Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: How Much Power Is Too Much for Aaron Rodgers?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJune 19, 2019

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts after a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 34-20. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur jockey for control of the Packers, Kyler Murray may be as good as advertised and Johnny Football may have a new job soon. That and a whole lot more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

   

1. Dance partners

You're about to read an unusual stance on the public discourse between Aaron Rodgers and new Packers head coach Matt LaFleur regarding how much autonomy Rodgers should receive when it comes to play-calling authority in Green Bay. 

You ready? 

Let Rodgers run the offense however the hell he wants.

Please note I didn't say Rodgers should run the team. Nor that he should have the authority to override the head coach. He should have guardrails and a boss. Both of those things are necessary in an NFL locker room, even for someone as powerful and historically great as Rodgers.

If Tom Brady has those things, then Rodgers should, too.

However, no more than a handful of people in the NFL know more about offenses and play-calling and perform better under pressure than Rodgers. There's Brady. Maybe Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. That's about it.

That's why it's smart to give Rodgers control of the Packers offense, with LaFleur having veto power when he thinks his QB is missing something or going too far. Rodgers is one of the few quarterbacks who can handle it.

You don't put Captain Kirk in charge of monitoring ion storms. You put his ass on the bridge.

Various reports this offseason have explored the negotiations Rodgers is having with LaFleur over how many plays he should be allowed to call versus what he used to do when Mike McCarthy was the coach. It's an interesting debate, but it shouldn't precipitate a World War Z

This story ultimately isn't about isn't what percentage of plays Rodgers can audible. It's about control.

Like most quarterbacks, Rodgers wants total control of the offense. Under McCarthy, as B/R's Ty Dunne illustrated, he had it.

LaFleur wants to wrestle some of that power back. Part of his role is to restore control of the team under a central authority (his).

But it isn't easy for LaFleur to take control of the offense when he doesn't possess the vast football knowledge Rodgers does on that side of the ball. How could he? Almost no one does.

So, let Rodgers have the keys to the offense. It's his, anyway. But that's it.

You can't have a quarterback running a franchise, but you can have one running an offense.

Will either man accept that arrangement as the season approaches? The dynamic bears watching, as it will define the Packers' season.

     

2. The Pack may be back

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

In talking to some front-office personnel and assistant coaches this offseason, they all say the same thing: Rodgers is due for a big bounce-back season.

In fact, many expect we'll see one of Rodgers' best seasons yet, in part because he'll be healthy and the talent in Green Bay is better than people understand. The Packers went 6-9-1 last year.

While Rodgers had a down 2018 season by his own standards, it was still impressive by any other measure (thus demonstrating how high the bar is for him). He had 4,442 yards passing, 25 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 97.6 passer rating. Some quarterbacks would run over their grandmama for numbers like that.

But people around the NFL think those numbers will go up this fall. One AFC team executive told B/R he thought Rodgers would benefit from the arrival of LaFleur, who could lighten his burden with new schemes and a renewed effort to give the Packers a direction beyond crossing their fingers that Rodgers can bail them out every week.

Predictions vary, but most people with whom I spoke said they'd be stunned if the Packers won fewer than 10 games.

    

3. So far, so good

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Word is circulating this offseason that No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray has impressed everyone in the Cardinals organization. He apparently has the look of the star Arizona hopes he will be.

Yes, this talk is coming from inside the team that drafted him. But several of his teammates have expressed their surprise via text about how advanced he already is.

Murray knows the offense well, and he's thrown the ball well in various offseason work. The praise has been so consistent that it almost feels like propaganda.

But it doesn't seem to be. There's a genuine amazement at what he's done, as running back David Johnson said on Mad Dog Sports Radio (h/t Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper).

"People are really underestimating his ability to throw. Coming into the draft, just hearing about him, a lot of people were talking about his scrambling, but no one was really talking about his throwing. He can throw dimes, and he can throw the ball down the field. He's been throwing it deep to Christian [Kirk] and those guys in the OTAs."

Do all of these lofty descriptions mean anything for the regular season? Not necessarily. But it's a lot better than hearing he has a long way to go. 

   

4. Arians needs to check his rose-colored glasses

TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 09: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hands the ball off to Peyton Barber #25 during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium on December 09, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images)
Will Vragovic/Getty Images

The Buccaneers have three running backs: Andre Ellington, Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber. Given that trio's track record, they might as well have Bell, Biv and DeVoe back there.

Tampa Bay's backfield is average at best. That puts more pressure on quarterback Jameis Winston, who has already proved to be barely serviceable at times.

However, head coach Bruce Arians isn't worried.

"I like our backfield," Arians recently said on the Ira Kaufman Podcast (via JoeBucsFan.com). "I think it's [an] OK backfield. There's not a David Johnson or a Todd Gurley. But you don't need one."

That may have been true 10 years ago, but the position is making a dramatic comeback. Runners are now key cogs in an offense, whether it's on the ground or as part of the passing game. Almost all of the NFC's top teams last year—the Rams, Saints, Cowboys and othershad talented backs. 

We can argue what talented is, but I don't believe Bell, Biv and DeVoe meet that qualification.

This all comes back to Winston. If the Buccaneers backfield remains this underwhelming, people in the league who I trust say it will hurt no one more than Winston.

Tom Brady doesn't need an exceptional backfield because he's Tom freaking Brady. Winston needs an exceptional backfield because he's Jameis effing Winston.

I may have to eat my words on this in a few months. This could end up being wrong. Poison, so to speak.

But I wouldn't bet a platinum record on it.

    

5. Johnny Football's next stop

Wade Payne/Associated Press

XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck was coy when asked if the league would pursue Johnny Manziel. 

According to one source, the XFL believes it's only a matter of time before Manziel joins the league. The XFL and its teams are simply taking their time in evaluating the former Heisman Trophy winner.

Since the NFL isn't likely to come calling for him again, there's time. But there seems to be interest.

For a league that will need to make a splash when it debuts, Manziel should draw eyeballs.

    

6. It ain't bragging if you can do it

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 04:  Eddie Jackson #39 and Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears sing as they exit the tunnel before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on November 4, 2018 in Orchard Park, New York. Chicago defeats Buffalo 41-9
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

After the Bears ended their offseason work, Jackson told reporters what would motivate him over the next few weeks (via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times): 

"Everything—how short, and how far, we came. From the losing record to the winning record. How short we came, with the first-round playoff game with the field goal. Right now, we just want to build off everything and let that be the fuel to our fire. We plan on taking this whole thing."

Some may think Jackson was too braggadocious. Others should realize he is simply telling the truth.

Teams plan to win. People plan for the best. I plan on being the next Denzel Washington.

In other words, what Jackson said isn't all that controversial.

The Bears may be one of the few teams who could legitimately win the Super Bowl this year. Last season, they were a missed field goal away from reaching the divisional round. Their defense is still outstanding, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is only getting better.

So go ahead, Mr. Jackson, speak the truth. You aren't alone in believing it.

     

7. It ain't bragging if you can do it, Part II

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

The Bears aren't the only team brimming with confidence this offseason.

Earlier this month, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon told ESPN's Wendi Nix his squad was "the team to beat" in the AFC West. This week, Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram echoed those sentiments while proclaiming to reporters that the team was "definitely going to win the Super Bowl."

Like the Bears, the Chargers have every right to say things like that. They're that good. It's refreshing to see players speak freely. Coaches hate it, but everyone else loves it.

Also, would it truly shock anyone if this season ended with a Bears-Chargers Super Bowl? 

    

8. Dark clouds over L.A.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

For months, the Rams have said there's nothing wrong with running back Todd Gurley's left knee. However, he missed the final two games of the regular season last year and played sparingly in the Super Bowl.

There's clearly something wrong.

His trainer, Travelle Gaines, acknowledged as much while speaking with Dave Richard of CBSSports.com this week:

"Everybody knew when Todd came out of Georgia that there would be some kind of arthritic component to his knee, which is part of every surgery whether it's a shoulder, a knee, an ankle. He's now at the year-five mark, all we're doing is managing that. If we can pound him less in the offseason while keeping his weight down, working on his strength, working on his agility in short areas, that's going to give him a better chance to be healthy Weeks 14 through 17 when they really count."

That "arthritic component" doesn't sound like nothing.

The problematic knees of running backs typically don't tend to get better. They usually worsen over time. I've seen it this repeatedly. Many of us have.

Gurley is a rare athlete, so maybe he'll be fine. But the Rams should be worried, and I think they are.

     

9. A thing of beauty

While Andy Reid doesn't have the best track record in the postseason, let's never forget the Chiefs head coach is one of the best play-callers in history. As NFL analyst Warren Sharp reminded us recently on Twitter, Reid's offenses are beautiful to behold. 

    

10. World Cup fantasy

A good friend once said that if you gave him a number of NFL defensive backs and a year to train them, he'd win the World Cup.

I thought of this as the Women's World Cup was underway and am reminded of how asinine that statement was.

It's true that NFL defensive backs are the best pure athletes in any sport (feel free to argue this point). They are required to run with the fastest athletes on the field, sometimes backward and sideways, while also tackling and taking on 300-pound linemen.

But non-soccer experts like my friend constantly (and foolishly) underestimate the amazing athleticism of soccer players. They aren't the same type of athletes as NFL players, but most NFL players likely couldn't run in a week what most soccer players do in a game.

Having said that, give me a group of DBs and a year, and I'd coach them into the NBA Finals.

                  

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL. 

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