ASHBURN — Over the course of each offseason when Cam Newton was the face of the franchise, the Carolina Panthers’ brass would speak with their star quarterback to gauge his thoughts on upcoming free agents and draft prospects. They asked Newton what he wanted the team to address and asked him to evaluate their needs.
And while the Panthers didn’t always follow the quarterback’s advice, Carolina made it a priority to listen.
“When you are going to get into a position like that and you’re going to work with somebody, I think everybody should have a voice in something one way,” said Washington coach Ron Rivera, who spent eight-plus years with Newton in Carolina.
Not every team operates that way. Just ask Aaron Rodgers.
When Washington faces the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at Lambeau Field, they’ll square off against Rodgers — the three-time MVP who spent the offseason disgruntled at his team over his lack of say in personnel decisions. Rodgers famously wanted out. And the drama of Rodgers’ future in Green Bay isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon, with Rodgers reportedly agreeing to come back to the Packers this year on the condition the team would “review” the situation next offseason.
In the process, Rodgers’ demands created a bigger, more fundamental question for the NFL: Should teams allow star players — especially quarterbacks — to weigh in on roster and team decisions?
Some teams have brought quarterbacks into the discussion. Tom Brady may not be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager, but upon signing Brady last year, Tampa Bay followed by adding tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Antonio Brown, reportedly at Brady’s behest. And while that may seem like an easy decision for any executive — both players are All-Pros — Brown was hung up in legal controversy and Gronkowski had been retired for a year.
Last decade, the Denver Broncos sold Peyton Manning on coming to their team by tailoring their offensive scheme to Manning’s preferences.
Yes, those are two Super Bowl-winning, Hall of Fame-level quarterbacks. But so is Rodgers — and the Packers, for a long time at least, appeared to take a different approach.
In July, Rodgers told reporters that he wanted to have “a little more input” on the roster.
“Green Bay isn’t a huge vacation destination, people are coming here to play with me, to play with our team, and knowing that they can win a championship here,” Rodgers said. “The fact that I haven’t been used in those discussions is one I wanted to change moving forward. I thought based on my years and the way I can still play that that should be a natural part of the conversation.”
The situation drew cross-sport parallels to the NBA — a league in which star players increasingly use their leverage to influence signings, trades and coaching hires. When the Washington Wizards, for example, traded Russell Westbrook this summer, star Bradley Beal was in the loop.
Ahead of the trade, Beal talked to Westbrook, who reportedly wanted out to play for his hometown Lakers. And then according to The Athletic, Beal wanted the team to add Spencer Dinwiddie as Westbrook’s replacement — a move the Wizards then made.
This week, asked about Rodgers, Beal admitted he’s “very Aaron Rodgers biased.” He joked the quarterback should be named the Packers’ general manager. But then, Beal said he understands the situation “from both sides.”
Beal said general managers have a job to do and owners ultimately pay the checks. But he doesn’t blame Rodgers for “wanting to win” and pushing the franchise to be like other teams.
“Everybody looks at the NBA as an example for a lot of things, but there have been a lot of soldiers who have paved the way before we did to get us to this point, to get us to where we have some control and some say so and some input on the decisions we make as a league as a whole, ” Beal said. “And I think the NFL is starting to do it, too.
“Granted I’m not all in on that side, but you can gradually see that (the players) want to take some type of control back.”
Of course, just because Rodgers or a quarterback makes a roster suggestion doesn’t mean it will be great. Over the summer, Rodgers reportedly wanted the Packers to bring back Randall Cobb — and the Packers indeed traded a sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans for the wideout.
Cobb has 11 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown on six games.
But when a similar point was brought up to Rodgers in July, the quarterback said part of his frustrations didn’t just extend to lack of personnel say.
“I just want to be involved in conversations that affect my ability to do my job,” Rodgers said.