PETE DOUGHERTY

Packer Plus - - NEWS - Pete Dougherty

Mc­Carthy, Rodgers have dif­fer­ing views on of­fense’s out­put

Green Bay — Win­ning doesn’t cure all ills af­ter all.

The Green Bay Pack­ers eas­ily dis­missed the punch­less Buf­falo Bills by a 22-0 score at Lam­beau Field on Sun­day, but you wouldn’t have known it lis­ten­ing to Aaron Rodgers af­ter the game.

The Pack­ers quar­ter­back was in a foul mood and clearly un­happy with coach Mike Mc­Carthy’s of­fen­sive game plan that pro­duced good stats (423 yards) but a dis­jointed per­for­mance and only 22 points.

So Rodgers used his postgame press con­fer­ence to send the mes­sage. He was un­com­monly short with most of his an­swers and char­ac­ter­ized the Pack­ers’ play Sun­day as “cham­pi­onship de­fen­sive level and non-play­off team of­fen­sive level.” At an­other point he called the of­fense’s play “not ac­cept­able.”

He lamented that they didn’t score twice as many points and was dumb­founded that Da­vante Adams (14 tar­gets) and Jimmy Gra­ham (six tar­gets) didn’t get their num­bers called even more, based on the way the Bills played them.

Then when asked how to get that done, Rodgers got to the nub of the mat­ter. Though he didn’t name Mc­Carthy, he iden­ti­fied him by point­ing to his coach’s No. 1 re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“It’s by the (game) plan,” Rodgers said curtly. “Find ways to get (Adams) in No. 1 spots.”

If you’ve been fol­low­ing the Pack­ers through the Rodgers era, then the ten­sion be­tween him and Mc­Carthy isn’t new. In the past, though, it’s been more ob­vi­ous on the side­lines. Over the years the quar­ter­back has barked at the coach be­cause of some de­ci­sion or other, and the coach some­times has barked back.

And in the past, both have ex­plained it away as com­peti­tors get­ting heated in the mo­ment. Mc­Carthy also has said he wel­comes creative ten­sion as healthy for a team. At times, all that no doubt has been true.

But this seems to run deeper. The two have been work­ing to­gether for 13 years, with Rodgers the start­ing quar­ter­back the last 10. That’s a long time in the NFL, where about one-third of the ros­ter turns over ev­ery year. They’ve been through sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of play­ers to­gether.

We’re see­ing signs of the same phe­nom­e­non out of New Eng­land, where

even with five Su­per Bowl ti­tles in hand Tom Brady re­port­edly has been feel­ing un­ap­pre­ci­ated and chaf­ing at work­ing with coach Bill Belichick the last cou­ple years. They’re in their 19th sea­son to­gether.

This year, for in­stance, Rodgers has never given any in­di­ca­tion he liked Mc­Carthy’s revamping of the play­book this past off­sea­son. Rodgers’ com­ments Sun­day taken as a whole sug­gest he’s con­cerned about the di­rec­tion of the of­fense, and his terse re­sponse to a spe­cific ques­tion on whether he’s get­ting enough in­put in the game plan hinted that he doesn’t think so.

“Coaches put the plan to­gether, I tell them what calls I like and we go,” he said.

On the other side of this, we can won­der if Rodgers is over­step­ping his bounds. Should he let the coach coach, and save his not-so-veiled crit­i­cisms for be­hind closed doors?

At this point, it doesn’t mat­ter much who’s more in the right. All that mat­ters is, if their col­lab­o­ra­tion doesn’t im­prove, and soon, it will end badly. This kind of in­ter­nal rift can ruin a sea­son and cost jobs. We can only imag­ine what CEO Mark Mur­phy and gen­eral man­ager Brian Gutekunst are think­ing now.

Creative ten­sion in fact can be good. But the quar­ter­back-coach re­la­tion­ship is the bedrock of an NFL or­ga­ni­za­tion, es­pe­cially when your quar­ter­back is Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, and this feels like some­thing that’s been sim­mer­ing for a while. It’s just the most pub­lic man­i­fes­ta­tion we’ve seen.

We’re talk­ing about two strong­willed peo­ple here, and things can go bad fast. Both are walk­ing fine lines, be­cause the coach has to be in charge of the team, but the most im­por­tant per­son at 1265 Lom­bardi (and sev­eral other team fa­cil­i­ties around the league) is the quar­ter­back. Ev­ery­body knows that. You need only look at their salaries for proof.

Only these two men can work it out, and they don’t have long to do it. They have a big road game next week against NFC North ri­val Detroit, and matchups with the Los An­ge­les Rams, Pa­tri­ots and Min­nesota Vik­ings not long af­ter that. The 2018 sea­son is on the line.

Mc­Carthy’s news con­fer­ence was just be­fore Rodgers’ af­ter Sun­day’s game, and the coach be­trayed no inkling that he knew of his quar­ter­back’s feel­ings about the game plan. When asked if Rodgers’ will­ing­ness to play through a painful knee in­jury set a tone in the locker room, he had noth­ing but praise.

“There's al­ways things that are said,” Mc­Carthy said, “but for some­one to go out and do it, it's a tremen­dous boost for your foot­ball team.”

What won’t play big, in the locker room at Lam­beau Field, is a rift be­tween the head coach and quar­ter­back.

Maybe this will turn out to be just the lat­est creative ten­sion be­tween them, and bet­ter days are ahead. But the NFL is one big pres­sure cooker, and prob­lems are ei­ther solved or they ex­plode.

ADAM WES­LEY / USA TO­DAY NET­WORK-WIS­CON­SIN

Aaron Rodgers wasn’t pleased with Mike Mc­Carthy’s choice of of­fen­sive play-call­ing on Sun­day.

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