World turned upside down: Bears happy, Aaron Rodgers very much not
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Where are we? What is this strange world? One in which the Bears are a model franchise and the Packers are a house divided?
Not any world with which I’m familiar.
Last week, Bleacher Report ran a story about the fractious relationship between quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy, who was fired 12 games into last season. It did not paint a pretty picture. McCarthy came across as a low-watt bulb in the football-strategy department. Former Packers Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings described Rodgers as a bad leader and a locker-room cancer.
It brings to mind the darkest days of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall and Marc Trestman, and I’m sorry to do that to you. But . . . remember? Then-offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer apologizing to the team for being the source of a 2014 story that said the Bears had ‘‘buyer’s remorse’’ after giving Cutler a contract extension? Cutler walking away from then-offensive coordinator Mike Tice on the Bears’ bench during a 2012 game? TV cameras catching Cutler saying, ‘‘Tell Martz I said, ‘[Bleep] him,’ ’’ as he broke the huddle in a 2011 game? He was referring to then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz. There are a lot of then-Bears offensive coordinators out there.
Had Chicago known the Packers were a simmering mess, it might have made all the pain and all the bad football a bit more bearable. Even with the reported tension, though, the Packers still won a lot of games. While they were busy winning and apparently seething, the Bears were trying to figure out how to hold a football.
But that’s ancient history! The Bears are coming off a 12-4 season under coach Matt Nagy, whose infectious personality has turned the franchise into something it hasn’t been in a long time: fun. The acquisition of linebacker Khalil Mack didn’t hurt, either.
The Packers, meanwhile . . . oooh, boy. According to Tyler Dunne, the author of the Bleacher Report story, the problems between McCarthy and Rodgers began in 2006, their first season together.
‘‘The worst-kept secret at 1265 Lombardi Avenue was that Rodgers seemed to loathe his coach from the moment McCarthy was hired,’’ Dunne wrote.
Rodgers was not pleased with the story.
‘‘This was a smear attack by a writer looking to advance his career talking with mostly irrelevant, bitter players who all have an agenda, whether they’re advancing their own careers or just trying to stir old stuff up,’’ he said on ESPN Milwaukee.
Here in Happyville, we’d like to tell Rodgers that life is not supposed to be like this. Nagy is Mitch Trubisky’s biggest cheerleader at Halas Hall, where never is heard a discouraging word. After victories, Bears players dance in ‘‘Club Dub,’’ their postgame party place. Nagy leads the league in trick plays. Cups of Gatorade come with umbrellas.
Rodgers might be thin-skinned, but he’s aware that a quarterback of his abilities should have more than one Super Bowl title to his name. I wouldn’t be surprised if, when he looked south to Nagy’s approach last season, it reaffirmed his belief that McCarthy’s offense was discovered during an archaeological dig.
The Packers have a new coach, 39-year-old Matt LaFleur, who was the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2017, though he didn’t call the plays for Jared Goff. The idea was to bring in a fresh face with modern football sensibilities. Someone like Nagy, it appears.
It doesn’t matter if Finley and Jennings are right about Rodgers’ prickly side or his lack of leadership. All that matters is that he wasn’t happy and that the Packers haven’t won multiple Super Bowls with him. Everything else is beside the point, like the wrapper on a cupcake. Keep the quarterback happy. If Rodgers is genetically incapable of joy, at least surround him with talent and brains.
Besides lashing out at the Bleacher Report writer and several former teammates Monday, Rodgers revealed that he had played most of last season with a strained medial collateral ligament and a tibial fracture. He suffered the injuries in the opener against the Bears but still led his team to a comeback victory. That turned out to be the high point of the season for the Packers.
The Bears returned the favor Dec. 16 at Soldier Field to clinch the NFC North title. ‘‘Titletown,’’ the Sun-Times’ headline blared the next day, borrowing Green Bay’s nickname. Very, very insensitive to our neighbors to the north.
I’ve already dubbed Chicago ‘‘Happyville,’’ thanks to Nagy’s effect on the Bears. The Packers seem a long way from stealing that nickname. They don’t have a whole lot to smile about. A 6-9-1 record, McCarthy’s firing and the Bleacher Report story all suggest a name change might be in order: Grim Bay.
What a world.