It took exactly one bad game for NFL executives to start writing off Aaron Rodgers.
An anonymous exec spoke to Mike Sando of The Athletic and blamed Rodgers' offseason interests on his Week 1 struggles.
“Think about what Rodgers spends his time in the offseason doing,” the exec said. “Parties at the Kentucky Derby, floating stuff to the media via his agent, sending subliminal messages through the (Pat) McAfee podcast, working on his Zen mindfulness and retirement plan, creating State Farm commercials and hosting Jeopardy. The way he looked last Sunday, that looked like a product of all those efforts. Compare that to Brady, who spends all spring texting teammates to make sure they all show up on time for voluntary workouts.”
Rodgers threw for 133 yards and was picked off twice in an ugly 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints last week. The poor performance came after Rodgers requested a trade and spent the offseason away from Packers facilities, trying to force the team's hand into making a move.
The reigning MVP showed up for training camp on time but only after the Packers made contractual concessions to give him more freedom over his future.
While Rodgers would be the first to tell you his performance last week was not good enough, casting the blame on his interests outside of football is a huge stretch.
Let's start with the comparison to Brady, who was at the same Kentucky Derby the exec criticized Rodgers for attending. Jeopardy films five episodes per day, so Rodgers spent all of two whole days doing that; odds are those two days weren't going to get Davante Adams any more open down the field. State Farm commercials aren't exactly lengthy, rigorous shoots, either. (Come to think of it, Brady's got a couple new Subway commercials this season, too.)
As far as the "working on his Zen mindfulness and retirement plan," it's hard to find the point the executive was trying to make. A person working on their personal happiness is an activity worthy of praise and not criticism; too often, athletes are expected to be solely focused on their sport to the point it's detrimental to their health. Also, you know, Rodgers was working on this "Zen" thing a year ago when he won MVP.
The only potentially valid criticism of Rodgers is that he skipped voluntary offseason work, but so do a lot of veterans and, again, Rodgers won the MVP a year ago despite the offseason program being canceled due to COVID-19. Rodgers was a participant for the entire Packers training camp. Throwing some passes in May wasn't going to stop the Packers from getting the brakes beaten off them in September.
The simple reality? It was one bad game in a 17-game season. Nothing deeper.