By Terrance Turner
March 15, 2023
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers appeared on “The Pat McAfee Show” today to reveal his decision about free agency. After weeks of speculation about his future in Green Bay, Rodgers confirmed that he intends to play for another team next season.
At the start of his appearance, Rodgers stressed that it wasn’t about him announcing a decision. “This isn’t a decision day,” Rodgers said early on. “This isn’t me announcing to the world what’s going on. In fact, that’s already happened. We’re actually days past this. This is just kind of clearing things up for anybody who’s interested.”
Rodgers has played for Green Bay since 2005. In that time, the roster of players and team personnel has changed drastically. “The front office now looks completely different,” Rodgers said, adding: “This is a new regime.” He outlined the timeline of events that has brought him to today’s decision.
In 2020, the Packers drafted quarterback Jordan Love. “They drafted Jordan to replace me,” Rodgers said. “As is the case with the Packers — kind of the way they do things — they kind of like to get rid of players a year early, instead of a year late.” But the replacement didn’t happen right away. Instead, Rodgers earned back-to-back MVP awards in 2020 and 2021, throwing 48 touchdowns in 2020 and 37 in 2021. The Packers went 13-3, making the playoffs in two consecutive seasons.
In March 2022, Rodgers signed a four-year, $200 million extension with the Packers. Unfortunately, receiver Davante Adams left for the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason. Rodgers struggled to connect with new, younger receivers, and the Packers missed the playoffs after losing 20-16 to the Detroit Lions. They finished at 8-9 for the 2022 season.
Into The Darkness
“So we come up on last year, obviously missed the playoffs; I didn’t have an MVP season. I was interested in where they [the Packers] would be at mentally,” Rodgers said. After the season ended, Rodgers went to a four-day “darkness retreat” to re-evaluate his life and career. He said the team’s front office was supportive: “Everything that I was told in the week that I was in Green Bay was: ‘Take as long as you want, and we want you to retire a Packer. If you want to come back and play, obviously the door’s wide open.’ So that’s the information I was going on.
Now when I came out of the darkness, something changed. I’m not exactly sure what that was but something changed, and I got back to my phone after 5 days off of it,” he said. “When I got back to that little shack they had where there’s one bar of Wi-Fi, I got back to hundreds of text messages and emails and all different things… I realized there been a little bit of a shift. And I heard from multiple people that I trust around the league – players mostly – that there was some shopping going on, that they were interested in actually moving me.
At this point, I got to admit, I went into the darkness 90% retiring,” Rodgers said. He was 90% sure he would retire, he told McAfee.
During his retreat, Rodgers spent one day imagining himself retired, and he spent another imagining what it would be like to play, and by the end of the retreat, he had shifted, too. “When I came out, I was really interested in what the kind of landscape was where Green Bay was set – and obviously if I didn’t want to play, what were the options?”
“So it was clear to me at that point that although the Packers were going to say the right thing publicly, that they were ready to move on. I don’t know what changed that or what moved that,” he said. There’s no victims here. I’m not sitting here as a victim. I love Green Bay. I love the fan base. They’re incredible.”
Rodgers said he wished the conversation between him and team brass had gone differently. “I love direct communication. If they just said, ‘Listen, we think it’s time to move in a different direction. We love you; you’re going to be a Packer Hall of Fame, or going to the hall as a Packer, whatever it might be, but it’s time to move on.’ I would have said, ‘Man, thank you so much just for telling me that. Like, I really really appreciate that that means the world to me that you would tell me that,’ because I really believe that’s the sentiment, and that’s fine. It really is. It’s totally fine. This is an incredible profession, but it’s a tough business. For sure.”
Rodgers emphasized that he still loves Green Bay and will always consider it home: ““No malice, no bitterness towards the Packers. It’s been bittersweet, for sure, the last 10 days. [But] I’ve shifted my focus to entertaining what playing would look like.” That apparently leads to the New York Jets.
Rodgers and the Jets
Jets brass — including owner Woody Johnson, vice chairman and co-owner Christopher Johnson, general manager Joe Douglas, head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett — took a private jet to California to meet with Rodgers on March 7. The Packers allowed the visit to take place, Rodgers said. “The Packers granted, obviously, permission for the just to come out and visit me. We had a nice visit. They chose to leave their cars in the street which attracted the paparazzi attention, which got a few of them photographed, which I thought was pretty funny.”
Photos from the New York Post.
“But we had a nice conversation and I told them, ‘Listen, I’m not ready to make a decision about anything I want to get back to my workouts and see how it feels.’”
Rodgers said he needed time to see how he was feeling physically and to see whether he had the drive and passion to still play. The decision was made soon after, though. Rodgers said that he knew he still wanted to play the Tuesday after he left the retreat; by Friday, he knew where he wanted to play.
“At this point as I sit here, I made it clear that my intention is to play and my intention is to play for the New York Jets.”
“I haven’t been holding anything up at this point. It’s been compensation that the Packers are trying to get for me and they’re kind of digging their heels in.”
Significantly, Rodgers chose to relay the news himself, with McAfee, instead of sitting down for a formal televised interview or releasing a statement to traditional sports media. He refused to engage with reporters who pursued him. Rodgers told McAfee that ESPN reporter Adam Schefter “somehow got my number and texted me” looking for details. Rodgers said he told Schefter: “Lose my number.”
Schefter confirmed the report during the broadcast:
The fact that Rodgers resisted him is unsurprising. Back in 2021, it was Schefter who released a dubiously sourced “report” about Rodgers’ dissatisfaction with the Packers. On April 29, 2021, NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported the bombshell development: “Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is so disgruntled with the Green Bay Packers that he has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team, league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.”
Schefter later admitted that he had been sitting on the story for weeks, only releasing it on the day of the NFL Draft. In an interview with host Dan Patrick, Schefter conceded that he had written and released the story without new info. Schefter cited an interview Rodgers had given after the Packers lost the AFC Championship Game to the Buccaneers. That interview gave the impression that Rodgers had “unhappiness” or “uncertainty” about his future, Schefter said. Schefter eventually admitted that he had released the story with no new information. But that revelation came only after some direct questioning by Patrick.
“So you chose to release the news on Draft Day?” Patrick asked.
“That is absolutely accurate, yes,” Schefter replied.
“So it wasn’t something that you got information about…?” Patrick asked.
“No,” Schefter answered. “And it was nothing that morning that came in.”
Patrick noted that, according to Schefter, his information “didn’t come from Rodgers, didn’t come from the Packers, I was wondering: OK, you’re not gonna tell me your source–“
“Dan!” Schefter insisted. “There’s not a source.“
Interesting. Schefter wrote in his article that “league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.” But there he was, admitting that “there’s not a source”. Does that mean sources didn’t tell ESPN anything that Thursday? Or that there was no “source” at all? Either way, that would be a lie.