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.