Ron Cook: Is there anything wrong with star players calling the personnel shots?
AP

Ron Cook: Is there anything wrong with star players calling the personnel shots?

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APTOPIX Seahawks Packers Football

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers celebrates as he walks off the field after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 28-23 to advance to the NFC Championship. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

The story out of Green Bay is ugly.

"Public niceties aside, my sense is (Packers coach Matt) LaFleur, fresh from a terrific 13-3 baptismal season, simply had enough of (Aaron) Rodgers' act and wanted to change the narrative," long-time Green Bay reporter Bob McGinn wrote in The Athletic after the Packers traded up to take Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the NFL draft last week. "With a first-round talent on the roster, the Packers would gain leverage with their imperial quarterback and his passive-aggressive style."

The story out of Pittsburgh is just as ugly because it isn't true.

"Big Ben somewhat orchestrated them not taking a QB," former NFL player Nate Burleson said on NFL Network about the Steelers' selections in last week's draft. "They should have went QB. But look what happened a couple of drafts ago with Mason Rudolph. Big Ben wasn't going to mentor him. Big Ben is influencing the moves the Steelers make."

Let's start with the Ben Roethlisberger nonsense.

Burleson built his case around Roethlisberger's comments on his 93.7 The Fan radio show in May 2018 - I was a co-host - about being surprised the Steelers drafted Rudolph in the third round a few days earlier after taking Josh Dobbs in the fourth round the year before. Roethlisberger made it clear he had hoped the team had picked a player to help him win right then - in the 2018 season - rather than worry about finding his replacement. He then jokingly said of Rudolph, "If he asks me a question, I might just have to point to the playbook."

OK, so maybe Roethlisberger's humor didn't come across well. But there was no indication he shut out Rudolph, who has said many times that Roethlisberger always was helpful to him.

The Steelers took big, fast Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool with their first pick in last week's draft. I'm sure Roethlisberger was thrilled. Claypool is another target for him, especially in the red zone, a guy who can help the team win right now. I'm convinced Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin decided on their own not to take a quarterback in the draft, not because of Roethlisberger's input. They consistently have expressed confidence in Rudolph, but - who knows? - maybe they still will sign Cam Newton as a veteran backup quarterback. If they do, Roethlisberger won't care. At this point of his career - down to his final season or two - I can't believe he is worried about the next Steelers quarterback.

But let's assume for just one minute that Roethlisberger did have a big say with Colbert and Tomlin.

Is there really anything wrong with that?

I remember back to the late-1980s and early-1990s around here. Do you really believe the Penguins made any big moves over Mario Lemieux's objections? Lemieux never met a coach he liked or allowed to coach him before Bob Johnson. I'm not even sure The Badger had his respect. That turned out pretty well for the Penguins, did it not? They won a couple of Stanley Cups.

Star players have earned special treatment as long it's not detrimental to the team.

Maybe Rodgers has become detrimental to the Packers.

McGinn wrote that Rodgers was "difficult to coach" last season and will be "even more difficult to coach" this season if LaFleur switches to a more run-based offense. Rodgers had been widely criticized late in the 2018 season for his perceived role in getting coach Mike McCarthy fired.

But the selection of Love? Rodgers has a right to be miffed. The Packers went to the NFC championship last season. Rodgers has to believe one more player who can help in the 2020 season could get them over the top.

"Let's just say (he was) surprised that they went in (the Love) direction," Hall of Famer Brett Favre said of Rodgers after speaking to him on the telephone.

Favre did nothing to quell the speculation that Rodgers is furious with Packers management. Maybe that's because he was in Rodgers' cleats once. Favre still was playing well when the team drafted Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 draft. He ended up being traded to the New York Jets before the 2008 season.

Rodgers, 36, has four years remaining on the $134 million contract extension he signed in 2018.

Will Rodgers finish his career in Green Bay?

"My gut tells me no," Favre told Rich Eisen of NBC Sports Network.

"I think he'll play somewhere else."

It sounds as if the Green Bay story will have a sadder ending than the Pittsburgh story.

Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com

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