Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Packers Send Message to Rodgers with Love Pick

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterApril 29, 2020

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 06: Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers  talks with quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 on the sidelines during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Aaron Rodgers-Packers saga takes another turn, Russell Okung has some thoughts about what's fair in life and a handful of offensive stars still don't know where they'll be playing next season. All that and more in this post-NFL draft edition of the 10-Point Stance.

                                      

1. A message sent loud and (probably) clear

To understand what the Packers may have been trying to say to quarterback Aaron Rodgers with their selection of Utah State QB Jordan Love in the first round of last week's draft, you have to go back in time for a moment, to the year 1992.

It was then that Broncos coach Dan Reeves, who was also essentially the general manager, drafted quarterback Tommy Maddox in the first round. Denver, at the time, however, also had a guy named John Elway on the roster, and he was only heading into his age-32 campaign.

The relationship between Reeves and Elway had long been contentious, and Elway didn't hide that fact when Reeves was fired following the 1992 season.

"The last three years have been hell," Elway said then in an interview with Sports Illustrated. "I know that I would not have been back here if Dan Reeves had been here. It wasn't worth it to me. I didn't enjoy it. It wasn't any fun, and I got tired of working with him." 

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To Elway's way of thinking, Reeves' drafting of Maddox was a gigantic middle finger to his starting quarterback. Particularly since the Broncos desperately needed a receiver at the time.

"I was standing at the baggage claim at [the airport], and we needed a wideout," Elway said last year, remembering that draft. "I said, 'Oh, [Carl] Pickens must have been gone.' He didn't go until the second round."

Put simply, Reeves' decision to draft Maddox was a message to Elway: You're not in control. I am.

An AFC coach this week told B/R that the Broncos situation wasn't so dissimilar to the Packers' choice to draft Love and then not pick a single wide receiver in the entire draft. 

"The Packers couldn't have sent a clearer message to Aaron," the coach said.

"We run this, not you."

Now, this is one coach's opinion, and it's entirely possible the Packers just did what they believed was right for the organization. Nothing more, nothing less.

However, the coach is not alone in his sentiment, as has been expressed to me privately from multiple team executives and coaches across the league.

The idea that a franchise would waste a first-round pick just to spite one of its players does seem absurd. But it's happened before.

Now, years later, it may have just happened again.

                           

2. Shoot your shot

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 24:  Aaron Rodgers #12 and Jordy Nelson #87 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on December 24, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Before the draft, Rodgers openly expressed his desire for the Packers to select a skill-position player in the first round this year, and it's not hard to understand why. According to SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic, Rodgers has thrown just one touchdown pass to a first-round pick over his entire career.

My belief (and the belief of others in football) is that Rodgers has been underserved by the Packers front office. Others believe that Green Bay has given Rodgers plenty of good receivers, like Jordy Nelson, from later rounds.

But those hits are bigger gambles.

The first round of the draft is the shoot-your-shot round, where teams select someone they think won't just be a starter but also a star.

If you do what the Packers did‚ÄĒnot use a first-round selection for a skill-position player since 2005 until this year‚ÄĒyou are not prioritizing that position.¬†

That's why what the Packers did with Love was so remarkable. They prioritized a quarterback when they already have one of the best to ever do it, and he's not close to being done.

                                    

3. Grudge match

Ben Margot/Associated Press

One last thing on Rodgers...if you don't believe he's ultra-mad at this selection, well, you're wrong.

That Rodgers is a world-class grudge-holder should come as no surprise.

But he's also a professional, so it's likely he won't say a word publicly now. He'll be the good soldier, and if the Packers win, everything will be OK.

However, if the inevitable happens, and a key offensive player gets hurt, Rodgers won't stay quiet.

That's where things could get really interesting.

                                          

4. Meanwhile, in the NFC North

On the bright side of all the drama surrounding the Packers is the fact that their division didn't get markedly better this offseason. The Lions still have a lot of building to do, the Bears still have massive questions at quarterback, and while the Vikings are solid, the loss of receiver Stefon Diggs will seriously sting.

In other words, this is still the Packers' division to win.

                               

5. Russell Okung has something to say

Tim Ireland/Associated Press

When I was offered the opportunity to speak with Panthers offensive lineman Russell Okung about his investment in Fold, which helped launch the first-ever Bitcoin rewards card, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got was a good interview from a highly intelligent guy, as well as a Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler.

B/R: I know you've said you didn't want to go through a rebuild in Carolina, but isn't that what they're doing?

Russell Okung: I think my exact quote was, "I don't see it as a rebuild," and that continues to be my perspective. It's important to recognize the context that I'm coming from, where the idea of "rebuilding" was in the very air that we breathed and the vibe of being in constant transition was impossible to ignore. In Carolina, sure, there are a couple key positions where new guys are coming in, mine included, but that doesn't mean we're not ready to compete and win right out of the gate.

   

B/R: What are your early impressions of the Panthers franchise?

RO: You can tell from Day 1 of being here that the organization is extremely well managed. They take pride in providing a first-class experience for members of their team and go the extra mile in caring for our well-being. Even my wife has commented at how well taken care of we have been through the sudden transition and even during a global pandemic. The city is obviously world-class, and the fans have so far been very warm and receptive towards me. Also, I appreciate how the front office staff seriously considered my proposal to be paid in Bitcoin, but in the end, the league office isn't quite ready for that. (Actually, gotta give credit to the Chargers organization for doing the same; I think we're starting to make progress on this front.)

                  

B/R: How would you summarize your career in San Diego?

RO: Ha, well, first a lot of people forgetting that the Chargers moved from San Diego to L.A. was a very typical part of the experience. But overall, it was great from the standpoint of being in Southern California, meeting a lot of incredible people and building solid friendships. The organization itself had its share of challenges with the move and the new stadium and such, but overall, I'm thankful for the opportunity and wish them the best.

                                  

B/R: What got you interested in Bitcoin?

RO: The dynamics I experienced with the NFLPA labor negotiations opened my eyes to how power and money work. It's similar to the stimulus checks being sent: The people who control the money get to decide what a reasonable "share" is for everyone. So for the six-plus trillion-dollar stimulus, it was something like .02 out of every dollar went directly to working-class Americans. So a small group of people decided to keep 98 percent of the pie for themselves and their buddies and then gaslight you into being thankful for two cents. And the issue isn't just that you're only seeing two cents out of every dollar, but it's more that this "share" isn't an accurate reflection of the value you're actually producing. So really, seeing patterns like this caused me to look deeper into how money works, and made Bitcoin click as a solution.

                                                  

B/R: What's the biggest thing people should know about Bitcoin?

RO: There are so many things that could be ranked as most important, but I think what's most relevant to understand right now is that Bitcoin is not owned or controlled by any single entity or group. There is no CEO or headquarters. Unlike the legacy financial system, where monetary policy is determined by a small group of individuals who have their own interests, incentives and motivations, Bitcoin is money by the people, for the people.

                  

6. MVP for hire

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

It remains one of the strangest developments from this offseason: Why isn't Cam Newton getting signed?

Jameis Winston just got a one-year deal with the Saints, and it can be argued that Newton is better.

Teams have stated privately that Newton's injury history is the main concern, but that sounds...shaky for a guy who's only 30 and a former league MVP.

Now the excuses have turned to concerns over how he'll fit into different offensive systems (which is also hard to buy given that he's been in an NFL quarterback room for nine seasons).

Despite the waiting, teams still believe it will be sooner rather than later that Newton is signed. We'll see.

                                   

7. Elementary, Watson

The Texans picked up quarterback Deshaun Watson's fifth-year year option for 2021 this week. Well, yeah, of course.

According to ESPN Stats & Info:

This year will pose a new challenge for Watson. He won't have DeAndre Hopkins, who was traded to Arizona last month, to throw to for the first time in his career.

Not that he hasn't already been impressive in his short career already, but if he can produce similar numbers this coming season, he'll be a bargain for Houston.

                                                               

8. Nice try

UNSPECIFIED LOCATION - APRIL 23: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this still image from video provided by the NFL, Tua Tagovailoa shows off the lining of his jacket during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on April 23, 2020. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

Now that the Dolphins have drafted quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, it's clear just how much they floated rumors to fool people. It worked with some in the media but never really fooled any teams.

"Every rumor I heard, I went through my head of how would we handle this if this happened," Chargers general manager Tom Telesco told Pat McAfee on his show. "Now, the whole Miami taking a tackle at 3, maybe they really were, I just didn't believe that one." 

In the end, it didn't push any teams to trade ahead of Miami or with the Dolphins, but with all the help they need to rebuild the roster, you can't blame the Dolphins for trying.

                                         

9. Anyone need a running back?

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The Jaguars have been trying to trade running back Leonard Fournette, but so far, the interest is minimal, according to several team officials in both conferences.

Teams that needed a running back picked one in the draft, and given the diminishing value of the position, there's no pressing need to trade for Fournette.

That doesn't mean it won't happen, especially since it seems both Fournette and the Jaguars want their divorce. But it will take some time, and don't a lot of us have plenty of that nowadays?

            

10. Draft 2021

UNSPECIFIED LOCATION - APRIL 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this still image from video provided by the NFL, Terrell Lewis, center, is congratulated being selected by the Los Angeles Rams during the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft on April 24, 2020. (Photo
Handout/Getty Images

After a virtual draft that has drawn widespread praise across the sports media landscape, it's fair to wonder if, assuming the country (and the world) has emerged from the pandemic and life is somewhat back to normal, the NFL would return to its regular way of drafting?

What I'm hearing is the league really wants to revert the draft back to its usual form but will likely keep some of the Zoom-ish elements of it, particularly a lengthy look inside the homes of prospects and coaches.

That could make for a hybrid version of the draft next year in which multiples locales are incorporated into the event. And wouldn't that signal a welcome return to normalcy?

                                                 

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