MIAMI — The Green Bay Packers' continuing, colossal botchery of the Aaron Rodgers situation is epic. If it ends wrong it will stain one of the NFL's most storied franchises enough to make the ghost of Vince Lombardi weep.
The impasse got real this week as the superstar quarterback and reigning league MVP became an official holdout, boycotting the team's mandatory minicamp.
Packers president Mark Murphy said the impasse "has divided our fan base." He must be kidding.
There isn't a self-respecting fan who has ever sat at Lambeau under a Cheesehead hat who wouldn't immediately trade Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur if it meant Rodgers stayed.
Do the people running the Packers understand what they have? Maybe the greatest QB ever? A man astonishingly in his prime at 37 based on last season?
So many franchises — the Miami Dolphins come to mind — work and plot and dream and hope for decades that they might hit upon a generational talent like Rodgers.
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Wait. Amend that. Teams will settle for a really good quarterback. Nobody dares think they have just drafted a Hall of Famer, an all-time great.
The rarity of hitting big, Rodgers-big, is hitting the lottery stuff.
Look at the Dolphins with Tua Tagovailoa right now as the 2020 fifth overall draft pick works toward his second season.
Not even the most dedicated Dolfan can say with certainty "He's going to be great" because not even the expert eyes of GM Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores can be sure yet.
Tagovailoa's rookie season was uneven, a joust of promise and concern. Recently the kid caused a stir by admitting he was not confident with the playbook as a rookie but is comfortable with it now. Miami gave him a first round receiver in Jaylen Waddle.
Tagovailoa needs to make huge strides this season and show how high his ceiling is.
Yet there are doubts he will prove as good as Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert from his own draft class. Or as good as Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance or Justin Fields from April's '21 class.
Those are the guys he must show he's as good as before Dolfans are allowed to trot out the next-Marino talk — let alone enter Rodgers' name in any chatter about how great Tagovailoa might be.
Green Bay has what every team wants, but has managed to louse up its relationship with its irreplaceable QB to a degree is demanding to be traded.
It's the biggest story in King Sport even amid the Deshaun Watson scandal and the trades of Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz. And amid trades of DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs and now Julio Jones. And 33 first- or -second-round draft picks changing hands this spring.
Rodgers staring down the Packers and not blinking is bigger.
Money is a part of this. He made only $23 million last year and is to make only $21.5M this year if he plays — and yes only fits in the context of what top-tier QBs make. Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year, $450 million deal. It isn't all about monmey, though. Rodgers turned an offer of $45 million for this coming season.
This is about respect, or the lack of things, in a series of things.
Trading away his receiver and close friend Jake Kumerow without even a heads-up.
Taking the ball from Rodgers hands and kicking a late field goal in last year's NFC Championship Game loss.
Drafting his eventual replacement, Jordan Love, last year with Rodgers showing no sign of nearing the end.
Not drafting a first-round wide receiver since Jordy Nelson in 2008, Rodgers' first year as a starter. (Not even drafting a second-round WR since since 2014).
Meantime Rodgers watches and sees all Tampa Bay did to immediately surround Tom Brady with Super Bowl-winning talent last year, and how the Bucs have continued to improve this offseason.
Green Bay could have and should have been the team to trade for Julio Jones. What a gesture that would have been aimed directly at making Rodgers happy. Instead, the Tennessee Titans boldly moved to make Ryan Tannehill's life easier while the Packers continued to say they want Rodgers back while doing zero to show it.
This may all work out, somehow.
Few expect Rodgers to sit out the season or to retire. And never in NFL history has a reigning league MVP been traded.
But spring becomes summer and the acrimony festers. What will change between now and when full training camps begin in late July?
In Miami and around the league teams with crossed fingers are hoping they have a quarterback who's really good or maybe even be better than that.
Green Bay has the best there is.
Now the Packers must find a way out of this holy mess of their own creation and start acting like a team that deserves Aaron Rodgers.
2022 NFL mock draft: Way-too-early projections
1. Houston (100/1) — Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
2. Jacksonville (100/1) — Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
3. Detroit (80/1) — Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State
4. Cincinnati (80/1) — Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
5. N.Y. Jets (80/1) — Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
6. Denver (66/1) — Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
7. Atlanta (66/1) — Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
Harris had 79 tackles — one behind Dylan Moses for the team lead — 4.5 sacks and an interception as a sophomore. Top needs: RB, Edge, LB
8. N.Y. Giants (66/1) — Drake Jackson, Edge, USC
Jackson can play in space or rush the passer off the edge. In 2019, he was the first true freshman to start a season opener for the Trojans on the defensive line since Everson Griffen in 2007 (and just the second since Tim Ryan in 1986). Top needs: OL, Edge, S
9. Washington (66/1) — Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
10. Philadelphia (50/1) — Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Elam took a step back after an impressive freshman campaign in 2019. He'll be hard to pass on as a 6-foot-2 corner with elite ball skills if he can fine-tune his technique and become a more reliable tackler. Top needs: CB, LB, OL
11. N.Y. Giants from Chicago (50/1) — Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
The 6-foot-5, 315 pound Nelson has developed into one of the premier pass blockers in college football. Top needs: OL, Edge, S
12. Carolina (50/1) — Evan Neal, OL, Alabama
The massive Neal — he's 6-foot-7, 360 pounds — played right guard as a freshman for the Crimson Tide before moving to right tackle in 2020. He'll replace first-round pick Alex Leatherwood at left tackle next season. Top needs: OL, LB, S
13. Las Vegas (50/1) — DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
14. Arizona (40/1) — Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Cross is a powerful blocker who can do damage at the second level in the run game with premium athleticism and his target-lock awareness. Top-10 is a possibility if he develops as a pass protector. Top needs: OT, Edge, TE
15. Minnesota (40/1) — Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
Jobe would have been a day two pick had he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, but he decided to return to Tuscaloosa for a little bit more seasoning. Top needs: CB, S, WR
16. New England (30/1) — Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Mission Hills product shunned millions of dollars to come back for his senior season in Columbus and will likely be a top-three prospect at the position in 2022. Top needs: WR, CB, OL
17. Pittsburgh (30/1) — JT Daniels, QB, Georgia
18. L.A. Chargers (30/1) — Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
19. Tennessee (25/1) — Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee
Mays has the talent and size (6-6, 325) to play all five positions on the offensive line. He's likely the most refined blocker in college football. Top needs: WR, LB, OL
20. Dallas (25/1) — Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
Hutchinson suffered season-ending ankle surgery in 2020, but he was disruptive as a sophomore in 2019. He produced 4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, six pass deflections and two forced fumbles. Top needs: Edge, OL, S
21. Cleveland (25/1) — Xavier Thomas, Edge, Clemson
This projection is based on Thomas' special talent, but he has to stay healthy and develop consistency. Top needs: Edge, WR, DT
22. Philadelphia from Miami (25/1) — Nik Bonitto, LB, Oklahoma
23. N.Y. Jets from Seattle (22/1) — Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
Walker would have heard his name called had he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, but his current developmental trajectory puts him as one of the first offensive lineman off the board in 2022. Top needs: CB, TE, S
24. Indianapolis (20/1) — Jon Metchie, WR, Alabama
Metchie could be the fifth Alabama wide receiver selected in the first round in three years. He had 916 yards on 55 receptions and six touchdowns in an offense dominated by Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris. He'll be Bryce Young's clear-cut number one target in the fall. Top needs: OT, WR, CB
25. New Orleans (18/1) — Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Davis would've likely been the first defensive tackle selected this year had he left school — Christian Barmore was selected by the Patriots in the second round with the 38th overall pick. Top needs: WR, DT, QB
26. Miami from San Francisco (14/1) — Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
27. Baltimore (12/1) — Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Linderbaum was recruited as a defensive lineman, but switched to the offensive line during bowl prep of his freshman season and has never looked back. He heads into the fall as the top center in college football. Top needs: OT, DL, C
28. Buffalo (12/1) — Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
Every starting cornerback for the Buckeyes since 2013 have been drafted — seven in the first round. Banks has the physical traits and skillset to keep the party going. Top needs: CB, LB, WR
29. Detroit from L.A. Rams (12/1) — Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
30. Tampa Bay (10/1) — George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
The pandemic limited Karlaftis to only three games last fall (he still had two sacks), but he was an AP Freshman All-American in 2019 after producing 7.5 sacks with 17 tackles for loss as a true freshman. Top needs: DL, WR, CB
31. Green Bay (9/1) — Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma
Winfrey's quickness makes him a disruptive force on the interior. He'll be the anchor of a potentially dominant Sooners defense this season. Top needs: LB, WR, DL