In case you haven’t heard of Malcolm Gladwell (he doesn’t play for your favorite football team), some describe him as an author, thinker, and speaker. Let’s just call him a connoisseur of the human condition. And one of his recent assertions has an odd application to a current NFL star.
Turns out the majority of medical malpractice suits are spawned not by poor surgical or technical acumen, but rather woeful bedside manner. So no matter how skilled the good doctor is, if he regards you more like a body than a human, he’s more likely to be seen in courtroom after the emergency room.
There’s a surgeon in the NFL, whose tools and skills are unquestioned and unlimited. Yet his bedside demeanor is among the worst in sports.
Aaron Rodgers, quarterback nonpareil, is under an intensifying light these days as he and his Green Bay Packers aren’t playing up to the sublime standard they’ve set since they won the Super Bowl six years ago.
In fact, Rodgers has been so sublime that Cheeseheads around the nation gave nary a thought to their dearly departed, iconic, Hall-of-Fame quarterback, Brett Favre, who was supposed to cast such a sprawling shadow that no reasonable man or football player could possibly perform under it.
We all remember Rodgers squirming in his chair at Radio City on draft day, while the NFL breezed by him in the first round, before the Packers took a stab at the California QB. Then Rodgers toiled on the Packers’ pine while Favre played and then played coy every offseason. His yearly mating ritual became something of a parody. But clearly Rodgers didn’t find it funny.
Yet Rodgers not only maintained the stratospheric bar set by Favre, he actually – gasp! – exceeded it.
Rodgers had what some consider the best season ever by a signal-caller in 2011, posting Playstation numbers that included 45 touchdown passes and six interceptions.
You won’t find a greater supporter/apologist than yours truly. Two years ago, I penned a piece asserting that Rodgers was playing his position better than anyone ever to toss a pigskin.
At the time of the article, almost exactly two years ago (Dec 5, 2014) Rodgers had passed for 3,325 yards, 32 TD, and 3 INT. His passer rating was a hypnotic 118.6, and his Packers had just defeated the mighty New England Patriots, led by a pretty decent QB of their own.
Of course, once an exalted player begins to slip, their personal defects sprout like weeds all over social media. And the Packers are plunging down the rungs of relevance. Between feuds with his own family and, now, teammates, a new light is being cast upon Rodgers.
There’s an increasing chorus surrounding Rodgers, and not all of it is flattering. Word spills out that Rodgers is aloof, smug, and condescending. As always, some comments are cloaked in anonymity.
But one former teammate had no issue with going on the record.
Jermichael Finley just eviscerated Rodgers in a recent article, posted on Nov. 20, on CBSSports.com, which used material first published by Bleacher Report. The bold ink bulging from Finley was his assertion that Rodgers was not “put on Earth to lead” – an assessment that might not be so toxic at any other position, but almost nuclear for a quarterback, who is not only the player who handles the football on every play, but also whose talent and temerity literally leads the franchise.
Among his litany of issues, Finley says Rodgers was “all about his game and his stats” and “kept grudges close to his chest” and never let said grudges go.
An anonymous source says Rodgers is a “f— head case” who is “so arrogant and prideful that he thinks he can separate his personal life from his professional life.”
If this were pseudo-bible-study class, Rodgers has been dissected by each of the Seven Sins, particularly pride.
“But when you’re talking about real situations,” the anonymous source continued, “that aren’t all of a sudden circumstantial and you f— over good people, people you’re supposed to love, it’s a sh—y thing to do and you’re going to get humbled.”
The piece then dives into the historical chasm between Rodgers and his brother, who was a recent contestant on the popular TV show, The Bachelor.
Other pieces pander in more more anonymous whispers about how Rodgers won’t even share his cell phone number with teammates. What’s true and what’s not? No matter, the aggregate paints a troubling picture, even if just a fraction holds traction.
Of course, when Rodgers is shredding NFL secondaries and winning games, his private life is surely more pastoral. Pictures with his longtime partner and actress Olivia Munn. Grips and grins at pressers. The world marveling at the man’s singular talent.
We adore football for myriad reasons. Among them is the zero-sum finality of the score. A team, a town, and a man is better than his foe because two lighted cyphers on the scoreboard says so.
But once once that man becomes fragile, or merely appears fragile, his brain, body, and courage are questioned. It’s part of the adolescent gossip that makes otherwise grown men return to preteen behavior.
And even the most prudent Packers fans get into it. But Rodgers has been so good for so long that we view his play through a most warped prism. Even this year, his stats are, at worst, good.
Rodgers is completing 62.3 percent of his passes, for 2,761 yards, 25 TD, and 7 INT. This is perhaps his worst year and yet most clubs and QBs would gleefully swap seasons with No. 12. That’s how good Aaron Rodgers has been. Of course, stats don’t say all, and there’s no doubt Rodgers is not his normal, surgical self.
The last time the Packers (4-6) appeared in peril, Rodgers famously told the world on his radio program to chill out accommodating us with the precise spelling, “R-E-L-A-X.”
That team recovered to have a fine campaign. This season, however, feels more haunting and daunting. There’s a schism between Rodgers and someone. Be it the coach, the coordinator, or his receivers. Clearly the Packers’ offense is ill. And its chief surgeon isn’t making house calls.