One of the bigger discussions around current New York Jets’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers over the last couple of years has been about his interactions with the media. That particularly showed up around COVID-19 protocols in 2020 with Rodgers’ “immunized” claim, his pushback on media who criticized him, and more.
And the Rodgers vs. the media storyline has gone beyond the COVID debates. Other developments there have included Rodgers appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast and Pat McAfee’s show and bashing media in those venues, as well as in press conferences. Rodgers also told ESPN’s Adam Schefter “Lose my number” after Schefter requested a comment from him.
With Rodgers heading to the New York Jets this year, many were wondering how his interactions with the New York media would go. Several national figures in particular predicted there would be issues there, although that didn’t really seem in line in line with how the New York media actually operates. And Rodgers’ interactions with New York media haven’t actually been an issue so far, unless you ask about his bedroom furniture.
But with all that background on Rodgers and the media, it seemed worthwhile to get some perspectives on what he’s like to national broadcasters in in-game interviews and pre-game production meetings. And on a preview call for NBC’s Sunday Night Football franchise (which will first show Rodgers in Week 4, when his Jets host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs) Wednesday, reporter Melissa Stark, analyst Cris Collinsworth, and play-by-play voice Mike Tirico all had some interesting thoughts in response to AA’s question about their interactions with Rodgers.
To start with, Stark said their interactions with Rodgers have been quite different than the adversarial Rodgers v. media ones sometimes seen elsewhere. She said he’s shown tremendous interest in talking to the NBC team.
“We sort of see a different side of Aaron Rodgers,” she said. “Because in our production meetings, and the guys can speak to this, Aaron Rodgers sort of comes across one way in the media, he certainly thinks his own way, he’s very unique, he uses very unique words, he’s introspective. When we are in these production meetings with him, he does all of that, but he really wants to hang around and talk.”
Stark said that particularly came across in their interactions with him ahead of the Aug. 3 preseason Hall of Fame game, featuring the Jets and the Cleveland Browns.
“It was interesting, because he was part of our production meeting for the Hall of Fame Game, and the Jets wrapped him up, and he was really just content to just sit there and chat with Cris and Mike and spend time talking about his team. He’s really at a reflective stage of his career, where he’s being a coach out there, mentoring all the young kids, and he’s the elder statesman out there. I think he’s relishing that and enjoying that.”
And she said that translated to the 11-minute on-broadcast interview Tirico and Collinsworth had with him during that game, and she thinks it could be great to interview Rodgers on-air this year (she’ll likely have some opportunities, as SNF will also broadcast the Jets’ game in Las Vegas against the Raiders in Week 10).
“And the guys had a really nice interview with him during the Hall of Fame Game, he had the headset on. He’s very engaging, he’s very smart, and he’s very clever. He’s very fun to interview, I think. So I’m excited about it.”
Stark also said she lives in New Jersey, and has seen incredible excitement amongst Jets’ fans since the acquisition of Rodgers.
“He’s brought a ton of energy and excitement to New York. As I mentioned at the beginning of the call, I live in the Jersey area, and I know a lot of disgruntled sad Jets fans through the years. He brought hope. And there’s a very critical media, and fanbase, a lot harsher than most across the country. And there’s a tremendous sense of excitement because of him. And he’s handling it, I think, in all the right ways; he’s embraced New York, and it’s been fun to watch.”
Collinsworth said Rodgers is enjoyable to talk to, but can be intimidating at times.
“Have you ever had, like, a really hard class, and if they decide that you get called on in class…and the teacher’s going to figure out just how much you know? It’s kind of like interviewing Aaron,” he said. “You better bring something to the table that perks him up and gets his attention. Because he’s going to bring back something from some book written in ancient Egypt. And a couple times, I’ve found myself going ‘Hey, Aaron, I’m a simple guy, I watch football, that’s all I am, I don’t know what you’re talking about here.'”
But he said he’s also noticed a seemingly happier Rodgers.
“He kind of has a twinkle in his eye right now. And I’ve been interviewing him for so long now that…he just seems happy. He seems engaged. He has something to prove, but he doesn’t have the burden of having something to prove. And he is enjoying being in New York City. I don’t know how it’s going to go, I don’t think he knows how it’s going to go, but there is a happiness to him right now that is palpable. And maybe he’s just enjoying teaching, or I don’t know what it is, but when he gets like that, he can be really tough to beat.”
Tirico said he always finds conversations with Rodgers “eye-opening.”
“I echo all that. I’ve been doing production meetings with Aaron for 15 years, we got to call his first start on a Monday night in Lambeau in 2008. And from that meeting on, every time we talk to Aaron Rodgers, it’s eye-opening. It’s different than the rote answers you might get from other players.”
He said he thinks some of that is from Rodgers building up familiarity with him over time.
“He’s just a deep-thinking, introspective guy, who, when there’s a comfort level with who’s at the table, he opens up and says a lot more than many do. And most of it is incredibly interesting. And I always like to add something like ‘What book are you reading right now?’, because he always gives you some book that has some unique twists to it. ”
Tirico also said he loves seeing what Rodgers has brought to the Jets, and he’s looking forward to calling that Week 4 game.
“And I agree with everything Melissa and Cris said; he’s provided juice to the Jets’ franchise, an energy to the New York market which has been missing that from the NFL for the last several years, and he’s not that far removed from being the back-to-back MVP of the league, only a year removed. So I think we all watch him with great interest. That [Week 1] opener against Buffalo will be fantastic, opening Monday night. And then we’ve got him in Week 4 against Mahomes, which has never happened before, those guys haven’t hooked up. So that will be fun. We’re so excited to see this play out.”
NBC’s Sunday Night Football schedule starts with the NFL season opener (the Chiefs hosting the Detroit Lions) on Thursday, Sept. 7, with their first Sunday game the Dallas Cowboys at the New York Giants on Sept. 10.
[New York Jets on YouTube]