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Times Have Changed in Titletown

by Mike Conklin

E-mail: mikeconklin@packerpedia.com
May 19, 2012

 

In the 1990's, the Chicago Bulls were often called "Michael and the Jordanaires."

This current version of the Packers might as well be called "Rodgers and the Anti-Favres."

Brett Favre is broadly remembered by fans as the guy who didn't mentor Aaron Rodgers. When asked about this in 2005, Favre was famously quoted:

“It’s not my job to get him ready to play…It’s his job. My contract doesn’t say I have to get Aaron Rodgers ready to play. Now, hopefully he watches me and gets something from that, either good or bad…and it helps him have a great career. I’m not obligated one bit to help anyone.”

OK. Well, it's one thing to not mentor someone, but it was also widely reported that Favre resented the fact that his successor was drafted and virtually gave Rodgers the cold shoulder his rookie year. Things reportedly warmed up to the point where the two quarterbacks had a sustainable working relationship in their second and third years together. Although Rodgers hasn't said much directly about this topic, when asked about that period of time he did say the following:

"I thought we were (close), I really did. You know, the first year was a tough year. I'm sure there were some feelings of frustration that they picked his potential successor in the first round. But then in '06 and '07 I thought our relationship really got strong, and he realized that I was in his corner."

After Favre left Green Bay, however, he did not keep in contact with Rodgers. Although Rodgers didn't come out and say it, judging by the aforementioned comments it almost seems as if he was surprised at the time that their relationship didn't continue on at least some level. Seeing as how Rodgers is the kind of guy who keeps track of teammates' birthdays and reaches out to them whether they are starters or backups, it is hard to think that he is responsible for the fact that all communication completely stopped between Favre and Rodgers after three years of working together side by side.

In the Favre era, mentoring was clearly not a priority, further evidenced by the fact that Favre had his own locker room separate from the rest of the team. He also preferred to do his offseason workouts away from Green Bay, to the point that the team even sponsored a personal trainer to work with him in Hattiesburg in the summer.

Times have changed in Green Bay. Mentoring almost seems like it is part of the current culture of the Packers, which surely pleases Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy because it goes hand-in-hand with their "draft and develop" philosophy. This year there have already been reports that the Packers are leaning on the influence of veterans on younger players because practice time has decreased under the new CBA, and it all starts with the player who is the face of their franchise. McCarthy recently spoke of the influence of Aaron Rodgers on the younger players during their abbreviated "quarterback school":

"I don't know if it's actually higher because of the time he spends with the players. So you know that conversation leaves the meeting room and continues in the locker room. I mean, just watch Nick Hill call a play. Aaron is right next to him. He puts a lot of time into those relationships."

You can hardly get more un-Favre-like than that. And it seems to extend beyond the quarterbacks as well. Two wide receivers who are long shots to make the final roster, Diondre Borel and Shaky Smithson, recently commented on how they would like to see Donald Driver return this season due to all the experience he shares with the young players. Considering the fact that if Driver did not return it would exponentially increase each player's chances of making the roster, that is a strong statement. Smithson went on to say this about Driver:

“Donald remembers what Antonio Freeman did for him when he was a rookie so he gives back. Donald has a great heart, man. He’s a great guy. We’ve both been through tough times. So he knows how it is. He’s not going to take food out of your mouth. He’s going to try to put food in your mouth.”

And the presence of mentors is not limited to the offensive side of the football. Time and again players have talked about the example that Charles Woodson is for young players, and how he shows other players how to be students of the game. It has been widely reported how Woodson took then-rookie free agent Sam Shields under his wing in 2010. Shields also commented on how it played out that year working with a future Hall of Fame player like Woodson:

“I was shocked, I was like just staring at him (thinking) I can’t believe I’m sitting in a meeting with Charles Woodson. It took me a while. I don’t like to talk. I had to get in my mind, ‘I’m a professional now. I have to talk. I have to be mature.’ I went to (Woodson) as a man and I just told him I need help.”

Woodson indeed stepped up and mentored him, and Shields played a key role that championship season. In the NFC Championship game against the Bears he became the first NFL rookie since 1982 to record a sack and two interceptions in a playoff game, one of which sealed the victory and a Super Bowl berth.

So a future Hall of Fame player mentored a rookie that played the same position who in time could theoretically take his job away. Imagine that. Times sure have changed in Green Bay.

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