GREEN BAY — Run the table. It was one simple line uttered during a difficult time aimed toward sending a message to the Packers’ locker room that anything is possible.
With the outside world spewing vitriol at everything the Packers stood for following a 4-6 start, quarterback Aaron Rodgers stood up in front of the media at his locker days after a 42-24 loss in Washington and expressed optimism Green Bay could endure.
The phrase took on a life of its own, slowly building toward a crescendo with the Packers’ 31-24 win over Detroit on Sunday to capture their fifth NFC North title in six years.
Rodgers’ words embodied everything Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy and the rest of the roster felt about the potential of the 96th team in franchise history.
Even in the face of a midseason four-game losing streak.
“I think everybody in this locker room already knew what the idea was,” defensive back Micah Hyde said. “Obviously, you don’t want to be 4-6 anytime, but once we were 4-6, we felt like we had the opportunity to run the table.
“When 12 said it, it went viral. It went public. We all feel like we could back it up. We all had that same mentality.”
Rodgers’ leadership has been tested – and even questioned at times – but his actions spoke louder than any catchphrase. With that “run the table” utterance, the quarterback willingly put the weight of the Packers’ season on his shoulders.
His performance since that point has been astounding. Rodgers, honored Thursday as the NFC Offensive Player of the Month, has fashioned a 121.0 passer rating over the Packers’ six-game winning streak.
He’s completed 142-of-200 passes (71 percent) for 1,667 yards, 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions. In the process, he finished the 2016 season with more completions (401) and pass attempts (610) than any of his nine seasons as a starter.
While some of that production came through trusted receiver Jordy Nelson, Rodgers also relied on converted running back Ty Montgomery, undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison and fullback Aaron Ripkowski to power the offense.
Hyde says Rodgers has presence that’s “beyond any guy I’ve ever been around.” His ability to keep a pulse on things and know the proper time to speak up is one of his greatest attributes.
“Aaron, he has a type of leadership where he likes to prove people wrong,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “I think by putting those expectations out there, kind of really (had) this locker room come together, and kind of back him up, and obviously trying to achieve those goals which we're aiming for.
“Now we’re six in a row, and we’re fortunate enough to do that, so hopefully part of that table means four more games or whatever it is now. The type of leadership he brings is one that I think is kind of infectious in what you see on Sunday and every day in practice, when some of you guys are able to see what he does.”
Rodgers freely admits he doesn’t lead with a “u-rah-rah” temperament. It’s not his prerogative to run around letting everyone know he’s the leader. He just does it.
An authentic approach to leading is something Rodgers takes very seriously, understanding how his words, actions and subsequent performance influence the Packers’ winning games.
When things have gone well, Rodgers credits the offensive line and the playmakers around him. When things were off earlier this season, the quarterback talked about how he needs to play better to improve the offense’s rhythm and timing.
It’s that leadership that McCarthy applauds, praising Rodgers’ consistency and how he handles the demands of being a two-time MVP quarterback both on and off the field.
“He stayed true to himself. He didn’t change anything,” Nelson said. “He just continued to grind, made sure we were focused on what was important, not the outside noise and everything else. He’s been the leader of our team – not just when things are bad, but for the last however many years – ever since I’ve been here.
“I think he’s done a great job if it’s verbally, if it’s by action, which I think carries more than anything. His performance, the way he goes about his job in the meetings and practice, it’s what you want.”
After guiding Green Bay to the playoffs, Rodgers was named a team playoff captain on Wednesday for the eighth consecutive year.
There were no “I told you so” moments when he met with the media on Wednesday. Instead, his focus already has shifted to Sunday’s game against the New York Giants and Green Bay’s aspirations to continue its winning ways.
“I just talked about running the table and getting to the playoffs,” Rodgers said. “Obviously it’s win or go home at this point. That’s the focus. Keep on winning and get this thing to Houston.”