GREEN BAY — Brett Favre might have misinterpreted the question a bit.
The former Green Bay Packers quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer has been following the Aaron Rodgers saga since he entered the public consciousness — after months of Rodgers’ disillusionment being known only behind the green-and-gold scenes — and like many Packers fans, Favre has wondered to himself how relations between his former team and his quarterbacking successor have deteriorated to this.
And so, during an interview with ESPN Wisconsin last week, Favre was told that, according to multiple sources, among Rodgers’ frustrations with the club was the way general manager Brian Gutekunst failed to communicate with him — particularly on personnel matters that affected him.
During his 16-year run in Green Bay, Favre played for three general managers: Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Wolf, who acquired him from the Atlanta Falcons in 1992; Mike Sherman, who took on the dual head coach/GM role in 2001 after Wolf retired; and Ted Thompson, who selected Rodgers with his first draft pick in 2005 and ultimately traded Favre to the New York Jets in August 2008.
“I was never — and this goes back to Ron Wolf — invited into personnel meetings,” Favre said. “On a rare occasion — whether it be Ron Wolf, Mike Sherman, Ted — somebody would ask me about a particular player. ‘What do you think of this guy?’ And it really never got in-depth to a point where I was like, ‘Is this some guy we’re going to sign?’ I’d say, ‘I think the guy’s a good player. Maybe he’s lost a step.’ Or, ‘He’s a good pass blocker.’ It was just really in passing.
“I never expected to be in the draft room or in a personnel meeting. That’s not to say that I didn’t say, ‘Let’s go for this guy. Let’s go for this guy.’ Or, ‘Maybe we need to move on.’ I’ve had those thoughts. But there’s no way I would have ever gone to Ron Wolf and said, ‘Ron, I want to sit in the draft room’ or ‘I want to have some input on this.’ He would have kicked me to the curb, as much as he loved me. And I didn’t want that level of involvement.”
Now, it seems unlikely that Rodgers was looking to take part in the scouting staff’s evaluations of prospective unrestricted free agents this spring or have a seat reserved for him in the team’s draft room between co-directors of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan and John Wojciechowski last weekend.
But according to team and league sources, what is among the core issues the quarterback has with the team is its failure to communicate.
From the decision to trade up and draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th pick of the first round of the 2020 draft (which Rodgers learned like the rest of the football world, on television); to the team releasing Rodgers’ favorite receiver, Jordy Nelson, in March 2018 (which Rodgers was told of only after Gutekunst had decided it was time to move on, according to multiple sources); to the Packers cutting wide receiver Jake Kumerow at the end of training camp last summer (a move that came a day after Rodgers had publicly praised the former UW-Whitewater star and gushed about their connection during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio) — Rodgers has gotten the impression that Gutekunst and executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball neither want to hear nor care about his opinion on personnel matters.
Communication, of course, is a two-way street, and whether Rodgers has been open and honest with the front office about just how frustrated he has been by this is unclear.
Asked after the draft ended if he’d be open to including Rodgers in such conversations if such discussions were a requisite for Rodgers returning to the team, Gutekunst replied, “Absolutely. Quite frankly, I think over the past three years that I’ve been doing this. I’ve always welcomed that input. I think he has such an experience in this league that that input would always be something vitally important to me, if he’s willing to give it. That’s not new. That’s not unique.”
Whether Rodgers indeed feels that Gutekunst has “always welcomed that input” or not, only Rodgers can say. And since his displeasure with the team came to light a few hours before the draft kicked off on April 29, the reigning NFL MVP hasn’t spoken publicly about anything other than horse racing in an on-camera interview with TwinSpires, a gambling outlet, at the Kentucky Derby.
But as the trade deadline approached last November, Rodgers sounded resigned to the fact that the front office wasn’t interested in his input. And while national TV sports debate shows poked fun this past week at the fact that cutting Kumerow was apparently the straw that broke the quarterback’s back, Rodgers referenced Kumerow’s release and subsequent signing with the Buffalo Bills — two months after it happened — while talking about possible trade deadline deals.
“It’s not a bad question, but it’s not one I can answer,” Rodgers replied when asked following a Nov. 1 loss to Minnesota if the team needed to add offensive help at the deadline. “We’ve had many conversations about this type of thing over the years. I truly understand my role. I’m not going to stump for anybody. Last time I stumped for a player, he ended up going to Buffalo.”
As for Favre, he may have been engaging in some revisionist history. In May 2007, he openly expressed his irritation with the team’s failure to acquire future Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss and was concerned that the team was going to be in a rebuilding phase for the foreseeable future. That 2007 team wound up going 13-3 and in the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants was a Favre overtime interception away from a Super Bowl berth.
“There are times when I wonder if I’m the odd man out here and they just don’t know how to tell me,” Favre said in May 2007. “Right now, it’s hard to be optimistic. I’m not getting any younger and I think everyone knows that. I don’t have five years to rebuild. No one in Green Bay is saying ‘rebuild,’ but it’s hard to look at where we are going and (not) say, ‘How can they not be rebuilding?’
“I don’t know if I’ve lost faith, and I think everyone in the organization wants to win. I just don’t know if it includes me. If it’s going to be five years from now, I’m not going to be here. This is 17 years for me, and I want to win (now).”
Last week, roughly 14 years later, Favre was wondering what might be next for Rodgers and if he’s having the same thoughts Favre once had.
“The latter part of my career, I spent a great deal of time worrying about things I could not control. And I think that’s part of the aging process and just the experience that you gain,” Favre said. “How that relates to Aaron, I don’t necessarily know. I just know he’s been a tremendous player from a production standpoint. You can’t argue with the production, and you can’t say that age is creeping up on him. Yeah, he’s getting older, but I think he’s getting better as he gets older.”