GREEN BAY — Even as Aaron Rodgers continued to obfuscate and repeat his oft-used lines about the Green Bay Packers having more control than he has over his football-playing career arc moving forward, the reigning NFL MVP did make one definitive statement about his future on Monday.
He’d love to make his two-week guest-hosting role that’s airing on “Jeopardy!” a permanent gig.
Appearing Monday on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio’s “The Pat McAfee Show,” Rodgers reiterated his standing with the team remains a “beautiful mystery”— a phrase he used while having one of his best seasons of his career on his way to his third NFL MVP award last year — but shed little light on where things stand between the organization and its quarterback following team president/CEO Mark Murphy’s non-answers about Rodgers’ situation last week.
But, amid banter between Rodgers and McAfee about Rodgers having considered an Alex Trebek-style mustache for his guest-hosting opportunity and not being fully clean-shaven for this two-week assignment, Rodgers said, “If that was a pre-req(uisite) to get the full-time gig, (I’d have) no problem with that at all. No problem at all.”
Asked by McAfee if that meant he was interested being the late Trebek’s permanent replacement, Rodgers replied, “I would love to be the host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ yes.”
Whether the long-running game show would consider Rodgers for the permanent role while he’s still playing in the NFL is hard to say. Trebek, who died on Nov. 8 of pancreatic cancer at age 80, was the show’s host for three decades. But it’s conceivable Rodgers could do the job while playing; Trebek reportedly taped the show for roughly 50 days out of the year.
Of course, Rodgers’ situation with his current employer, the Packers, will probably have to be clarified first.
General manager Brian Gutekunst’s decision to restructure a host of other key players’ contracts to get in compliance with the NFL’s $182.5 million salary cap for 2021 — while leaving Rodgers’ deal, and the NFL-high $37.5 million salary-cap number it contains — has led to questions about whether the team wanted to avoid restructuring Rodgers’ deal so it could easily shift to 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love to be the team’s starting quarterback in 2022.
If the Packers leave Rodgers’ deal unchanged, they can move on from him after the 2021 season and create more than $22 million in salary-cap space by doing so. Love never even suited up for a game as a rookie last season, serving as the team’s third-string quarterback behind Rodgers and backup Tim Boyle. The Packers presumably would want Love to see meaningful action in 2022 before having to decide whether to extend to him the fifth-year option all first-round picks can be given after their third seasons.
Rodgers is signed through 2023, but the last of the guaranteed money in his deal was paid last month in the form of a $6.8 million roster bonus.
Murphy refused during a Zoom call last week to delve into the team’s reasoning for restructuring other players’ contracts but not Rodgers’, saying: “I can't really get into specific players. We've been able to create room with others.” Asked why the Packers wouldn’t want to ensure Rodgers is their quarterback beyond 2021 by reworking his deal, Murphy replied, “I'm not going to get into specifics. Good try, though.”
In his conversation with McAfee, which ostensibly was to promote Rodgers’ run on “Jeopardy!,” Rodgers was asked where his contract stands today.
“I think we’re exactly where we were last year when I made comments after the draft and throughout the season. I don’t feel like any of that has changed,” Rodgers replied. “Nothing’s really changed. My future is, really, a lot of it is out of control. That’s why I’ve used the phrase ‘beautiful mystery,’ because it is quite uncertain which direction things are going to go.
“All I can do is play my best, and I feel like last year I did do that. That may have thrown a wrench into some timelines that may have been thought about or desired, but ultimately things haven’t really changed on that front. I meant what I said last year about really being at peace with the whole thing and that hasn’t changed.”
Later, Rodgers added, “Obviously, there’s talk about my contract and redoing it to get under the salary cap. Those (are) conversations that I’m sure are ongoing or (are) talked about from time to time. I don’t have any updates from my side.”
After down statistical seasons in 2018 and 2018, Rodgers led the Packers to a second consecutive NFC Championship Game berth by throwing for 4,299 yards while setting franchise records and career highs for completion percentage (70.7%) and touchdown passes (48). He threw just five interceptions and finished with an NFL-best 121.5 passer rating — the second-highest single-season rating in NFL history, behind only his 122.5 rating in 2011, when he won his first MVP.
“I feel good about the way I played. Feel good about the way I led,” Rodgers said, adding his weekly appearances on McAfee’s show delivered insight into “someone who’s not bitter or disappointed or frustrated about things that they realize they can’t control — and my future is one of them. I’ve kind of surrendered to what’s going to happen and (I’m) just confident in what I bring to the table and how I played last year, and everything else is kind of for speculation.”
Rodgers also reiterated something he said late last season in an interview with the State Journal — that a fresh perspective on his life had altered how he handled not only Love’s drafting but other uncertainties with his standing with the organization.
“When things happened, it wasn’t things happening to me, it was things happening around me,” he said. “I wasn’t a victim of circumstances. I wasn’t a victim of things happening to me. I was just a part of a process of events unfolding. At the same time, it doesn’t mean I can’t be honest about how I thought those events would affect my future in Green Bay. I said what I said last year, and it’s still a reality. And that really hasn’t changed.”
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Photos: Packers' 2020 season in pictures
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