Despite their tumultuous past during their time together in Green Bay, both quarterback Aaron Rodgers and current Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said they are both very much looking forward to seeing one another as they are set to reunite for the first time in Green Bay since the team fired McCarthy midseason in 2018.
The sentiment between them wasn’t always so positive and loving.
McCarthy was the head coach of the Packers from 2006 to 2018. While he’s “all business” going into Week 10, it’s hard to just set aside the 125 wins (second-most in franchise history), the Super Bowl win, and the numerous lengthy playoff runs he made with Rodgers at the helm.
However, it was clear to everyone that there were issues between the two. An in-depth article about the saga between the player and coach (which is well worth the read) explained that the rut in their relationship likely started before McCarthy was even hired by the Packers.
The frustration began with the 2005 NFL Draft. Rodgers was a highly-touted quarterback from the San Francisco area who had a great college career in the Bay Area at Cal Berkeley. McCarthy was the offensive coordinator for the Niners who had the first overall pick and were in need of a quarterback.
Instead of leading his team to make a pick that made sense (given his upbringing and skill), McCarthy said Alex Smith was the better quarterback, leaving Rodgers to fall to Green Bay. That very man who passed on him ended up becoming his head coach one year later.
In the article, former Packers RB Ryan Grant said that nobody holds a grudge like Rodgers, and the QB just had a chip on his shoulder about the draft. From there, the tension was palpable. There were times when Rodgers was seen yelling at his coach for bad play calls and openly discussed his frustration with coaching decisions to the media. It wasn’t pretty.
In a recent interview — and it’s up to you whether you believe this or not — Rodgers told The Athletic that time has healed all of these wounds and he looks forward to seeing his old coach regardless of their tumultuous past:
"I think time always can be a great healer, not that there needed to be a lot of healing in our relationship. There was always so much love. The things I always appreciated about Mike was I could come to him with an issue or he could call me up to the office with an issue and we could have really, really direct conversations. And it could be voices raised or it could be super calm or anywhere in between, but always at the end of it, every single time, there was always a hug, an ‘I love you. I appreciate you. Thanks for this conversation.’ And it taught me a lot about conflict management dealing with Mike, and not to say we had conflict all the time because that wasn’t the case, but I always appreciated the way we were able to talk to each other because it was direct and it always ended on a high note."
The Packers QB also discussed the reunion on the Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday. He said he looks forward to giving his former coach a “big old hug” and hopes fans give him a positive reaction after all he’s done for the franchise. Seems a bit unicorns and rainbows given their past, but we’ll take it.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said he’s looking forward to seeing Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy despite their tumultuous past
In their 13 years together, the duo went to six division titles and had one of the most successful eras in Packers history. How they felt about each other aside, that will always be remembered. It’s the reason McCarthy has a street named after him near the stadium.
Perhaps that is why Rodgers defaulted to praise when talking about the current Cowboys head coach:
"“I’m going to give him a ol’ hug I can tell you that much I’m excited to see Mike. We’ve shared some messages the last couple weeks. I know it means a lot to him to come back. I really hope the reception for him is as warm as it needs to be. He’s got a street named after him, obviously we won a Super Bowl together. He meant a lot to the town for 13 years, a big part of our success. Obviously, he’ll be in the Packers Hall of Fame at some point. I think it’s important we honor him the right way. Not just him, obviously he deserves a lot of love and respect coming back, but also others on that staff coming back to the area. … Mike in general deserves a lot of credit, a lot of respect and hopefully a great ovation at some point. I don’t know what we’re doing. I would expect some sort of message on the jumbotron at some point in the game. Mike has a big heart, hopefully he let’s the emotions flow a little bit.”"
For what it’s worth, McCarthy had nothing but positive things to say about his former QB as well. He told Jori Epstein that he has “nothing but love and gratitude” for him and that Rodgers made him “a better coach.” The full quote from the Cowboys coach is below:
While the reunion between the two “stars” is the one people are talking about most, there are several other people who will be making their first trip back to Green Bay as well. McCarthy mentioned that several current Cowboys assistants were either coaches or players with the Packers at some point in the past.
It’s hard to believe that Rodgers and McCarthy have just completely moved on from any old tension. However, football is a business and both men will be looking to lead their teams to an integral win on Sunday.
For Rodgers, it’s the hope that his team can snap a five-game losing streak against a team he loves to beat up on. For McCarthy, it’s a chance to redeem himself at his old stomping grounds and take the team who gave him another chance at a head-coaching gig to 7-2.