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Mike McCarthy on Aaron Rodgers’ criticism: ‘I feel good about our relationship’

October 2, 2018

GREEN BAY — Rift? What rift?

If Mike McCarthy was bothered at all by his quarterback’s not-so-thinly veiled criticism after Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills, he wasn’t about to acknowledge it publicly Monday. Instead, the Green Bay Packers coach clearly didn’t want to make matters worse by turning the whole affair into a he-said, he-said public feud.

Rather, McCarthy spent his regular day-after-the-game Q&A session with reporters taking a decidedly positive public tact in the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ postgame news conference, in which the quarterback called the offensive performance “terrible” and questioned the team’s game planning.

Asked specifically Monday about his relationship with Rodgers, McCarthy replied: “I have good relationships, proper relationships, with all of our players. Aaron and I, we have gone through a lot of years together, so I feel good about our relationship.”

Speaking after his team’s 22-0 victory over the Bills, Rodgers said the offense had been “terrible” and described the unit’s 423-yard performance as being “as bad as we’ve played on offense with that many yards in a long time.”

When asked what was wrong with the offense, Rodgers intimated the scheme doesn’t do enough to highlight wide receiver Davante Adams and tight end Jimmy Graham, saying, “We need to find ways to get our playmakers in position to get some more opportunities.”

Asked how the team could get Adams more involved, Rodgers replied: “It’s by the plan. Find ways to get him in No. 1 spots.”

McCarthy was asked in a variety of ways Monday what he thought of Rodgers’ public complaints. At various points in the 15-minute news conference, he addressed:

His communication with Rodgers: “Aaron and I talk on a daily basis. Whether your opinion of how things are communicated within our structure, your opinion is heard and respected. But, at the end of the day, I feel very good, very confident about our operation. I think it’s important to always move forward at all times. I worry more about the good times than the stress points.”Whether he was disappointed his quarterback had publicly questioned the offensive plan: “I’m not going to … I think we all recognize and realize that this is football. I’m not going to get into tone and things like that. (Rodgers is a) very passionate man. Very passionate, very competitive.

“Hey, I’m no different, too. I’ve called a lot of games in this league and I’ve gone through a lot of game plans and still represent the team as a head coach. But when I closed my door last night and watched the game, I felt like we left a lot out there (on offense).”

A comment he made in 2016 about complaining being a negative energy source: “I’m not going to referee words here. … I understand the topic at hand, but we’re about improvement. That’s the focus.”

Interestingly, while McCarthy might not have wanted to delve too deeply Monday into whatever concerns he has about Rodgers’ comments, looking back to what he’s said about conflict in the past is instructive.

McCarthy famously said in his first team meeting with players in 2006 that “conflict is good,” explaining it leads to growth.

“I think conflict is bad when the communication stops. Conflict is good because it generates conversation, and that’s the first step of problem-solving,” McCarthy explained in a training camp interview in 2006. “Problem-solving is a huge part of our profession. Problem-solving is a key element of relationship-building. I never looked at it that way, and then it made me relate it to my childhood and I said, ‘Then hell, I grew up the right way.’ The people you have the most conflict with are the people you love the most.

“I think (conflict) is good because it clears the air. It gets stuff on the table. Lack of communication, walls to communication that are built, those are detriments to being successful in anything. And our business is big on relationships. Huge. Just to trust the guy next to you, trusting the coach to give you the right information. Everybody talks about trust, but how do you go about it?”

A decade later, a few days before the start of the 2016 season, McCarthy again was asked about conflict during an intimate session with writers who regularly cover the team.

“The most important thing about conflict is dealing with it, working through it, and coming to an agreeable solution,” he said then. “Certain people in the room have different levels of responsibilities and decision-making, and the reality is, it’s OK to disagree. But once the decision is made, you can’t be disagreeable.

“There’s nothing worse than people that linger over a decision that’s been made. It’s the old, ‘If you’re going to bitch, that’s fine, bitch.’ Everybody has to vent or bitch. But the complaining is a negative-energy source that you just have to rid from your culture. Hey, I’ve worked in places in a time in this league, you didn’t have a say in anything. The coordinator walked in (and said), ‘Here’s the plan. This is how we’re doing it. Do it.’ And everybody would go about their business.

“But I’ve always felt that the people that play the game, the guys that are across the white line, that are out there, (they understand) the intricacies of the communication and the details of the little things that go on during the game. That’s the stuff you need to not only grow your offensive unit or your defensive unit, but (in order) to develop these young players.

“You have to involve your veteran people, give them some decision-making responsibility. But you’ve got to listen to what they’re saying. I think you’re foolish if you don’t. That’s my thought.“

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