It is not over, but the announcement is done. Aaron Rodgers has now made it clear that it is his intention to play for the New York Jets. He made this announcement on the Pat McAfee Show on March 15th. There is plenty to say about the Packers moving forward and what Rodgers can look like in the Jets offense, but that it not the first thing that stood out to me. As someone who handles negotiations on a near daily basis, it was clear that Rodgers was attempting to harm the Packers trade positions on his way out. The interview blatantly sought to damage trade leverage as the Packers and Jets finalize their deal for Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers led off the interview saying, “This isn’t the Decision Day. This isn’t me deciding and announcing to the world that this is what’s going on. In fact, that’s already happened. We’re actually days passed this. This is kind of clearing things up I think.”
Aaron Rodgers Damages Trade Leverage On Way Out of Green Bay
Propaganda and Negotiating
Rodgers made it clear that he wanted people to know he is not directing negotiations. He said that:
“I haven’t been holding anything up at this point. It’s been compensation that the Packers are trying to get for me. And kind of digging their heels in. So I would just think it is kind of interesting to step back and look at the whole picture. You know my side, appreciation, love and gratitude for everything that Green Bay has done for me. Love, so much love and gratitude and just heart open for the Packer fans and what it meant to be their quarterback. And also, the reality of the situation. You know, like it is what it is. Packers would like to move on. They’ve let me know that in so many words. They’ve let other people know that in direct words. Um, and, because I still have that fire and I want to play and I would like to play in New York, it’s just a matter of getting that done at this point.”
The very first thing he wanted to make sure everyone believed was that he was not making demands. He is a very connected person through social media and has always been keenly aware of the way people are talking about him. Jumping in to say how much he is not holding things up is an immediate attack. He knows the memes and the jokes on line and he is trying to put them all down. Further along, Rodgers also felt it necessary to say how the Packers had essentially asked, “are you okay if we don’t bring back any of your guys?”
This was later addressed again when McAfee brought up the rumor that the Jets have been told to bring in Rodgers’ guys. Based on report the Jets are talking to Randall Cobb and Marcedes Lewis after signing Allen Lazard. Rodgers was quick to call this ridiculous, but added that he would obviously have said the Jets should sign these three individuals if, you know if, they had called him and asked about it.
McAfee added, “sounds like there’s maybe some conversations behind the scenes between the Packers and Jets that are holding this whole thing up, that the fans should maybe send their direct drama and bulls— hate to, is what I think we just cleared up there.”
McAfee even added,
“[Packers] got no leverage either. I don’t know how many people are watching, they’re trying to compare this to the Matthew Stafford situation. Matthew Stafford, a part of the trade and what they gave up is because they were taking on Jared Goff’s contract that was massive. Your contract would be leaving the team, so take that out of the leverage pool. And also they’ve pretty much put them in a position contractually with Jordan Love because they have to decide whether or not they’re going to pick up the fifth year. They made this decision by drafting Jordan Love that everybody else knows that they’re going to another quarterback anyways.”
Setting up in everyone’s minds that this is clearly a thing the Packers did to themselves. Partially true, since the Packers have been willing participants in the last several years of this drama. This ignores all the additional harm this interview itself was doing to the Aaron Rodgers trade leverage.
Aaron Rodgers with a message to Green Bay 🙏 pic.twitter.com/38OYzZdetz
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) March 15, 2023
Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me
The headline of this interview could easily have been “the Packers have decided to move on.” Rodgers continued to say that this is obviously a business and he understands it. He kept saying that he was not unhappy or mad, but then continued to name names. Rodgers made sure to frame things by starting off saying, “in 2020, they drafted Jordan to replace me.” He also lamented, “there were probably some people who thought I was as descending player.”
Rodgers also gave a litany of front office people who drafted him and how the “front office now is completely different.” He gave huge praise to Bob Harlan and how much he loves him. Then he said that the team told him to take as long as he needed and they wanted him to retire a Packer. “When I came out of the darkness, something changed. I’m not exactly sure what that was, but something changed.” He claims that he had checked his phone after five days in the darkness (which he also previously admitted was “parts of three days.”) and found players mentioning there were trade talks.
Rodgers further claims he was 90% set on retiring when he entered “the darkness,” but had to reconsider this new situation. He added that, “although the Packers were going to say the right thing publicly, they were ready to move on.” Specifically, Rodgers felt the need to bring up Mark Murphy’s words to show this was all on Green Bay and then said “honestly, I wasn’t offended by it at all”. McAfee pulled it out to say that this is clearly an issue with the Green Bay office.
Rodgers said, “It’s a different regime and every regime wants to have their guys in there.” This is true in some sense. The Packers promoted Brian Gutenkunst to General Manager in 2018, though he’s been with the team since 1998 (a scout for the team when Rodgers was drafted). Matt LaFleur was named the Head Coach of the Packers in 2019. So, by different regime, he is talking about the staff that has been in place for four years now. The attacks on the “new regime” are an attempt to turn fans on the franchise and encourage them to speak out and push the Packers. Just another assault on the Packers trade leverage in the Aaron Rodgers negotiations.
Pat McAfee Fans Flames Well
The brilliance of Pat McAfee is how he assuages Rodgers’ ego while letting him say whatever he says. Just having Aaron Rodgers on brings his biggest audiences and the weirder the stance the better, especially when it comes to trade talks. McAfee never challenges Rodgers and when presenting him with the many, rather normal, inferences drawn. McAfee seemed to feel that Rodgers might have taken a comment he made about having a chip on his shoulder as less than complimentary. He quickly turned that into a compliment by making it a comparison to Michael Jordan. McAfee is smart. He is not required to challenge Rodgers or point out the inconsistencies. He is just there to keep Rodgers talking.
Rodgers took the softball questions and drove them as far as he could. “Look at the track record. From the guy sitting over there [referring to A.J. Hawk, to what happened with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb and, uh, Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Brett Goode, on and on and on. There’s just a way of doing things that, you don’t want to bring them back that’s fine, but there’s a way of it that allows the man to keep the dignity. And honestly, that’s the stuff I was fighting for a couple years ago. Like, how can we do this a little bit better. If you want to be about family, you want to be about love and taking care of our people let’s put our actions where our words at. It’s really important to me, that part is important.”
Inconsistency in the Narrative
Later, Rodgers had to admit when Hawk asked if he got a fully supportive text coming out of “the darkness” that he still would not have wanted to come back to the Packers. Rodgers took the question and avoided it by saying he would not return, but he never felt they would welcome him back. When Hawk tried to redirect him to the question, McAfee jumped in to tell him to just let Rodgers answer the question in whatever way he wanted.
There was a constant juxtaposition of Rodgers repeating the mantra that the Packers were just ready to move on and pointing out that he was not planning to come back even if they had enthusiastically reached out to him after he came out of “the darkness.”
Rodgers continued by saying that he loves direct communication and wished they had told him this upfront. Again, Rodgers immediately followed this by taking a shot at Adam Schefter for trying to ask him directly what was going on. There was even a little shot at Ian Rapoport in a scenario similar to Adam Schefter reporting on Brady’s retirement last year. Seems as if Rodgers wanted his moment to announce all things in his voice and did not appreciate Rapoport and has previously made public statements about Rapoport including, “There’s an inner circle, and in my inner circle, nobody talks to Ian Rapoport, to Adam Schefter, or to any of those people.” The final point seems to be that the only source on Aaron Rodgers news will be Aaron Rodgers.
Negotiations and Leverage
So, here is a break down of what this does. There was nothing new about the money. The Packers and Jets are fully aware of what the other is doing in terms of contracts and salary cap. Both teams also know the draft capital available as well as players under contract that could be exchanged. Negotiation is far more than that. There must be a position from which you can work. One of the best bargaining chips is knowing the point where you walk away from the table. There is always that point, or at least the threat of it. Aaron Rodgers just told the world that there is no walking away and this has to happen. He has also now said that he will not play for the Packers. If you know that, you know they cannot walk away.
Another point is creating some sort of bidding, or at least the appearance of bidding. Sure, the Raiders jumped out (likely due to Packers being honest about state of negotiations), but the knowledge that Rodgers will not accept another trade partner further diminishes the team’s position.
The part here that is more unique to sports teams is the feeling of the fanbase. Whether or not it will happen, Rodgers is hoping to keep saying he loves Green Bay and the fans while he simultaneous is explicitly urging them to put pressure on the team to make this trade quickly and at a loss if necessary. This interview was an assault on the Packers’ bargaining position in an attempt to harm the team. The clear objective is to get out of Green Bay quickly and also ensure the Packers get less now than they could have bargained for prior to the interview. By doing this, he is harming the Packers future roster and hamstringing Jordan Love and the team. Aaron Rodgers is too smart to not have done this to intentionally harm his trade value.
Main Photo: Mike De Sisti – USA Today Sports