GREEN BAY — Jordy Nelson isn’t exactly sure why a couple of his former Green Bay Packers teammates seem to make news on a semi-regular basis by publicly criticizing Aaron Rodgers.
But Nelson, one of Rodgers’ closest friends, is certain of the reason their comments draw attention seemingly every time those guys are asked about their former quarterback — and why comments praising Rodgers don’t draw as much notoriety.
“Everyone knows negativity sells,” the ex-Packers and current Oakland Raiders wide receiver said in an interview on ESPN Wisconsin earlier this week. “People don’t want to hear (the good). People feel better about themselves when they hear bad things about other people. And that’s why that gets more pub.
“I mean, no one wants to hear that Aaron’s not only obviously a great quarterback but a great leader and does everything right. All right, there’s your story. What fun is that? So whenever they can, they go back to the well and get the same people to say the same stuff.”
The two more frequent Rodgers critics have been tight end Jermichael Finley, who suffered a career-ending neck injury in October 2013 and has been out of football since, and wide receiver Greg Jennings, who turned down contract offers from the Packers before and after the 2012 season and signed instead with the Minnesota Vikings.
Jennings, a two-time Pro Bowl pick during his seven seasons with the Packers, wound up playing only two seasons in Minnesota, then finished his career in 2015 with the Miami Dolphins. He now works as an NFL analyst on Fox Sports and as a debate-show contributor on FS1.
Finley has criticized Rodgers frequently in recent years, but while doing interviews on Radio Row during Super Bowl week, Finley said Rodgers has “a trust issue” with teammates and suggested Rodgers is too demanding of his offensive counterparts.
“He’s got a trust issue. For what reason, I don’t know,” Finley said in an interview with TalkSport, one of a host of interviews he did that week. “He’s a guy that has to see you work on the field and throw the ball to you and hope you run the right route. He goes off football. He doesn’t go off personality when he first meets you. You’ve got to gain his trust through the game.
“It’s crazy to say, but I played with the guy for 6, 7 years, and I had to gain my trust by running the right routes and knowing the plays. It’s crazy.”
Nelson, who isn’t active on social media but uses it to stay up-to-date on the news of the day, saw Finley’s comments as well as a Forbes story in which former defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila called Rodgers “arrogant” and said that when Rodgers became the starter in 2008, he “changed, and it wasn’t for the better.” Gbaja-Biamila last played with Rodgers during the first half the 2008 season, before being released.
“I think if you look, there’s two guys — now three (with Gbaja-Biamilia) — saying it, compared to the hundreds that are saying the opposite. It doesn’t make sense,” said Nelson, who said this week that he plans to play in 2019 and finish out the two-year contract he signed with the Raiders after the Packers released him last March. “I think it’s comical when I read those comments.”
Nelson found Finley’s remarks particularly curious.
“When you actually read the comments and what they say, it makes absolutely no sense,” Nelson said. “A quarterback expects you to practice well and do what you’re supposed to do on the practice field in order to be successful in a game? That’s pretty well what’s expected.
“I don’t want to have to be on the phone and defend Aaron. He’s a great leader, we all believe that and believed that and still do. He’s hard on people, he demands a lot, but he demands a lot from himself. And I think any great quarterback out there does the same thing.
“They all have different expectations. If the expectations are to go out on Sunday and have fun and then go home, then you’re not with the right quarterback. (Rodgers’) expectations are to go out there and be successful, make plays, win ballgames and win championships. That’s the level he’s going to hold you to. If you don’t want to be held to that level, then play your couple years there and move on to another team.”
Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on your local ESPN station.