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Training Camp Diary: Miller Out, Rodgers Retiring?

| July 26th, 2021


Anthony Miller Traded to Texans

Late Saturday night, the boys over at NFL Network broke the story that Miller, the talented and temperamental wide receiver, would be leaving Chicago for the worst franchise in professional sports. My initial response was being slightly ticked that I wasted an hour writing Friday’s column, wherein I deemed Miller the “player to watch” on offense this summer. But after a bit of time, a new reaction emerged: why?

Yes, I’m sure there are folks out there, those who worship at the altar of the almighty draft capital, arguing that swapping late-round picks is tremendous value the Bears simply could not pass up. But there is a camp of pragmatists who abide by another maxim: you don’t quit on talent.

What is the cost of bringing Miller to camp this week? If he’s a pain in the ass, or a detriment to the organization, surely the late-round swap is still available from Houston (or another organization). It’s not like the additional week of work is going to turn Tyrod Taylor-to-Miller into the new Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison. The potential upside was not necessarily that Miller “figure it out” but that he simply learned to exist as role player and became a productive member of the offense.

This is the Chicago Bears we’re talking about. And while optimism is at an all-time high due to the arrival of Justin Fields, this is still a group that has been desperate for playmakers. That’s why Ryan Pace brought in Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. That’s why Damien Williams was added to the running backs room and Khalil Herbert was drafted late. The Bears need as many playmaking options as humanly possible. And they just shipped a potential one south.


Is Aaron Rodgers Retiring?

(The following originated as a Twitter thread early Saturday morning.)

“Vegas knows.” That’s something an old bookie in New Jersey used to say to me all the time at the Mardi Gras bar in Lyndhurst. Whenever a score ended up within a half point of the spread, he’d walk over to me, reeking of the three Newports he just smoked, and say, “Vegas knows.”

(Side note: I do wonder if the very concept of “Vegas” will be changing in the coming years as sportsbooks proliferate around the country. Spreads are no longer coming exclusively from the desert. They’re coming from Jersey and Rhode Island and soon upstate New York. Something to think about. Or don’t. It’s your life.)

Rumors started circulating Friday night that Aaron Rodgers would retire this week, instead of returning to the Green Bay Packers. It is a strategy his agent – David Dunn – employed brilliantly years ago to get Carson Palmer out of Cincinnati. As the rumors grew louder, NFC North odds disappeared from most sportsbooks; only to reappear the following morning with the Minnesota Vikings installed as division favorites.

How did the Packers let this happen? Some thoughts.

It seems, at least to me, that this is a situation where having an owner would be of great value. Someone who can insert themselves into this conversation and effectively end it.

Winning a Super Bowl is incredibly hard. And the Packers’ best chance to do that over the next three years is with Rodgers. They’d be among the handful of favorites each year and nothing else matters. Nothing. If you went to every owner in the league right now and said, “Do these three things and you’ll be a championship contender the next three years” every single one of them would do those three things instantly, barring the firing of family members. (And some would even do that.)

There’s no organizational pride at stake here. You took a shot on Jordan Love. Who cares if he ever plays a down for you? When Love was drafted, the entire league thought Rodgers was declining. Turns out he wasn’t and now the Packers have one of the greatest QBs ever coming off one of his best seasons. A good owner would tell his football people to swallow their pride.

The Packers should have sat down with Rodgers and said, “Give us your list of demands.” Then they should have met them. This is a QB league and he’s great. Rodgers may not have had financial leverage but he had ALL the football leverage. It’s pretty simple. With Rodgers, title contender. Without Rodgers, not.

Instead, they took potshots at him in the media. Rodgers is complicated. He’s fragile. He’s thin-skinned. He holds a grudge. (Just ask his family.) If I know this, surely the Packers do too. Their behavior makes no sense if their intention was to keep their star happy.

And now they can’t get a contract done with Devante Adams, who has been showing social media solidarity with Rodgers on Instagram. You can sing Brian Gutekunst’s praises for roster building all you want but isn’t relating to players at least PART of the gig? Isn’t keeping the star happy in the job description? If Gutekunst’s tenure involves losing Rodgers, losing Adams as a result of losing Rodgers, and winning no titles, can it get any worse? If an owner knew firing Gutekunst today would guarantee Rodgers-to-Adams for the next three seasons, wouldn’t they owe it to their fans (and the rest of the roster) to do just that?

But the Packers don’t have an owner.

You’ll hear “no player is bigger than the team” stuff in the weeks to come. Got news for ya: that’s bullshit. Many players are bigger than their teams. Did you get a look at the Patriots last year? How about the Bucs? There’s one guy that’s bigger than two teams! To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, a team is just laundry. The GM’s job is to put the best possible players in that laundry.

There’s another great Seinfeld moment that comes to mind. When Jerry and George are pitching their failed sitcom pilot to Japanese television, Kramer convinced them to bring oranges, claiming oranges are “rare” in Japan.

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The Japanese TV guy doesn’t get the pilot and George responds, “You’ve been living in America too long. You’ve forgotten what it’s like to have no oranges.”

The Packers have forgotten what’s it like to have no QB. They’re about to remember. And it’s their fault.


Other Stuff

  • If you’re going to camp, two items of note from the Bears site: “…free parking and ride share drop off at Hawthorn Mall, with free shuttle buses to Halas Hall. Last, as a COVID precaution, the NFLPA is maintaining restrictions on player interactions and proximity to fans. As a result, there will no fan autographs at Training Camp this year.”
  • Allen Robinson to the slot? From Brad Spielberger at PFF: “Per a league source with reason to know, the Bears plan to deploy Allen Robinson more out of the slot in 2021 following the departure of Anthony Miller Ran 25% of routes out of the slot in 2020 Would imagine he’s flanked by Darnell Mooney and Damiere Byrd on the outside.” (What exactly would the “reason to know” be? Seems a strange choice of words.)
  • The Tribune reported a few weeks ago that Eddie Goldman was contemplating retirement. The Tribune is now reporting Eddie Goldman is reporting to camp this week. Next week the Tribune will report that Eddie Goldman is buying the race track in Arlington Heights and building a home there.
  • WATCH! Here are the highlights from Damiere Byrd’s best game of 2020. (Watching Cam Newton try to throw passes in these highlights is a tough scene. Byrd, on one play, has about 20 yards of separation from the defender. Cam barely completes the pass.)
  • Matt Nagy released a statement on the passing of Greg Knapp, a good man and a good football coach.

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