Divorce, in the most technical sense, is the action or an instance of legally dissolving a marriage. What’s not stated is the messy, anguishing, sometimes under-the-surface buildup which leads to the desire to be separated in the first place. One does not wake up and decide to get a divorce simply on a whim. Seen or unseen, there are grievances built up over time. Things which seemed quirky at first - even cute at times - become completely unnerving and send the skin into a boil towards the end. Spouse’s annoying friends - once part of the package - become rats carrying the plague, avoidable at all costs. Once the path of divorce has entered someone’s mind, the struggle to jump that train to any other track can seem overwhelming.
It isn’t too far a stretch to say in the NFL a head coach is married to his team in general, and in some cases to his quarterback specifically. Where the comparison deviates is in the “for better or for worse,” as at some point, all NFL teams will divorce their spouse for the hot new prospect. There are teams who believe loyalty is more gratifying than chasing the younger model, with the Pittsburgh Steelers being the current shining example. They have only had three head coaches since 1968, the last year they fired/divorced a head coach.
The unfortunate truth in today’s NFL is winning creates love between the team owner and the head coach due to more money flowing in from fans who are happy about their team. If you don’t get enough of the Ws, expect the big “D” sooner rather than later.
The team and the Packers organization wanted to believe in their head coach. After all, during his time as the second-longest tenured coach in team history, Mike McCarthy was able to lead the team to four NFC Championship games and nine playoff appearances in 13 seasons. There was also one Super Bowl win to hang his hat on, but unfortunately, the wife wanted more.
There had been a slow burn starting in the Green Bay fanbase. I’d felt it, heard it first hand over the past five years. Once the feeling set in Aaron Rodgers might actually only see one Super Bowl, the patience started to wear thin. The panic set in. It began with the embers of watching a poor defense give up touchdown after touchdown, with the occasional #firedomcapers showing up on social media as the faithful fans blamed the defensive coordinator first. The flames got fanned as the points kept coming.
McCarthy tried to stay faithful to his assistant coach, keeping Capers on as the coordinator of the defense up to the 2018 season when the #firedomcapers reached its fervor. What seemed like an attempt to placate the doubters - firing Capers - only managed to switch more of the focus onto McCarthy himself. Fans and players alike grew weary of the stagnant play calling.
In a season in which the team did not see back to back wins, the divorce papers were drawn up after the Packers lost to the then 2-9 Arizona Cardinals at home in what is supposed to be the comforting confines of Lambeau Field in December. Joe Philbin finished the season as interim head coach as the Packers flirted with the idea of having him take over the role permanently. Ultimately, the team chose its new bridegroom in Matt LaFleur, former offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans.
The attraction to LaFleur lies in the promise of fresh ideas and creative play calling. Someone who can once again command a respect from Rodgers, who will instill trust in the plays being called. Someone who can succeed with the leaders on the team, Rodgers and Davante Adams, while getting more from the younger talents of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown. If the attraction can turn into a stable foundation, the new marriage can once again push the Packers into competing for the NFC North, and ultimately, another championship push for Aaron Rodgers.
The current roster of the team has me comfortably taking Adams as the second wide receiver off the board in a dynasty startup behind only DeAndre Hopkins. In the startup leagues I’ve had a pleasure being involved in this spring already, seeing Rodgers taken after three other quarterbacks screams value as a bounce-back year appears to be in the works. The question marks and leaps of faith center around the running backs, as Jones and Williams were quickly linked to a continuing committee by LaFleur in early press conferences. Hope springs eternal, however, and the talent of Jones should win out to gain the majority of the split, becoming a value in the fifth rounds of the aforementioned leagues among other running backs like Marlon Mack and Devonta Freeman. Williams should be comfortably selected in the early double-digit rounds, with enough usage either spelling Jones or filling in completely if recent injury woes continue.
Wide receivers not named Adams have the possibility of being shuffled around a returning Geronimo Allison. A trio draft picks from last year, Valdes-Scantling, St. Brown, and J’mon Moore, as well as local D-III standout Jake Kumerow all will be vying for playing time with any new rookies drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. None of them cemented a for sure role in the offense during 2018, and Allison could see time on the inside as the slot wide receiver. Pre-NFL Draft, I’m comfortable taking Allison in the 14-15 round range, as he is the early leader to once again be Rodgers’ second wide receiver. Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown feel draftable currently a few rounds later in the 17-18 range, with Kumerow staying on the board until you hit round 20 and later.
The divorce rate increases for anyone who has already been divorced once,. the theory being they’ve already seen the path of least resistance and will choose to take it again. For anyone wanting to see the Packers find success again sooner rather than later with a marriage lasting another 13 seasons, the new husband will need to fill all the desires which were being left unfulfilled and lead Rodgers and company back to the Super Bowl. Nothing less will be acceptable.
If you would like to discuss fantasy football in general, the Packers specifically, or marriage, Aaron can be reached on Twitter @yakeanbake.