It's not often that parting ways with a gifted player is addition by subtraction, but it's hard not to feel that the Green Bay Packers moving on from Aaron Rodgers will be just that.
As insufferable as Rodgers is in the safe space provided by friends Pat McAfee and A.J. Hawk on McAfee's eponymous show, is he even worse behind closed doors?
For roughly an hour Wednesday afternoon, Rodgers sang his familiar song, that of an entitled narcissist whining about how disrespected he feels by a franchise that he has held in limbo for the past couple of years with his maybe-I-will, maybe-I-won't retirement seesaw. That same franchise is on the hook to pay him $60 million for the 2023 season.
Not even 10 minutes into his appearance with McAfee and Hawk, after offering some details of his much-discussed darkness retreat, Rodgers launched into his list of grievances, lamenting the fact that the Packers' front office that drafted him in 2005 isn't the same front office that had the audacity to draft what they hoped would be his replacement, Jordan Love, in 2020.
He named the people no longer there and the people there now, who clearly hadn't gotten the memo that King Aaron's ego comes before anything else in Green Bay, quarterback continuity plan be damned.
It was like an Oscar winner reading from the requisite notecard as they clutch their gilded statuette, fitting because Rodgers is nothing but drama.
This isn't new for Rodgers. He has been the Baron of Bellyache since he was taken 24th overall in his draft, a slight so damaging to his psyche that he has reminded anyone, anywhere, about what a horrific injustice it was at the time and remains, for nearly two decades.
Never mind that Joe Montana, he of four Super Bowl wins, was a third-round pick and Tom Brady, who won six Super Bowls with one team and added a seventh in his first year with a new team for good measure, was a sixth-round pick and watched six quarterbacks get drafted before him.
Rodgers watched one.
Which coincidentally is the same number of Super Bowl rings he has.
This is who he is. This is who he has long been.
The Crown Prince of Complaints. The Duke of Denouncements.
Top-level quarterbacks are demanding of their teammates and in many ways their franchise leaders as well; no one is saying they aren't. The difference is most elite quarterbacks keep their displeasure behind closed doors and work to build up teammates even if they're knocking them in practices or in the heat of a game. Good leaders know they can't succeed alone.
The Lord of Lambeau, however, has shown time and again that he will cast blame on everyone else in his quest to prop himself up. He's notoriously hard on young receivers, ripping last year's crop in front of reporters during training camp. Later last season, on McAfee's show, he mused that maybe some teammates should have their reps cut because they weren't playing up to snuff.
The Packers have seemingly done a great deal over the years to appease Rodgers, and for all of his insistence Wednesday that he loved the franchise and its fans, he just couldn't help but tell McAfee and Hawk, "you have an aging face of the franchise that it's time to do right by," even as he had told them earlier in the interview that he was "90 percent" sure he was done playing a few weeks ago.
Yet now he's annoyed the Packers haven't traded him fast enough.
Rodgers will be the Jets' problem once they acquiesce to Green Bay's trade demands (though by declaring he wants to play for New York, it's debatable that he gave the Packers some leverage). There was a report on Monday that the soon-to-be Monarch of the Meadowlands was already playing general manager, requesting the receivers and tight ends he'd like to see the team sign. (Rodgers denied he made such demands in his interview with McAfee.)
The Jets have some strong young receivers on the roster, but they're in too deep with Rodgers to back down now, and reportedly signed Allen Lazard away from the Packers with a four-year contract to try to appease him. Wouldn't a great quarterback make it work with new guys instead of retreating to the comfort of older, and likely more amenable to his whims, colleagues?
At some point, the Jets will have given up multiple draft picks, taken on Rodgers' contract, and signed some of his hand-chosen pass-catchers. Will it pay off in the form of a postseason appearance? An AFC championship? A Super Bowl?
Will it blow up spectacularly, particularly once the notoriously sensitive Rodgers gets in front of New York media? Will he even play two seasons before he decides to actually retire?
With the NFL's reigning Don of Drama involved, there's no way to predict how it all plays out. Regardless, it won't be the Packers trying to appease him anymore.