NFL Analysis


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Aaron Rodgers' Minicamp Absence Raises Questions About Jets' Leadership

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) on the field after the game against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Everything matters.

That was my initial reaction as a former player to the news that QB Aaron Rodgers was an unexcused absence from the New York Jets' mandatory minicamp.

After seeing several people commenting that it didn’t matter because "he had already attended all the other OTAs (Organized Team Activities)" or because it "would have no impact on this season." I felt compelled to jot down some reasons I vehemently disagree.

Leading By Example?

My first retort is a question. If it doesn’t matter that Rodgers missed the minicamp because he had already been at the OTAs, what does matter?  

Is it OK for him to miss a few more OTAs as long as he attended a handful? In other words, what is the cut-off for what does and does not matter, and who decides? In my experience, the best players I ever played with and against treated every day — heck, every rep — as if it were critically important. 

They are obsessed with every aspect of the process, individually and as a team. Tom Brady would yell at me if my snap from center wasn’t perfect when we were in New England together. In May. During OTAs.

The discussion of whether or not this will impact the season in any way is similar. Would it affect the season if Rodgers skipped the first week of training camp? What if he just decided to miss training camp altogether and show up in Florham Park once the team breaks camp? 

What does and does not make a difference in the outcome of the games this season? Is everything fine if Rodgers shows up a few hours before the first game?

Besides, it’s so much more than that. Rodgers portrays himself publicly, or at least attempts to, as a team leader fully committed to winning games this season. How do you reconcile that with him being the only starting quarterback to skip his team’s mandatory minicamp?

I always felt like the "secret sauce" in New England wasn’t Bill Belichick’s negative reinforcement but rather the incredible standard that Brady set for everyone. He was so dedicated and committed in every way that the biggest fear and thus motivating factor for the other players was to make sure they didn’t let him down. 

Brady led by example. How exactly is Rodgers leading this week? More importantly, how will he lead moving forward?

NFL players can spot a phony from a mile away. It would be hard to overstate how critical it is that anyone in a leadership position — coach or player — is authentic and genuine. Where do things stand with Rodgers now in that regard? 

"Do as I say, not as I do" doesn’t go over well in an NFL locker room. Will the players fully buy into what Rodgers says during the season, or will him skipping minicamp linger in the back of their minds?

Jets head coach Robert Saleh stands with QB Aaron Rodgers.
New York Jets coach Robert Saleh (left) talks with QB Aaron Rodgers (center) before the game against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports.

The Jets Deserve Some Blame

The Jets have some culpability here, too. If Rodgers told them months ago that he had a conflict this week for an "event that was really important to him," according to coach Robert Saleh, why didn’t they move minicamp to last week as many other teams did?  

Any coach will tell you there is a different vibe at practice when the starting quarterback is there. Evidently, having Rodgers and that vibe wasn’t important to the Jets.

Then, there was the decision to make it clear to the media that his absence was unexcused. That was an interesting choice, to say the least. Players are granted excused absences all the time. 

The Packers excused three players from mandatory minicamp. The Jaguars excused even more than that. Yet Rodgers — your starting quarterback and by far the highest-paid and most important player on the team — can’t get an excused absence for something he had clearly expressed to the team was of great importance to him?

I don’t buy the notion that some have put out regarding the bad precedent it would have set. Give me a break. 

Firstly, nobody is talking about precedent in Green Bay or Jacksonville. Secondly, teams treat star players differently than the rest of the team all the time.

The Jets didn’t excuse Rodgers because they didn’t want to excuse him. They evidently wanted to send some type of message to him regarding their displeasure with his decision. No matter what Saleh says regarding him and Rodgers being on the "same page," it is pretty obvious that is not the case. If they were, Rodgers would be at minicamp, or at least his absence would be excused.

He wasn’t, and they didn’t. But that doesn’t matter and won’t impact the season, right?