When Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy exchanged heated words on the sideline during a loss on Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals, it made former Packers center and current ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday almost prophetic.
In an interview with The Herd’s Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio shortly before the start of the NFL season back on Aug. 26, Saturday explained the difference between elite NFL quarterbacks Rodgers and Peyton Manning, both of whom Saturday played with.
“Playing with both Payton and Aaron, I think the situation is, with McCarthy he still kind of holds the keys to the offense a little bit more there in Green Bay,” said Saturday.
Cowherd followed up by asking, “Does (Rodgers) resent that?”
“I think as he progresses, he will begin to,” said Saturday. “If he doesn’t right now, he will begin to.”
What we know about the situation on Sunday is that the spat occurred at about 6:36 left in the second quarter. The Packers had just been held to a field goal, despite driving to the Bengals’ one-yard line, still trailing Cincinnati 14-13.
The drive began deep in enemy territory at the Bengals’ 21-yard line, following a fumble forced by Clay Matthews and recovered by Brad Jones.
In a matter of plays, the Packers faced first-and-goal from the five-yard line. After an incomplete pass and a two-yard run by James Starks, they faced third-and-goal from the three.
The call was a play-action fake to Starks while Rodgers rolled out toward the right sideline. He looked for recently-cut receiver Jeremy Ross, who was covered, and Rodgers was forced to scramble on his own.
The Packers quarterback was hit on the helmet by a Bengals defender as he was pushed out of bounds a yard short of the end zone.
When asked after the game what the argument with McCarthy was about, Rodgers declined to answer, but McCarthy shed some light into the disagreement.
“I think any time you get into a situation where there’s a change in rhythm and personnel and play calls, things like that, it’s frustrating,” said McCarthy in his post-game press conference. “I had called a play in a certain situation and he was frustrated by it. I feel good. One every three weeks would be awesome.”
The Packers came into the Sunday’s contest short-handed in the backfield with Eddie Lacy and John Kuhn both inactive due to injury. And earlier in the game, tight end Jermichael Finley was forced to exit because of a concussion.
It almost goes without saying that the Packers offense sputtered on Sunday. As pointed out by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers’ average starting position on six first-half drives was the 50-yard line, and they came away with only three field goals.
During his weekly radio show on Monday on ESPN Radio affiliates in Wisconsin, Rodgers chalked up the confrontation to competitiveness.
“Yeah, that was definitely over and done with after we talked on the sideline,” Rodgers said on his Tuesdays with Aaron show. “Mike and I have been together for a long time and had a lot of success together, a lot of big wins, a lot of fun on the field, in the meeting room, conversing during the weeks, and there’s a lot of mutual respect there and a lot of competitiveness and passion on both sides, and every now and then that passion collides and it’s something we talked about later and move forward together.”
Frustration was a common theme on Rodgers’ radio show, something Saturday alluded to even before the season started.
“I think at times you get frustrated,” said Saturday. “When you’re in that role, you have a lot of other people chiming in, whether it be other players or other coaches that you have to manage when you’re the quarterback.”
Added Saturday, “Once you’re the caliber player that Aaron is, you want full command of the system. And you want to do it, and you feel you know what’s going to be best for your team.”
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.