In a 27-17 win, the Buffalo Bills may have broken through Aaron Rodgers’ critiques of his teammates to bring out genuine leadership.
It is a long-running joke throughout the NFL that for all his athletic and strategic prowess, Aaron Rodgers isn’t exactly known as a people-person.
“In a potential sign that aging is catching up with the Green Bay quarterback, Aaron Rodgers has looked wildly inaccurate while throwing teammates under the bus,” wrote The Onion before Week 8.
Funnily enough, Rodgers didn’t throw his teammates under the bus this week. Rodgers did smirk about being underdogs before the matchup, a prediction he seemed to find amusing.
Perhaps it was more amusing at 3-4, but not so much at 3-5. Rodgers is firmly in Tom Brady territory as the Bucs weather a clear breakdown that infects every phase of the game. For Green Bay, there’s the Davante Adams trade that still haunts the team, even with that beautiful touchdown connection to Romeo Doubs on Sunday. Any other year, and Rodgers would have had the reliable starpower to overpower the Bills, even with Josh Allen.
But without Adams, the Packers will walk into matchups against the NFL’s strongest teams as underdogs. As painful as the experience has been for Packers fans, seeing Rodgers nurse a chip on the shoulder could be the precise shift the team needs to pull it all together in the weeks to come.
Loss to Bills could push Aaron Rodgers, Packers in a new direction
Without getting lost in the countless variables that are shaping the Packers’ offense success, Rodgers’ pregame and postgame comments seemed to change considerably with the Sunday Night Football loss.
Week 8 was a get-right game for the Packers, at least for Rodgers.
“I’m not worried about this squad,” Rodgers said after a 21-23 loss to the Washington Commanders. “In fact, this might be the best thing for us this week. Nobody’s gonna give us a chance, we’re going to Buffalo, it’s Sunday Night Football, a chance to get exposed. Shoot, it might be the best thing for us.”
Rodgers has been talking about “mental errors” over the entire season, but much of those mental critiques have been directed at his teammates rather than himself. On the Pat McAfee Show last Tuesday, Rodgers suggested cutting the reps of those who were making mistakes. Clearly, Rodgers wasn’t talking about himself.
After losing to the Bills, in a game where he teased the Packers’ underdog status all week, Rodgers seemed to lean into rallying the locker room rather than noting their mental mistakes.
“Nobody feel sorry for us,” Rodgers said after the Week 8 loss, openly offering the locker room motivation the team needs in this moment. “I feel like if we can just get one, then the whole momentum changes. I thought we had a great week of practice. The energy pregame in the locker room was different. It felt like Packers again. It felt like, for whatever reason, we didn’t have the confidence for a few weeks. We weren’t playing with a lot of energy. We weren’t amped up before the game. So I liked the way we felt before the game. Maybe it was Sunday Night Football, maybe it was being counted out, maybe it was this environment…that was encouraging, but the play in the first half wasn’t encouraging.”
Even if every single mistake for the Packers lands on someone else’s shoulders, it’s on the quarterback to hold the entire team accountable while pushing them to be better. From Rodgers’ perspective, it sounds like the team was doing that this week, even with his comments to McAfee.
“It comes down to being able to execute in the moment, and I think that’s some of the growing pains with young players,” Rodgers said of his receivers before the Bills game. “But I think we should all be able to handle criticism, that’s the nature of our job. Everything we do is scrutinized, from myself on down to the young players, and getting used to dealing with that in a positive way is important, whether it’s coming from one of you or from me or from Matt [LaFleur].”
At 38 years old with a young wide receiver room, it seems Rodgers has his own growing pains when it comes to polishing a smooth message to the media in regards to his teammates. Ideally, the Packers can forge a stronger team through adversity and come out better for it.