Aaron Rodgers can escape almost any situation on the field — and he wiggled into one and out of one this offseason.
While the match between one of the NFL’s baddest men and one of the league’s most storied franchises has been one made in heaven, the schism between the franchise and the player has seemingly sent the relationship to hell entering the 2021 season.
While multiple reports originally pegged Rodgers for retirement, the two sides got together and are giving it a last chance — or a last dance — in Green Bay this year, hoping to repair the relationship that has gone terribly wrong.
Rodgers’ career with the Packers is certainly storied — three-time MVP, Super Bowl champ — but what happened off the field may have been just as intriguing as what happened on it.
With Rodgers suiting up with Green Bay, here’s a total recap of what went wrong, before eventually getting right again, in the 2021 season:
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Aaron Rodgers timeline
April 23, 2005: It’s NFL Draft night at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. The story of the night is who is going to go No. 1 overall: Will it be Utah’s Alex Smith or Cal product Aaron Rodgers?
The 49ers select Smith No. 1 out of Utah, and after an hours-long wait and a precipitous slide, Rodgers goes No. 24 overall to the Packers. While Green Bay is still throwing Brett Favre out there, Rodgers is the future of the franchise. Though, draft night won’t be the last time — or the longest time — he has to wait to hear his name called again.
Jan. 20, 2008: In the NFC championship game, the Packers fall to the Giants in overtime, 23-20. It’s a bittersweet end for both the Packers and for Favre, who has thrown his last pass in a Packers uniform.
Sept. 8, 2008: After three years of waiting, Rodgers gets his first start vs. the Vikings, a 24-19 win over the NFC North division rival.
Feb. 6, 2011: An up-and-down season leads to a somewhat miraculous run to Super Bowl 45, which Rodgers and the Packers win over the Steelers, 31-25. It’s the first, and to this point, only Super Bowl win for Rodgers.
Dec. 2, 2018: Fast forward seven years: Diminishing playoff returns, a Brandon Bostick botched onside kick and two years without postseason play, the Packers fire head coach Mike McCarthy after a Week 13 loss to the Cardinals. McCarthy, who has been Green Bay’s boss since 2006, has largely been credited with the development of Rodgers.
Dec. 3, 2018: Rodgers, speaking on McCarthy’s firing, keeps it short: “We accomplished a lot of things together. I have a lot of great memories to talk about down the line.” Rodgers doesn’t exactly sound upset with the move.
Jan. 7, 2019: After a pretty quick head coaching search, the Packers settle on Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. LaFleur, a disciple of Mike Shanahan and his son Kyle, gets credit for building a solid offense with Tennessee. Some believe his offense was held back by Marcus Mariota’s limited arm talent, and Rodgers’ limitless arm talent should provide unlimited success for Green Bay.
April 4, 2019: As it turns out, the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field was very, very icy over the last few years: In a lengthy story published by Bleacher Report, details of the firing of McCarthy and the rift with Rodgers surface, with neither party painted in an entirely glamorous light.
Rodgers is described as a control freak over the Packers’ offense, while McCarthy is portrayed as disinterested and, generally, over it with Green Bay.
April 8, 2019: Interestingly enough, Rodgers defends McCarthy in the wake of the B/R article, saying that McCarthy deserves respect and praise, and that the story doesn’t hold much water.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to @ESPNMilwaukee on the recent Bleacher Report piece: “The thing is… it’s not a mystery, this was a smear attack by a writer trying to advance his career talking with mostly irrelevant, bitters players who all have an agenda.”
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 8, 2019
April 25, 2019: Even in a wide receiver-shallow draft, the Packers opt not to give Aaron Rodgers another wideout target in the first round, selecting safety Darnell Savage instead. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and N’Keal Harry go in the first after Green Bay’s selection, with Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf and Mecole Hardman all going in the second round.
June 16, 2019: Rodgers publicly supports wideout Jake Kumerow, a relatively unknown player out of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “Obviously, I’m a big fan of him,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think I need to keep going on that.” Rodgers’ praise of the wideout dates back a year. Rodgers’ compliments seems innocuous — for the time being.
June 17, 2019: Rodgers and LaFleur are starting to get a feel of one another in the month before training camp, and disagreements over control at the line of scrimmage start to bubble up and make headlines. Rodgers has typically been given full control over changing plays at the line, while LaFleur’s offense dictates that plays should be run when and where they’re called.
“Aaron and I have had some good talks, and we’re going to have to talk a lot more — and one thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur said. “… We’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up.”
Sept. 2, 2019: Months of speculation of Rodgers’ control over the offense and LaFleur potentially inhibiting him is put to rest. The Packers head coach leaves no doubt that Rodgers has pre-play control.
“We’ve given him all the freedom,” LaFleur said. “So if he sees something, he’s got the green light to do whatever he needs to do to get us into a good play. We’re not going to take that from him.”
Sept. 15, 2019: In a matchup with NFC North division rival Vikings, Rodgers and LaFleur seem to have a little bit of a dust-up on the sidelines, with the quarterback giving LaFleur a piece of his mind.
Rodgers and LaFleur both downplayed the discussion after the game, which they won.
“That’s just two competitive guys, and I’m sure it’s not going to be the last one we have,” LaFleur said.
No harm, no foul for the day, but perhaps a bit of foreshadowing in LaFleur’s words.
Jan. 19, 2020: The Packers season unceremoniously ends in a blowout to the 49ers in the NFC championship game, 37-20. The game isn’t as close as the score indicates. Still, at 13-3, the Packers finish the year with their best record since 2011, complete a sweep of the NFC North and, arguably most importantly, the Rodgers-LaFleur relationship seems to work well in Year 1.
Rodgers finishes the year in the new scheme with 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
April 23, 2020: Months into speculation as to what the Packers will do in Round 1 of the 2020 draft, Rodgers makes it known that he would like a skill player in the first round.
Aaron Rodgers on @PatMcAfeeShow: “We haven’t picked a skill player in the first round in 15 years, so that would be kind of cool.”
Rodgers says whoever the pick is, he’ll track down his phone number and welcome him to the team tonight — if the Packers don’t trade out.
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) April 24, 2020
Later that day, during the first round of the draft, the Packers trade up — but not to select one of the wide receivers available. Instead, the Packers take quarterback Jordan Love out of Utah State, rocking the NFL world.
Rodgers makes it clear that he plans to reach out to Love, which he does.
Also on April 23, 2020: Somewhere, Brett Favre buttons his Wrangler jeans, cracks open a Bud Light and smiles. (Probably.)
May 15, 2020: Speaking with media for the first time since the draft, Rodgers makes it known that he was less than satisfied that the Packers selected Love.
“I think the general reaction at first was surprise, like many people,” Rodgers said. “Obviously I’m not going to say that I was, you know, thrilled by the pick necessarily, but the organization is thinking not only about the present but about the future. And I respect that.”
Rodgers also says that he realizes that finishing his career as a Packer may not be a reality at this point. Long-term storytelling, as they say in the wrestling business.
May 17, 2020: Headlines and talk shows surrounding Rodgers’ future as a Packer hit a fever pitch. NFL Network’s LaDainian Tomlinson (or maybe it was Nostradamus?) makes a bold prediction: 2020 will be the last season for Rodgers in a Packers uniform. Tomlinson nails the prognostication to a tee:
I give mad respect for taking the high road, but let me tell you what he was trying to say: ‘I can’t believe y’all disrespected me like this. I told you I wanted to play into my 40s, and then you’re gonna draft Jordan Love? Nothing against this kid, I’m gonna help him out as much as I can, but you just put a huge chip on my shoulder for this year. I’m gonna ball out, show you that I still got it, and then you know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna ask for a trade or a release and get out of here, and you can have Jordan Love, and I’m gonna go to Chicago and kick your butt.’ That’s what he was trying to say.
July 28, 2020: Speaking with NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt, Rodgers addresses his NFL mortality and his future with the Packers, acknowledging that Green Bay will want to turn to Jordan Love sooner rather than later.
“Based on just the circumstances around everything. Just look at the facts. They traded up, they drafted him. I would say they like him, they want to play him. … But look, I get it. I see it completely clearly and I’m not bitter about it. It just is what it is.”
Sept. 5, 2020: An on-again-off-again relationship with wideout Jake Kumerow comes to an unceremonious end, as the Packers release him during roster cuts. He later signs with the Bills, and further down the road with the Saints. (Trust us, this will all come full circle.)
Sept. 9, 2020: Months of turmoil and discussion surrounding Rodgers’ future as a Packer subside as the 2020 NFL regular season prepares to get underway. Rodgers makes it clear he has no issues with LaFleur, describing the coach-QB relationship as “hashtag friend goals.” (Really.)
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers referred to his relationship with HC Matt LaFleur as “hashtag friend goals.”
— Olivia Reiner (@ReinerOlivia) September 9, 2020
Jan. 24, 2021: Beginning of the end, again? Rodgers and the Packers fall in the NFC championship game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. There are two massive stories to come from the loss: LaFleur’s reluctance to attempt to go for it late in the game, and Rodgers’ postgame comments, which sent the NFL world into a frenzy:
“A lot of guys’ futures, they’re uncertain. Myself included,” Rodgers said.
Aaron Rodgers after the game: “A lot of guys futures, they’re uncertain, myself included. … Just gonna have to take some time away and clear my head and kind of see what’s going on with everything.” pic.twitter.com/3GlzPU9EsZ
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) January 25, 2021
Jan. 26, 2021: Just a few days after Rodgers’ stirred the pot with his “uncertain future” comments, he appears on the “Pat McAfee Show” to add more fuel to the fire. He reaffirms what he said: He’s simply not sure of his future with Green Bay, echoing words from prior to the start of the 2020 season.
“It was more of a realization I think that ultimately my future is not necessarily in my control,” he says.
Jan. 31, 2021: More smoke surrounding Rodgers: The Rams, who made a blockbuster deal for quarterback Matthew Stafford, checked in on Rodgers’ availability and “made a run” at him, per a Los Angeles Times report. The Packers were adamant they would not trade him. Still, the fact that the Rams felt they could make a call is fairly telling.
Feb. 6, 2021: Rodgers wins the 2020 NFL MVP award after an unreal season: With 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions, Rodgers earns his third MVP award.
March 23, 2021: What should be nothing more than a formality, the Packers and Rodgers are working on a contract restructure. Though, the news is a bit curious: The Packers have unilateral power to convert Rodgers’ salary into a signing bonus, which hasn’t been done yet. Some rumors suggest that Rodgers actually wants an extension.
April 5, 2021: This Packers quarterback is given an opportunity to guest host TV’s most famous game show: Who is Aaron Rodgers?
Rodgers’ stint as guest host on “Jeopardy!” runs for two weeks, and he’s met with mixed reviews. Though, on the April 5 edition, he gets trolled by a contestant over the Packers’ decision to kick a field goal in the 2020 NFC Championship game.
April 6, 2021: Stoking the fireplace, Rodgers throws another log in, saying he wants to play quarterback and host “Jeopardy!”
Aaron Rodgers wants to play quarterback AND host Jeopardy.
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) April 6, 2021
April 27, 2021: Just a few days before the 2021 NFL Draft, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst says that Rodgers will be Green Bay’s quarterback for “the foreseeable future.” Though, there is still no talk on a new deal for Rodgers, or a restructure. Again, curious.
April 29, 2021: The Day the Draft Stood Still: Just hours before the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, and has played his last snap with the team.
At the heart of the issue seems to be Rodgers’ demand of a new contract, which NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport report. With rumors of a new contract getting done have swirled, there’s been no progress made. Fox reporter Jay Glazer and Schefter both say that Rodgers’ contract isn’t the sole issue of the falling out.
Also complicating matters, per reports: The 49ers reached out to the Packers to see if a deal for Rodgers involving the No. 3 overall pick could get done. It does not, and the 49ers instead select North Dakota State QB Trey Lance with the pick.
More rumors suggest that Rodgers is upset that the Packers didn’t take the 49ers deal, and he would prefer a trade to one of three teams: San Francisco, the Broncos or the Raiders.
April 30, 2021: The first round of the NFL Draft comes and goes and Rodgers is still a Packer. Oh, and the team once again doesn’t opt to give him a receiver in the first round, this time taking cornerback Eric Stokes in the first round. In fact, draft weekend ends and Rodgers is still in Green Bay green and gold.
May 1, 2021: Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reports that Rodgers is willing to come back to Green Bay — if, and only if, they fire GM Brian Gutekunst. Gutekunst is upfront and says he hasn’t heard anything about it.
May 3, 2021: Hey, remember that Kumerow dude? Well, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Packers releasing Kumerow a day after Rodgers had praised him in a press conference turned out to be the “death knell” in the Rodgers-Packers working relationship.
“Rodgers, I’m told, also wanted to be involved in more of the personnel decisions,” Rapoport said. “This is crazy, but it does seem like the one thing that drove Rodgers nuts was when the organization released Jake Kumerow just a day after he praised him publicly. [That’s] described as a little bit of a death knell in the relationship.”
May 5, 2021: A new report leaks that Rodgers has some not-so-nice things to say about Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, referring to him as “Jerry Krause.” Krause is credited with both the growth and demise of the ’90s Chicago Bulls dynasty.
May 10, 2021: Speaking on Peter King’s podcast, Davante Adams, longtime Rodgers runningmate, sheds some light on the situation in Green Bay. “You’ve got to keep people happy,” Adams says, alluding to Rodgers’ dissatisfaction with the team.
May 24, 2021: First day of Packers voluntary OTAs, and Rodgers is a no-show. In a seeming act of solidarity, Packers wide receiver corps also doesn’t show at OTAs. So far, Rodgers isn’t losing money, but he’s never missed voluntary workouts in the past.
May 24, 2021: Later in the day, Rodgers makes an appearance on Kenny Mayne’s last show on ESPN and he sprinkles some more crumbs for anyone looking for info on the situation in Green Bay:
“People make the business. And sometimes that gets forgotten. Culture, the foundation of it, brick by brick, is built by the people. Not by the organization. Not by the building. Not by the corporation. It’s built by the people,” Rodgers says.
June 7, 2021: Packers president Mark Murphy says that the situation with Rodgers has “divided the fan base,” and that he doesn’t want to discuss the Rodgers issues in private.
June 10, 2021: Murphy, who previously said he’d prefer to keep issues with Rodgers away from the spotlight, calls Rodgers a “complicated fella” at a recent event at Lambeau Field. Not exactly keeping things private.
June 16, 2021: Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reinforces that Rodgers still wants out of Green Bay, further casting doubt to whether or not the reigning MVP will play for Green Bay in 2021.
June 24, 2021: In an interview with Bleacher Report, Davante Adams says the team is “praying” for Rodgers to come back, and that he has no real insight on when or if Rodgers will return.
July 7, 2021: Ahead of “The Match” golf event, Rodgers speaks again, this time with a bit of veiled criticism. Rodgers says that his silence this offseason has allowed him to work on his mental health.
“Sometimes the loudest person in the room is not the smartest person,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes the loudest person in the room is not the person who has all the facts on their side or the truth on their side. Sometimes there’s a lot of wisdom in silence. Sometimes there’s a lot of wisdom in being selective on what you say.”
July 7, 2021: During “The Match,” Rodgers is questioned by commentator Brian Anderson to whether or not he’ll be suiting for the Packers’ Week 1 matchup vs. the Saints. Rodgers dodges the question.
July 9, 2021: Rodgers is keeping his arm ready and loose — by throwing bombs to boaters from the 17th tee at the American Century Classic.
July 10, 2021: News breaks that Rodgers is finally — finally — nearing a decision on whether or not he’ll play for the Packers this upcoming season, setting a timetable of about two weeks. It’s not coincidental, considering the Packers have their first training camp practice on July 28.
July 20, 2021: Schefter reports that Rodgers recently turned down a contract extension that would have made him the highest paid player in football, further cementing that it is, in fact, not all about the money.
July 24, 2021: Instagate: Rodgers and wideout Adams both post the same picture on Instagram of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, seemingly insinuating the “Last Dance” for both players in Green Bay. T-minus four days until training camp.
July 26, 2021: “It’s done.” – Frodo Baggins.
The return of the King is imminent, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The NFL insider reports that the Packers quarterback is expected to appear in camp, according to sources close to Rodgers.
July 28, 2021: Perhaps Step 1 in mending fences between Rodgers and the Pack front office, wide receiver Randall Cobb is returning to Green Bay in a trade. The deal was done at the request of Aaron Rodgers.
July 28, 2021: The big day. Rodgers finally speaks to the media after months of rumor and conjecture in a refreshingly honest, trutfhul and candid press conference. The Packers quarterback explains in great depth everything that went wrong with the relationship with the team and what the future may hold for him.
July 30, 2021: Aaron Rodgers’ return to the Packers came with certain concessions. While he got a new contract, the new contract doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be getting more money — in fact, it means he’ll likely be shipped out of twon following the 2021 season, if things go sideways with Green Bay.
Aug. 19, 2021: Rodgers is back at practice, but in another reality, he might not be. The Packers quarterback revealed that he was actually dangerously close to choosing retirement over returning, placing the odds at 50/50 before ultimately deciding to come back.
Sept. 12, 2021: After not playing in any preseason games, Rodgers returns to the field with the Packers — and it was as ugly as the offseason drama he had with the team.
In a 38-3 blowout loss to the Saints, Rodgers completes just 15 passes for 133 yards and two interceptions and looks very, very rusty. It’s likely just one game of poor play, but it’s still not the best start for the Pack or Rodgers for the 2021 season.
Sept. 14, 2021: Rodgers has one good reason for an interception thrown on Sunday: He got hit square in the man parts, blaming an early interception on a “double nut shot” he took right before throwing the ball.
Really, the Packers and their fans are hoping to avoid another one of those — literally and metaphorically — for the rest of the 2021 season.