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Tom Oates: Rift between Aaron Rodgers and Packers was set in motion with pick of Jordan Love

Tom Oates: Rift between Aaron Rodgers and Packers was set in motion with pick of Jordan Love

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Aaron Rodgers - NFC title game

Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after the Green Bay Packers fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-26 in the NFC Championship Jan. 24, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 

The name of the Green Bay Packers' first pick in the NFL draft, Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes, had barely been handed in Thursday night when the reaction began.

After the stunning news earlier in the day that 37-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers — who had often expressed his desire to be a Packers lifer — is disgruntled with the team's management and wants out of Green Bay, the pick triggered a social-media response that centered on the tired, overly simplistic narrative that the Packers haven't surrounded Rodgers with enough offensive talent. The Packers, or so story went, were so upset with Rodgers that they stuck it to him by drafting still another defensive player.

This, of course, is pure baloney. Similarly, the Packers weren't trying to appease Rodgers when they selected two offensive players, Ohio State center Josh Myers and Clemson wide receiver Amari Rodgers, Friday night. In both instances, the Packers were filling needs, needs that everyone knew existed prior to the draft.

Besides, there is only one draft pick that pushed Rodgers to the point where he requested a trade and it wasn't made this week. It happened last year when general manager Brian Gutekunst traded up in the first round to select Utah quarterback Jordan Love, presumably as Rodgers' eventual successor.

For Rodgers, that one pick changed everything. We just didn't know how much until the growing tension between him and the team went public Thursday.

Though he can be difficult to handle behind the scenes, Rodgers has generally played the good soldier in public. However, it appears that being blindsided by the selection of Love opened Rodgers' eyes to things he thought would never apply to him in Green Bay and for the first time he began to contemplate finishing his career in another uniform.

First, Rodgers probably never dreamed the Packers would risk repeating the messy confrontation that occurred in 2008, when they nudged Hall of Famer Brett Favre into retirement, paving the way for Rodgers to take over three years after selecting him in the first round. When Favre decided to unretire, the Packers were forced to trade him, dividing the fan base and creating years of ill will between the team and one of its greatest players.

Second, Rodgers surely learned from watching Tampa Bay last season that some teams are willing to do anything to help a future Hall of Fame quarterback win a Super Bowl near the end of his career. In Tom Brady's first season in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers, with some input from Brady, put together a roster strong enough to beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, despite Rodgers outplaying Brady.

It's entirely possible that Rodgers saw those things and, for the first time, began to think he might be better off getting traded to a place where he's more appreciated by management. Rodgers made it clear after the season that he wanted his contract, which runs through 2023, restructured to give him the security of knowing the starting job would remain his. Though some negotiations took place, the Packers declined to accommodate Rodgers and the relationship between the quarterback and the team continued to deteriorate.

The comment that best defines the messy situation came from Andrew Brandt, who was the Packers' salary-cap guru when Rodgers was drafted in 2005 and when he took over for Favre in 2008.

"I don't buy the narrative that Packers 'haven't done enough to help' Aaron," tweeted Brandt, a frequent media contributor. "They have Pro Bowl players in every offensive position group. I do believe, though, they have not managed Rodgers/Love well. Having managed Favre/Rodgers for three years, I know the effort it requires."

The Packers have been unwilling or unable to placate Rodgers since they drafted Love. It began when they didn't even bother to tell him they were drafting a quarterback and the move took Rodgers by surprise.

Gutekunst admitted Thursday the team should have communicated with its franchise quarterback better at the time. The Packers didn't afford Rogers the courtesy of a heads-up and that's on them.

Although he dropped a few hints along the way, it's clear now that Rodgers' dissatisfaction has been simmering for a year. But with a couple of well-placed tips from his camp to the media Thursday, the Packers suddenly had World War III on their hands. Legacies, and maybe even jobs, are at stake.

The question is whether the situation can be salvaged because the alternative — Love starting after being the third-stringer all last season — would doom a team that is otherwise built for a Super Bowl run. Gutekunst said Thursday the Packers won't trade Rodgers and seemed unwilling to budge on other matters, creating a stalemate that can only be broken with some sort of compromise.

It all depends on how firmly entrenched the two sides are. Money usually wins out in professional sports, but this is about more than money and, as we all know, Rodgers holds a grudge. The Packers' best bet is to get Rodgers to restructure his contract, making a commitment to him as the starter beyond next season and giving him an avenue to at least provide input on personnel decisions.

That might be enough to get Rodgers back into the fold. If not, this situation is not going to end well for anyone.

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