Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood Watch-ing You???

I'm sorry about this, but this bugs me.

I've been listening all summer long about how Aaron Rodgers is a great teammate because he had guys over to his place for cookouts and video games. Those trying to portray Rodgers in the best light possible (a necessity given the events of FavreGate) often cited his parties as some sort of noble act that made him a great teammate.

This always didn't sit well with me, and I wasn't sure why. Primarily, it was because I didn't remember any great quarterbacks like Montana, Marino, or Brady needing to host video-game parties to ingratiate themselves to their teammates. It seemed a bit forced and cheap, but I kept my opinions to myself for the most part.

But when I read these comments in USA Today yesterday, it really made me reframe my feelings on the matter, and not necessarily for the better.

Rodgers' bond with teammates was also strengthened by a series of Wednesday night cookouts he hosted at his house during the offseason. He invited the team for catered meals, with no strings attached. About 50 players showed up one evening, and there were never fewer than 20.

"Jennings and (Donald) Driver never came," Rodgers, with a wry smirk, says of the starting wide receivers. "But Ruvell (Martin, the No. 3 receiver) came. That's why he's my No. 1."

Now, its not my intent to rip on Rodgers, who I am a fan of. But it is comments like these that make you question the whole intent of why he did it. On one hand, the article states that there were "no strings attached" for attending the Rodgers Party. However, there apparently are consequences for not attending.

After watching the game last night, it is pretty clear that there wasn't a lack of production from those top two receivers, but the unique bond between Rodgers and Martin continued, as Rodgers clapped hands with every player coming out of the tunnel, but chose Martin to give a flying hip-bump with.

It also resounds of Rodgers' first significant time back in 2006 when he threw an unexpected pass to Martin. When ripped by coach McCarthy on why he threw the ball to Martin instead of going through his progressions, Rodgers replied, "He's my guy."

It begs the question, then...what was the point of all these cookouts? Were the receivers obligated to come and be a buddy with their quarterback? Rodgers gives a report to the press about who attended and who didn't? Tongue-in-cheek, for sure, but that seems to be a rather foolish thing to bring up.

I do understand some of the rationale that Rodgers may have put into it. In a way, he is establishing himself as the anti-Favre, which is pretty much a good thing to do. The more Rodgers can establish himself as his own person, instead of trying to emulate or copy Favre's style, the less likely he will be compared to him.

And without a doubt, Favre was far from the buddy-buddy, video gaming buddy that Rodgers is trying to be. Favre was far more likely to lock himself up in his house than invite everyone over (in his defense, though, he did have a his wife and kids, as well as a need to avoid alcohol given his past addictions). He was also more likely to open up to the media in a press conference than in the locker room.

I'm sure that Rodgers saw many of these traits and realized that some of them rubbed teammates the wrong way, and wanted to make sure that he didn't follow that standard. Of course, Rodgers is swinging single, shares his house with an Packer staffer, and has some expendable income to invest in building his rep with his teammates.

But, his comments belie that noble intent, and of course, colors him with one of Favre's more famous traits: having a favorite receiver. I think that what Rodgers has done on the field in the preseason, and particularly, on Monday night has gone a far longer way to truly gaining the respect of his teammates than any of these video-game parties. And, that is the way it should be.

I also think that such camaraderie off the field is overrated in today's free-agent NFL. You gain such camaraderie by playing together, going to battle together, and by winning. You don't hear a whole lot of talk from players from the Forrest Gregg era talking about what great chemistry they had and how many lifelong friends they made during that time. We hear a lot more of that from guys like Jerry Kramer than we do from Walter Stanley.

Winning together goes a lot farther than losing together. And since rosters change so much year-to-year nowadays, its hard to develop lifelong friendships when you are willing to sell out to the highest bidder in free agency.

Now, I like Rodgers, and I don't want to get accosted for trying to rain on his parade. This is a good day for Rodgers, coming off a solid performance, and frankly, proving he's farther along than I even though he was (and I have stated that this was his year for a long time).

But, its time to put this "great teammate because he throws parties" offseason hype to bed. Rodgers deserves respect from his teammates because of the man he is on the field and the man he is in the locker room, not because he caters in food and plays Madden with you. That makes him a buddy, not a teammate.

It makes him Anthony Dilweg, not Bart Starr.

Rodgers' own words have sunk that "Super Best Friend To Everyone" image he wanted to create. Let's judge him based on what he does on game day when the scoreboard is lit up, not based on cheap attempts to ensconce himself as "the man".

Monday night was a great start. Let's all start from there from now on.

It looks like Donald Driver and Greg Jennings did. Good thing for Aaron Rodgers.


Nate said...

This is one of the stupidest articles I have ever read about Aaron Rodgers. To imply that he was keeping track of who attended his off-season parties, and that this would subsequently determine who he throws the ball to is ludicrous, at best.

Rodgers may simply like Ruvell Martin better than Driver or Jennings. When I played sports, I had teammates that I liked better than others. Perhaps we had a unique hand shake or whatever. But during the game, I did what needed to be done to win. I did not try to throw my friends the ball.

There have been some silly articles written about Rodgers throughout the past 3 months, but this is clearly the worst of them all.

If you did not realize that Rodgers was joking when he said that Ruvell was his No.1, then you have no business writing this article/post.

pkrjones said...

I agree with the previous commenter, C.D. - your slant on this is ridiculous. Of course Rodgers has "buddies" on the team, especially guys who he's run the "scout team" with (Ruvell Martin). Why fault Rodgers for having an open invitation to his get-togethers? It would be even more telling if he had "private" gatherings with just his favorite 10 or 20 guys, wouldn't it? Rodgers has his "favorite" receiver in Martin, but that's because with a look or movement they both understand what the other will do. Favre and Driver had that same system. Many athletes have a "favorite" on their team, who they can communicate with subtly or non-verbally.

Why not write an article about team comraderie or buddies (e.g. Max McGee and Hornung, Rodgers and Ruvell, Favre and Winters)? See my point?

C.D. Angeli said...

Nate and pkrjones, thanks for the comments.

Nate, I don't think there is any doubt that Rodgers likes Ruvell Martin. I also agree that Rodgers does a great job passing to whomever needs to be passed to on Monday night.

The crux of the article wasn't to make out that Rodgers isn't supposed to have friends or that he's going to play favorites on the field. The crux is that these off-season parties, often cited as a reason for Rodgers gaining acceptance among his teammates, seemed cheap and now, like Rodgers was taking offense if folks didn't show up.

That bothers me. There's no reason to spout off about it to a national publication. Period. Why on God's green earth would he cite Driver and Jennings BY NAME as folks who didn't come to his party, but then cite Martin BY NAME and say that he's his "number one"...thus connecting the parties to his preferences.

I didn't say it. He did.

Pkr, he didn't say "favorite" or "friend"...he said "my number one". That invites criticism. If you read the article, I think you get that I am pretty high on Rodgers. I am not high on throwing summer parties as some sort of evidence that it makes him a good teammate. His comments make the parties seem like there was more of an agenda than there probably was.

I will consider writing an article on any topic, thanks for the suggestion. However, I'm not going to just write safe, fluffy articles just to avoid criticism. I gave the same criticism to Favre when he said something he probably should have kept to himself, and I see no reason to tiptoe around Rodgers. He's a big boy, and paid millions of dollars to do his job.

Thanks again for the comments, guys!

BlueRose said...

Why is it Rodgers' fault for naming them? How do we know that the writer didn't ask which of the receivers did or didn't come?

The comment was in jest. Clearly Martin isn't actually his number one, and their friendship has predated these parties. So obviously the parties weren't responsible.

There does not appear to be any ulterior motive to the parties. People were free to come or not and there is no evidence Rodgers had hard feelings. He was joking about it and looking at the stats from the Minnesota game, Jennings and Driver had the most receptions and the most yardage of all the receivers. Martin had 1 reception for 13 yards.

You are attributing ulterior motives to Rodgers due to ONE comment that is given no context. And Rodgers' behavior has never seemed to indicate that he holds grudges or would be that petty.

C.D. Angeli said...

You know, it seems to be assumed that I am making this out to some sort of conspiracy theory.

It wasn't. It was an unnecessary comment. There was no reason for it, and the local press has wisely buried the comment from view.

I'm not trying to make AR out to be a bad guy, or trying to tear him down. I like Rodgers, always have. I have said this is his year and I'm glad to see him prove himself.

I don't think he needed to cater parties to gain camaraderie with his teammates, nor does it impress me that such parties are constantly presented as exhibits attesting to what a great guy he is.

I care that he is a good quarterback, in the locker room, on the practice field, and on the gridiron on game day. I don't care if he is Martha Stewart, and I don't need to know who RSVP'd and didn't. And, I'm sure there are those on the team that don't want their names put out there for attending/not attending, whether we think it is funny or not.

My point: let's let this Party thing die and judge him for what he is paid to do on the football field.