The mood of the four-time MVP has overshadowed the draft the previous two years, and fans were sure he’d be unhappy again when Green Bay used both its picks Thursday night on defense. But Rodgers and the Packers are in a good place, and that’s more valuable than any offensive weapon the team could have drafted.
“I’m sure Packer nation will be wondering why we didn’t take a receiver or trade up or what not,” Rodgers said during an appearance on Pat McAfee’s Draft Spectacular. “At this point, you’ve just got to have some faith in the organization and faith in whoever we bring in tomorrow and the rest of this draft, I’m going to put in the time to make it work with those guys.
“We’re going to find a way in Matt’s offense to be successful, like we always have. It’s not going to be any different this year,” Rodgers added. “We’re going to be in the mix.”
Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst’s decision to trade up and take Jordan Love in the first round two years ago blindsided Rodgers, and the fallout has shaped pretty much everything he and the Packers have done since then. Rodgers is driven by slights, real and imagined, and he used the drafting of his replacement as fuel in 2020, when he took the Packers to the NFC championship and won his third MVP award.
Hours before last year’s draft, Rodgers let it be known that he was so unhappy with the Packers, Gutekunst in particular, he didn’t want to return to Green Bay. He sat out the team’s minicamps amid rumors he was contemplating retirement.
Rodgers returned for training camp, but made it clear he was still unhappy with how the team had treated him and some of its other veteran players. What once had seemed unfathomable, the idea of Rodgers ending his career anywhere other than Green Bay, now seemed like a certainty.
But somewhere along the way, the anger cooled.
Gutekunst acknowledged that Rodgers’ success and longevity had earned him the right to, if not have a say in personnel matters, at least be kept informed of them. Green Bay also made moves to keep him happy, including bringing back receiver Randall Cobb, one of Rodgers’ closest friends, and luring quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, another Rodgers’ favorite, out of retirement.
By the time the season ended, a trade was no longer in the conversation. The only decision was whether Rodgers wanted to keep playing and, when he said he did, the Packers gave him a four-year extension.
“There was a lot of things from last year that were unexpected for sure,” Rodgers said, chuckling. “It definitely wasn’t the smoothest year at times. I do feel good about where I’m at with Green Bay, my relationship with Brian and (Russ Ball, Green Bay’s salary cap guru) and Matt, bringing Tom Clements back in the fold.”
About those receivers, though.
The Packers have not drafted a receiver, running back or tight end in the first round since 2002. But having lost Rodgers’ favorite target Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, and with two picks, the time seemed right.
Not just right, imperative.
But Rodgers didn’t see it that way. He told McAfee and AJ Hawk, his former teammate in Green Bay, that he’d been in contact with the Packers throughout the night, so he was well aware of what they were planning. Any receivers Green Bay had wanted were gone well before the Packers were on the clock with the 22nd and 28th picks.
Six receivers were drafted in the first 18 spots, with Drake London, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams all going in the top 12.
Rodgers also echoed David Bakhtiari, another of his good friends, who had responded to Green Bay’s pick of Georgia linebacker Quay Walker with a Tweet saying, “Love it. Defense wins championships.” The Packers later took Georgia defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt.
“Our defense,” Rodgers said, “is going to be really good.”
NFL DRAFT BEST AVAILABLE PLAYERS: Malik Willis, Nakobe Dean highlight Day 2 options
NFL DRAFT TRACKER: Analysis on every pick in the first round
NFL NEWSLETTER: Sign up now to get football news delivered to your inbox
More than any of that, though, Rodgers knows Green Bay’s history. He, and Brett Favre before him, have been blessed with some pretty good receivers over the years, from Greg Jennings to Jordy Nelson to Cobb to Adams. All of them were drafted in the second round.
Donald Driver, who still holds the Packers records for catches and yards receiving, was taken in the seventh round.
“There are a lot of receiver busts in the first round. There’s very few of the Calvin Johnsons, Julio Joneses,” Rodgers said. “The draft, there’s a few guys who are sure things and a lot of guys, especially in the first round, who you never know. You just have to have trust in the guys picking, the personnel people.
“And then a lot of it is the situation, the fit with those teams.”
It is clear the fit between the Green Bay Packers and their future Hall of Fame quarterback is once again a good one. After all the turmoil the last two years, that’s as big a win as any first-round pick for the Packers.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armor on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers appeared on the same page on NFL draft day