The floodgates have now opened regarding Aaron Rodgers' dispute with the Green Bay Packers, the only franchise he's ever known. News leaked six days ago, on the afternoon of the opening round of the draft, that Rodgers had no desire to return to Green Bay after winning his third MVP but coming up short in the playoffs once more. His discontent has long been building, but from the reports that have emerged in the days since, it seems his main problem is GM Brian Gutekunst.
Gutekunst has been in charge since 2018. Generally speaking, he has upheld the organization's status quo in that they don't spend big in free agency, rely on internal development, and use their valuable draft capital on defenders to round out the team. Rodgers' biggest issue has been the apparent lack of desire from the front office to make his life easier by signing or drafting skill positions players and one report suggested he wouldn't come back to the team unless Gutekunst was fired. Gutekunst was the guy who made the call to draft Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, which appears to be the catalyst that set these events in motion.
When looking at the big picture, it feels likely Rodgers' issues stem from more than a dislike for the general manager. But for a team without an owner, Gutekunst is the final call on most of, if not all, roster decisions and therefore takes the brunt of the blame when the star QB is unhappy. If there were a face for all the problems Rodgers has with the organization, it's Gutekunst.
With all that in mind, here's a report from Packers reporter Bob McGinn over at The Athletic that Rodgers would refer to Gutekunst as Jerry Krause in group chats with teammates, along with some other tidbits.
"According to sources, Rodgers has mocked Gutekunst in group chats with his teammates in Green Bay by referring to the GM as Jerry Krause. The late Krause, the general manager of the Chicago Bulls during their run of six NBA championships, was loathed by Michael Jordan for some personnel moves with which Jordan disagreed."
"The Packers are well aware of Rodgers’ hard feelings toward Gutekunst but, at this point, are taking the high road insisting their sole focus is having Rodgers as their quarterback in 2021 and beyond."
My reporting confirms that of ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who on Thursday cited sources that Rodgers is disgruntled and wants out, and that of Yahoo’s Charles Robinson, who on Saturday cited a source from Rodgers’ camp saying that the quarterback won’t return as long as Brian Gutekunst remains general manager of the team.
As seen in last spring's hit documentary The Last Dance, Krause was a large part of the reason that the Bulls' dynasty fell apart because of his firmly-held belief that the Jordan era was coming to an end and the Bulls had to move on in order to continue to succeed as a franchise. He didn't treat Jordan like any other player, similar to how it seems the Packers treat Rodgers as an employee rather than the biggest reason for their success, but he didn't do everything he could to help Jordan in his final days. Just as the Packers are more interested in building an all-around solid team that doesn't rely entirely on Rodgers rather than giving him as much help as possible in order to capitalize on his talents while they're still available.
Not a great sign for Green Bay, especially since this is the second report confirming that the only path to a Rodgers return includes Gutekunst's dismissal. And we're only in the early stages of the leaks. Get ready for a summer of rumors, folks.