Words this summer coming from former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings have not been especially complimentary toward his former team, and especially his former quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now retired Packer Donald Driver has spoken up, apparently in an effort to clarify Jennings’ statements.
Regarding Jennings’ recent suggestion that Rodgers may have grown to feel he is bigger than the team, Driver told ESPN.com, “We’ve always said that the quarterback is the one that needs to take the pressure off everyone else. If a guy runs the wrong route, it’s [easier] for the quarterback to say, ‘Hey, I told him to run that route’ than for the guy to be like, ‘Well, I ran the wrong route.'”
More pointedly, Driver said, “Sometimes you ask Aaron to take the pressure off the guys so we won’t look bad, but he didn’t want to do that. He felt like if you did something bad, you do it. But I think that’s the difference. You want that leadership, and I think sometimes you may not feel like you got it. You have to earn that respect at the end of the day, and I think that’s what Greg was probably referring to.”
Now, while this could potentially be construed as piling on, and does indeed cast some light on Rodgers’ leadership style and its efficacy with his teammates, I think every Packers fan – and quite possibly every sports fan – on the planet knows that Donald Driver does not play dirty pool. He’s far beyond launching barbs by way of the media.
Jennings’ continued remarks, from refusing to refer to Rodgers by name at one point to accusing the Packers’ organization of “brainwashing” its employees, however, are perfect examples of such barbs. Driver said Jennings wanted to stay with the Packers; it’s natural Jennings might have hard feelings that the team didn’t meet his asking price and decided to move on. Jennings’ mistake was running his mouth rather than getting his revenge on the field.
In this latest round of an ex-Packer talking about Rodgers, it simply feels like another example of the media making too much of something minor. Driver was simply being honest. In fact, just this afternoon, Driver posted this on his Facebook page: “Out [of] my 15 interviews talking about Target donating $5,000,000 to education, it is interesting that only 1 or 2 random quotes become a big deal. I predicted a Super Bowl for the Packers in 10 or so interviews, and that starts with Aaron Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history!”
He then urged people to vote for their favorite schools at the Target link, and ended the post with, “Please vote, much love, Go Pack Go!”
Oh Donald Driver, you troublemaker.
A couple of things: Yesterday afternoon, Tom Brady apparently got his knee kicked in practice. He played two more plays, then left, and the media all but had him crippled for life. It’s the NFL preseason, the media is chasing anything that might be a breaking story (and is way too prevalent in general), and this is just something we have to live with. Those quotes from Driver are no different.
And regarding Rodgers’ leadership being questioned, read these quotes from Driver:
“I saw when he first got drafted, he came in with a chip on his shoulder, saying that he should have been the first pick in that draft, that it shouldn’t have been Alex Smith. But that’s the way the guy is and I think the thing is, I’ve always told Aaron this, ‘Don’t forget where you come from because the people are the ones who put you on that pedestal. You didn’t put yourself there.’ And I think that’s what he’s learning now.
“I’m not saying Aaron is a bad guy. I think he’s a great guy. I’m friends with Aaron and we have a great relationship. But outside of that, he’s going to play the game the way he’s always played it.”
What if Rodgers wasn’t so driven? What if he thought he deserved to be the 25th pick and not the first? And what if he didn’t force his teammates to take responsibility for screwing up? Are we to believe Rodgers should blame himself when Jermichael Finley drops a pass? If so, Rodgers would probably have to go into therapy to deal with the guilt.
More importantly, the Packers probably wouldn’t be where they are right now, three years removed from a Super Bowl and poised to make another playoff run, if not for how Rodgers handles his role. My guess is every player in that Green Bay locker room is perfectly OK with Rodgers’ leadership style as long as he keeps throwing touchdowns and winning games.