Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has one of the best football minds in the NFL — there’s no disputing that.
The 35-year-old has proven that fact time and again during his 11 seasons as the Packers starting quarterback, picking up two league MVP awards and leading the organization to a Super Bowl win.
However now, after the Packers fired coach Mike McCarthy and replaced him with Matt LaFleur this offseason, Rodgers is having to start over in a new system for the first time in a long time. And one of the biggest challenges in the new offense, LaFleur said, is Rodgers’ ability to call and change plays at the line of scrimmage.
That’s not necessarily something built into the offensive scheme LaFleur is bringing to Green Bay.
“Aaron and I have had some good talks, and we're going to have to talk a lot more — and one thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur said, via the NFL Network. “We're running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle (Shanahan) in Houston a decade ago, and we've never really had a quarterback who's had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that's not really the way the offense is set up.
“But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He's had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?”
Rodgers’ relationship with McCarthy reportedly deteriorated rapidly over the final few years of their time together in Green Bay due to many reasons. One thing that started happening later and later was that Rodgers would just completely ignore play calls that McCarthy sent into the game simply because he didn’t like them — something that former Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis said was like something he hadn’t ever seen before in the NFL.
“One time I really saw it for the first time, we were in the huddle. I guess McCarthy called in a play, and Aaron was kind of like, ‘Nah,’” Lewis said earlier this year. “He gave a direction and a protection to the line, and went. It was a four-minute offense, he threw a 40-yard bomb for a completion. I’m like, ‘What’s really going on?’ I’ve never seen anything like that before in my life.”
That type of behavior, even if you’re as talented as Rodgers, won’t fly with many coaches throughout the NFL.
While Rodgers and LaFleur work on their new relationship and the new offense he’s bringing to Green Bay, Rodgers said that calling audibles at the line of scrimmage isn’t something he can just quit doing — but he’s willing to work with his new coach on making sure it fits in the new system.
“It's a conversation in progress,” Rodgers said, via the NFL Network. “I don't think you want to ask me to turn off 11 years (of recognizing defenses). We have a number of check with me’s and line-of-scrimmage stuff. It's just the other stuff that really not many people in this league can do.
“That's not like a humblebrag or anything, that's just a fact. There aren't many people that can do at the line of scrimmage what I've done over the years ... There are a few of us who've just done it. It's kind of second nature. And that's just the icing on the cake for what I can do in this offense.”
Still, Rodgers and LaFleur said things have gone well throughout OTAs and minicamps so far this summer — even with Rodgers having to learn an entirely new system essentially for the first time in his professional career.
“It is fun. It’s a challenge for sure,” Rodgers said, via the NFL Network. “I ran the same system for so long. There's a lot of stuff in my mind.”
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