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Why Aaron Rodgers and the Packers could never match Tom Brady and the Patriots

An interesting look at the dysfunction of the Packers and why a Patriots-like dynasty never developed in Green Bay.

Green Bay Packers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

If you read one football article today, I highly recommend “What Happened in Green Bay” by Bleacher Report’s Ty Dunne, an incredibly thorough analysis of how the Green Bay Packers have disappointed the lofty expectations of the Aaron Rodgers era and why the team finally imploded this past season.

Dunne interviews players, coaches, and front office folks that point the blame at Rodgers, former head coach Mike McCarthy, and former general manager Ted Thompson. Each shoulders some aspect of the blame, with Rodgers undermining the coaching staff, McCarthy removing himself from the players while still taking credit in public, and Thompson draining the team of talent and leadership.

It makes a New England Patriots fan thankful for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Dunne makes regular comparisons to the Patriots throughout the story, juxtaposing the failures of the Packers against the success of New England. Here are some of the highlights.

On leadership

If Rodgers isn’t Brady as a leader, McCarthy sure as hell never managed like Bill Belichick. Whereas Belichick despises the limelight and “removes himself” every way he can, this player says McCarthy loved anointing himself as a quarterback guru. The coach often bragged to players about his time with Joe Kansas City.

Former teammates question Rodgers’ leadership style, hinting that Rodgers would only respect a coach he considers smarter than himself, and that he wasn’t a leader in the locker room holding players accounting. He’s “conflict averse” as a source stated. He’s not the same leader as Brady, who’s always keeping everyone accountable.

And just as importantly, McCarthy isn’t the same leader as Bill Belichick, who never takes any of the credit for the team’s success, opting to place it on the shoulders of the players and other coaches. He’s never using the past to prove his bonafides, and he rarely looks at the past, unless to talk about special teamers from the 1970s. Belichick keeps the focus on this week. The next game. We’re on to Cincinnati.

There’s leadership from the coach and the quarterback. Advantage Patriots.

On quarterback-receiver relationships

So there was [Greg] Jennings, a Viking himself in 2013. He could tell Packers receivers were scared just to say hello with Rodgers likely hyperanalyzing their every move from afar. To him, that’s sad. It shouldn’t be like this. He sees the relationship Brady has cultivated with Julian Edelman, with all of his receivers, and says, “Everyone wants that.” Those two spend time together off the field, and it carries into what matters on the field. Brady builds bonds for life, and that can be the difference between division titles and Super Bowls. Between Brady’s legacy and Rodgers’ legacy.

Rodgers was apparently upset at Jennings for connecting with Brett Favre and holds a grudge like no one else. And not in the motivational way that Brady does about being drafted 199th overall- in a darker way that leads to solitude.

And it makes sense that Brady’s able to build such great relationships with his teammates, with Edelman being the gold standard. Relationships matter. Advantage Patriots.

On roster building

As one player put it, Thompson assumed the Packers system was automatic and he could just plug cheap rookies in. In the process, the Packers lost the leaders that Rodgers and McCarthy never were, never would be, and they never found replacements...Back in [Ryan] Grant’s day, the Packers were armed with legit leaders at every position. Those teams self-policed. McCarthy never had to intervene. Rodgers never had to speak up.

“The Patriot Way” is one of the most important assets of the Patriots, even if it’s hard to verbalize, and that includes having leaders in the locker room. I mentioned before that Belichick and Brady are both better leaders than McCarthy and Rodgers were, but leadership is important in every positional group.

The Patriots went from Kevin Faulk, Troy Brown, Richard Seymoyr, Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, and Rodney Harrison, to Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, and Matthew Slater, with Brady a constant throughout both eras.

The weakest point of the Patriots’ era was during that transition period of 2009, when the old guard changed to the new guard. But the transition was an undeniable success as there are still leaders all across the roster.

Brady, David Andrews, and James White should be captains on offense; McCourty, Hightower, and Patrick Chung will lead the defense; and Slater is a staple on special teams. Players aren’t interchangeable and the locker room does matter. Advantage Patriots.

On “Do Your Job”

A source close to the team says [Equanimeous] St. Brown became frustrated because as much as he wanted to follow McCarthy’s play design, he also heard rumors of Rodgers freezing out teammates if they didn’t do exactly what he demanded. So he listened to Rodgers. On one play in New England, Rodgers told St. Brown to run a post route when the play called for a flag. St. Brown ran the post, and pressure forced Rodgers to throw the ball away toward the flag—leading his position coach to grill him on what he was thinking. St. Brown told him he was “improvising” so he didn’t upset Rodgers. Knowing what was up, McCarthy told him to stick with the routes called.

#DoYourJob. Advantage Patriots.

On listening to coaching

If LaFleur does strike that tricky balance and revitalizes Rodgers, Jennings thinks his old QB can enter the GOAT/Brady stratosphere. He’s just not sure how willing Rodgers is when the quarterback’s first public comments about the hire, at the NFL Honors, started off with the words, “A lot of change, in life in general, it’s tough at first.” That’s all he needed to hear. To Jennings, that quote practically guaranteed how this will go down.

”I know how Aaron operates,” Jennings says. “For him to make that statement, it already lets me know he’s going to make it hard on a young Matt LaFleur.”

To him, Rodgers doesn’t need to sacrifice too much. It’s as simple as what Brady did in the AFC title game, handing the ball off to backs 47 times to keep Patrick Mahomes off the field. LaFleur has already hinted at wanting to run the ball more.

There are numerous stories in the article of Aaron Rodgers changing the play from a run to a pass, or drawing up a different play from the coaches while in the huddle. Sometimes it works, but it creates a culture of distrust and toxicity, where players that need to have a relationship with the quarterback are also still trying to listen to the coaching staff. No one wins.

In New England, you have Brady trusting all the players and coaches to do what they’re tasked to do. Hand the ball off to Sony Michel. Let Stephen Gostkowski take the field goal attempt. Brady is able to give his input to the game plan, and then does his best with what’s called.

It’s been working out pretty well for New England. Advantage Patriots.