This was Rodgers’ first full season without McCarthy since 2005, the year he was drafted. It also marked the first time since 2016 that Green Bay appeared in a title tilt. Matt LaFleur — a 40-year-old wunderkind — found immediate success in replacing McCarthy, 56, who was fired amid the 2018 campaign and recently hired by Dallas.
To the future Hall of Fame quarterback, the two factors are mutually exclusive. And he couldn’t help himself even after the Packers squandered a trip to Super Bowl LIV.
“This one will always be special because (playing football) became fun again,” Rodgers said in the wake of a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
McCarthy and Rodgers shared a tepid relationship despite capturing a Lombardi Trophy together. The marriage became increasingly frosty as their 13 seasons together wore on, with Rodgers’ proverbial ax in need of perpetual grinding.
Most probably have heard his quote regarding the 49ers, who famously passed on Rodgers in the 2005 NFL draft. A reporter asked the California native about his disappointment over not landing in San Francisco, to which Rodgers answered, “Not as disappointed as the 49ers will be that they didn’t draft me.”
Fewer people are aware that McCarthy was the Niners’ offensive coordinator at that juncture, and he had a hand in the team eschewing Rodgers for Alex Smith. So when McCarthy arrived in Titletown, it made for an awkward arrangement, to say the least.
Rodgers never forgave, nor did he forget.
“Aaron’s always had a chip on his shoulder with Mike,” ex-Packers running back Ryan Grant told Bleacher Report last year. “The guy who ended up becoming your coach passed on you when he had a chance. Aaron was upset that Mike passed on him — that Mike actually verbally said that Alex Smith was a better quarterback.”
Rodgers didn’t light the world aflame in 2019, completing 62 percent of his passes for 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns, and four interceptions — an uncharacteristically tentative style of football with LaFleur calling the shots. And he failed to exact revenge on the club he’s harbored resentment toward for a decade-and-a-half.
But, hey, he’s having fun again. *shrugging emoji*
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McCarthy Conflicted on Packers’ 2019 Triumphs
Unlike Rodgers, McCarthy has moved on from the breakup, focusing his energy on his new gig with the Cowboys. But it’d be a lie if he claimed he wasn’t closely following LaFleur this season.
Speaking before the NFC Championship, McCarthy was asked whether it’s “bittersweet” watching his former squad seamlessly transition between regimes, absent a rebuilding period and few glitches, especially on offense — his baby. He didn’t say no.
“Let’s be honest, you go through the emotions of it, but I think the reality of living there, it was something that you had to work through in the beginning,” McCarthy said, per ESPN.com. “To be transparent and reflecting on improving myself, it wouldn’t have been very smart of me to not watch them, because that program that’s there, that’s something that was built over a 13-year period. Now what they’ve done with it, obviously, they’ve moved it forward and are having success, so I think it’s important to watch.
“That’s your last experience, so however they’re doing this or doing that, I think it’s a good way to spend your offseason. It was definitely part of my research to improve.”
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