesn’t mean the issue isn’t important.
Matt LaFleur’s relationship with Aaron Rodgers takes center stage
Rodgers’ relationship with LaFleur is such a big deal because of what happened with Mike McCarthy.
McCarthy was fired last year after 13 seasons as head coach, and there were rumblings about Rodgers’ relationship with him. Then Tyler Dunne wrote a memorable Bleacher Report story detailing the friction between the two, which might have dated back to Rodgers being passed over in the draft by the San Francisco 49ers when McCarthy was their offensive coordinator. The story included tales of Rodgers not respecting McCarthy and regularly changing plays after they had been sent in.
That story didn’t help LaFleur. He’s a rookie head coach, and that has plenty of challenges. Add on trying to manage a relationship with a future Hall of Fame quarterback who is one of the biggest figures in franchise history, and it’s even trickier.
And when everything is a headline, even a mundane disagreement about the validity of joint practices, it adds to the tension.
Rodgers could thrive in new offense
In training camp, Rodgers said he didn’t like joint practices, especially the safety aspect of live special teams drills. LaFleur, separately, said he liked joint practices. And, in some circles, this became proof there was already friction between the two. When you take a step back and think about the situation, two men disagreeing on a topic that doesn’t really affect them on a daily basis, it’s crazy that became a sign of an already deteriorating relationship. Overreaction is not in short supply when it comes to this story.
That’s why the Packers must be happy to play a game. We can see if Rodgers takes to a new offense. McCarthy’s offense had gotten stale. If LaFleur is as good as advertised — and it’s fair to be skeptical about that — then Rodgers might have a great final chapter to his career. If he wins another Super Bowl with LaFleur, there will be a much different outlook on his legacy, and it will revolve around McCarthy holding him back.
We’ll get to see the early results on Thursday night against a Bears defense that was the best in the NFL last season. If Rodgers and the offense struggles out of the gate, we’re sure to hear plenty about it.
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