The tenuous status and candid concerns of Aaron Rodgers could be hurting the Packers
The Packers have won plenty of games during Matt LaFleur’s two years as head coach. Many more than they’ve lost.
For that reason, some of the losses really stand out.
The farther the trip, the more likely the Packers will turn in a clunker. In 2019, despite a 14-4 record (including postseason), the Packers were 0-3 in California, losing 26-11 to the Chargers, 37-9 to the 49ers in the regular season, and 37-20 to the 49ers in the postseason.
Last year, Green Bay’s 13-3 regular-season record included a 38-10 loss to the Bucs in Tampa.
Sunday’s return to Florida for a game against the Saints went even more poorly, resulting in a 38-3 blowout loss. Given the way the Packers play at home and their high degree of success when traveling not as far from home, it’s hard not to wonder whether something weird is going on when they have a long trip.
After the November 2019 loss to the Chargers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said this: "“I just think that, you know, every time you go on a trip, we say it’s a business trip. Our job is to go out and win games. . . .[W]e’ve gotta look at our schedule, our routine, what we did, and make sure we were getting the proper rest and taking care of ourselves the right way. Because it was such a different feeling, we just didn’t have that normal juice. I just felt like maybe we’ve got to rest more. Guys on their day off or whatever. We just look at what we did on those two days and make sure that we’re feeling super-energetic on game day. I’m not calling anybody specifically out, I was just saying there was obviously something that threw us off a little bit energetically. We’ve just got to fix that before our next trip.”
It was more alarming after the blowout loss to the 49ers in the playoffs. Appearing on PFT Live, linebacker Za’Darius Smith admitted that the Packers weren’t ready for the game. “We didn’t come ready to play. I don’t know if everybody was sleeping, but I can tell you for myself that I wasn’t ready to play either. . . . We weren’t ready to play football.”
They weren’t ready to play in Jacksonville on Sunday, either. Rodgers said they were overconfident. There’s also a chance they were distracted. Not by anything specific but by the endless chatter about Rodgers wanting out in the most recent offseason and about Rodgers likely being out in the next one.
Rodgers, who internalized his frustrations in 2020, has openly and repeatedly talked about his concerns since reporting to training camp after a weekend in which he strongly considered not reporting. At some point, the drama surely wears on the players.
During Monday’s PFT Live, Mike Golic explained how the locker room can react to the perception that the leader of the team is in his last year, and the problems this can create. Although it’s only one game, the Packers need to focus on the current season, forget about next season, and try to get things back on track.
That starts with Rodgers. As recently as last week, he spoke candidly with Erin Andrews of Fox about his concerns. It’s time to turn the page on the past, for good. That may be the only way to get the entire team properly locked in on the 2021 season.
Especially since another big road trip is coming in 13 days, when the Packers return to California for a Sunday night game against the 49ers.