It’s been a wild NFL offseason, full of stunning and unusual developments. There’s the story about the reigning MVP demanding a trade from one of the league’s most popular and historically successful franchises. There’s the story about the superstar quarterback campaigning for the host job of one of TV’s most popular and historically successful franchises. And there’s the story about one of the sport’s most famous players posting bizarre videos with the Hollywood movie star with whom he secretly eloped.
Oh, by the way: All of these stories are about the same guy. Aaron Rodgers is simultaneously dominating sports talk, vying to take over a beloved game show, and turning into a fixture of gossip columns. We’ve reached the point where league insiders are legitimately speculating whether Rodgers would leave his football career behind to host Jeopardy!—or whether someone could actually host Jeopardy! while also playing in the NFL.
Let’s track Rodgers’s tumultuous and versatile offseason with a timeline. We’ll keep updating this over the coming months as we learn more about Rodgers’s NFL future, television career, and relationship.
January 12: Aaron Rodgers Breaks Major TV News
Let’s start with something that technically took place during the NFL season. Before the Packers’ divisional-round playoff game against the Rams, Rodgers went on The Pat McAfee Show and revealed that he was going to serve as a guest host of Jeopardy!, a show whose celebrity edition he had previously won. This was surprising, because at the time Jeopardy! hadn’t even revealed its own plans for its coming season yet.
The night before, the legendary game show had just aired its first new episode since the November death of longtime host Alex Trebek. Despite intense speculation, the show had kept its plans for the future under wraps. Until Rodgers spoke, that is. The day after Rodgers made his comments to McAfee, Jeopardy! officially announced that it was planning to complete its 37th season with a series of guest hosts, including Rodgers—an announcement probably rushed by the premature reveal. Rodgers later apologized to Jeopardy! after he “jumped the gun.”
This was probably a good preview for Rodgers’s offseason. He wants the Jeopardy! hosting gig, and he’s probably a long shot for it, so you’d think he would’ve closely heeded the show’s guidelines. Nope! What chance did the Packers ever have?
January 24: Aaron Is Already Fed Up
Rodgers’s offseason started a few weeks before the end of the NFL season, as the Packers lost to the Buccaneers in the NFC championship game. That result was sealed by Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur’s baffling decision-making late in the fourth quarter. With barely more than two minutes remaining, the Packers trailed 31-23 and faced a fourth-and-goal from the Bucs’ 8-yard line. Instead of allowing Rodgers and the offense to go for a touchdown and a game-tying two-point conversion, LaFleur opted to send the field goal unit onto the field to cut the deficit to five. The Green Bay offense never touched the ball again, meaning Rodgers’s season ended with the quarterback on the sideline.
Afterward, Rodgers made clear that the choice to kick the field goal was not his. In his postgame press conference, he told reporters that “it wasn’t my decision” roughly a billion times.
Aaron Rodgers on the Packers electing for a field goal when down 8 late in the 4th quarter.
“Wasn’t my decision but I understand the thinking.” pic.twitter.com/UPtfJdwJNb
— George Balekji (@GeorgeBalekji) January 24, 2021
Later in that press conference, Rodgers said “there’s a lot of unknowns going into this offseason … a lot of guys’ futures, they’re uncertain, myself included.” This sparked speculation that perhaps Rodgers wouldn’t be a member of the Packers for much longer.
Rodgers’s frustration with the Packers had been a story line all season, since the team traded up to pick quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft. (Love never played a down and spent most of the year as a third-stringer.) But that frustration really started to bubble over during the playoffs. Just a week before that loss to the Bucs, Rodgers told reporters, “My future is a beautiful mystery.” We had no idea how true that was.
February 2: Aarlene Rodgley Goes Public
As Rodgers’s relationship with his NFL team wilted, another relationship apparently bloomed. A week after the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs, E! News reported that Rodgers was in a long-distance relationship with Shailene Woodley, the star of the Divergent trilogy. This was surprising for a couple of reasons. For one, Rodgers had ended a three-year relationship with NASCAR driver Danica Patrick sometime in early 2020. And two, it seems like it would’ve been hard to find new celebrities to date during the height of a global pandemic.
For what it’s worth, Woodley always has seemed to do things her own way. Here’s an E! story about her “Alternative AF lifestyle” that mentions how she likes to eat bugs. “I’ve eaten ants and that was great,” Woodley once said. “And June bugs, that was great. I think the future of food is in insects.”
February 6: Aaron Overshadows His Own MVP Victory
The NFL Honors show always feels like a bit of a news dump—why does the league name its MVP and Rookie of the Year in a ceremony the night before the Super Bowl? Within 24 hours, anything that happens here is typically forgotten, behind all the commercials, the halftime show, and the most important football game of the year. But Rodgers out–news dumped the news dump during his speech accepting the MVP award. He reflected on how strange 2020 was—the constant COVID-19 testing, the lack of fans at Lambeau Field—and then added: “I got engaged, and I played some of the best football of my career.”
That’s how he said it. “I got engaged, and I played some of the best football of my career.” This was massive, unexpected news—hardly anyone knew he was in a relationship until a few days earlier! And it got half a sentence! Rodgers made sure to thank “his fiancée” at the end of the speech, just in case you thought you were hearing things the first time that he mentioned his engagement.
Also, in the middle of a long list of people he thanked during his speech (“Ryan, Tommy, Len and Rebecca, Adam …” and so on), Rodgers named JODIE FOSTER. At first, this added to the confusion—how, exactly, did the two-time Academy Award winner contribute to his MVP campaign? But when combined with the Woodley news, this helped clarify matters. Foster was the costar of Woodley’s most recent film, The Mauritanian. But it still felt like the most random Jodie Foster shout-out since … well, you know.
February 22: We Have Shailon Woodgers Confirmation
In an appearance on The Tonight Show, Woodley confirmed that she was engaged to Rodgers. Meanwhile, Jimmy Fallon made a bunch of strange faces that I think are supposed to be smiles.
Sitting in front of a fridge—Aaron Rodgers’s fridge?!?!?!?!—Woodley explained that she and Rodgers had been engaged for quite some time. She went on to make a big deal about how she doesn’t like sports at all—like, a really big deal, like people online who use the word “sportsball.” (Notably, her last boyfriend was also a professional athlete.) Woodley said that Rodgers is “really good at throwing balls,” and can throw “fast balls and slow balls,” which is completely not how playing quarterback works. It’s like if someone asked Aaron about Shailene’s performance in Big Little Lies and he was like, “OMG, she is absolutely hilarious in that.”
Woodley also made a joke about how Rodgers is exceptionally good at playing fetch with dogs. OK, Shailene, we’re happy for you, but you clearly stole this material from Aaron’s most recent State Farm commercial.
February 28: Jodie Foster Returns the Shout-out
Rodgers wasn’t the only person to take home some hardware in February. At the Golden Globes, Jodie Foster won best supporting actress for her role in The Mauritanian, and used her speech to thank Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers thanked Jodie Foster in his MVP speech. Foster thanks Rodgers in her Golden Globes acceptance speech.
(Foster’s co-star in the movie she won for is Shailene Woodley, Rodgers’ fiancé, and yes I’m doubling as a pop culture beat writer rn) pic.twitter.com/MeMKKDQdLH
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) March 1, 2021
Afterward, Foster explained her relationship with Rodgers … which is to say that she doesn’t have one. The two have never met, but Foster is on the record as being a big Packers fan, and said that her costar “Shailene is very aware of my enthusiasm for the team.” Foster, a Los Angeles native, has also noted that she’s a fair-weather fan and would stop rooting for the team if it ever became bad—maybe she’ll keep rooting for Rodgers even if he leaves the Packers.
March 11: Aaron Goes North of the Border
You’ve gotta feel for the paparazzi assigned to the “Canadian Winter” beat, but on March 11 one struck gold. Rodgers was spotted in Montreal walking Woodley’s massive German shepherd, even though nearly every part of his face was hidden behind his mask, hood, and jacket in the freezing cold.
I have two questions about this. Are Rodgers’s eyes really that recognizable? And is that State Farm ad responsible for launching this relationship?
March 31: The Woodgers Family Vacation
With Rodgers in the NFL offseason and Woodley finished filming her latest movie, the new couple went on their first vacation. First, they were seen on the tarmac at an airport for private planes near a “private estate resort” in a secluded Mexican beach town. Extremely typical celebrity vacay. Next up, they went to Palm Springs—hold on, wait, not Palm Springs. They went to Hot Springs, Arkansas, home to Hot Springs National Park and its famous hot springs. Specifically, they popped up in a since-deleted Instagram post by a café which has a total of 15 Yelp reviews. (It looks lovely! Great find!)
When I first heard about this, I felt a kinship with the happy couple. My fiancée and I love to take road trips around this huge, beautiful, and weird country of ours where we eat roadside food and visit national parks. Celebs—they’re just like us!
But Aaron and Shailene weren’t driving around and visiting national parks. They were flying on a private plane in Mexico two days before! How and why did they end up in Hot Springs, Arkansas? (There is a famous horse track in Hot Springs—and Rodgers loves horses, which will come up later—but they missed the Arkansas Derby by about a week.) Did they specifically charter a plane from Scenic, Secluded Mexican Resort to Arkansas? Are they the first people ever to fly that specific route? And, like I said, I love national parks … but if I could go to any national park, because I had access to a private plane, would Hot Springs be in my top 10? Twenty? This blog ranks it 59th out of 61 national parks, which feels unfair—I’d definitely put it top 50.
Regardless, the couple found their way to a motel—that’s “motel,” short for “motor hotel,” named as such because motels are typically convenient for drivers and not celebrities flying on private planes—and had a meal at its restaurant. It’s unclear whether they stayed at the motel or just ate there, but if they did spend the night, they wouldn’t be the first athlete-celebrity couple to do so—Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe reportedly stayed there in the 1930s, back when baseball teams held their spring training in Hot Springs.
It’s unclear whether Aaron and Shailene’s next vacation spot will be a white sand beach with glassy waters on an uninhabited island in the Bahamas, or the Cracker Barrel across the street from the Econo Lodge in Cave City, Kentucky, near Mammoth Cave National Park.
April 5: Aaron Wants a New Job
Rodgers filmed his guest stint on Jeopardy! over two days in February, but his episodes were broadcast in early April. On the day the first one aired, Rodgers told The Ringer’s Claire McNear that he didn’t consider himself a temporary host, but a candidate for the full-time gig. “I’m not shy about saying I want the job,” he said after going into great detail about how he could conceivably host the show while keeping his job as a quarterback in the NFL. “They film 46 days a year. I worked 187 this year in Green Bay. That gives me, eh—[pauses]—178 days to do Jeopardy! So I feel like I could fit 46 into that 178 and make it work.”
Rodgers explained his preparation process for hosting, as he seemingly brought the same fastidiousness and attention to detail that makes him a great football player to the show. He even referenced his “background of stepping in for a legend and their footsteps,” making him the first and last person ever to compare Alex Trebek and Brett Favre.
Also April 5: Shailene and Aaron Go Live
The happy couple made their first public appearances together in a pair of Instagram Live videos that were created with the apparent intent of getting people to watch Rodgers on Jeopardy! First up was a minute-long video in which Woodley distracted her “super sexy, super attractive” fiancé while he was driving, futzing with his glasses and alerting the world to his teensy-tiny manbun. (Please never touch my glasses while I’m driving.)
Later, Rodgers and Woodley went on Instagram during halftime of the men’s NCAA tournament national championship game, with Rodgers answering 10 questions about hosting Jeopardy! It’s unclear why he didn’t give his answers in the form of a question.
Also, Also April 5: Rodgers Gets Roasted on Jeopardy!
Rodgers’s first episode behind the Jeopardy! lectern was designed with an ending that cheekily referenced him. The Final Jeopardy! prompt was about a daytime television host who had received a lifetime achievement award and used his speech to deliver an inspirational quote—pretty clearly Mr. Rogers, right? Get it? Aaron Rodgers? Mr. Rogers? Get it??????
But instead of writing “Mr. Rogers,” two-time champion Scott Shewfelt zinged Rodgers, reminding the quarterback of the field goal in the NFC championship game that he hated. (Shewfelt claims he knew the correct answer, but wanted to have some fun since he was already mathematically eliminated from finishing in first.)
Shewfelt must have missed the January press conference in which Rodgers was adamant that this field goal wasn’t his decision. In his nighttime Instagram Live session with Woodley, Rodgers revealed that he knew the joke was coming, because the host’s lectern allowed him to see Shewfelt writing the joke in real time—again causing drama in Jeopardy! circles, since it was previously unknown that the lectern had that capability.
April 6: Aailene Hits Disney
Are there Disney paparazzi? Like, paparazzi who show up at Disney World every day just in case celebrities show up? There must be, because it’s rare for NFL quarterbacks to make the rounds at Disney when they’re not celebrating a Super Bowl win. And yet Rodgers and Woodley were spotted canoodling at Disney the day after making their IG Live video debut.
The couple stayed at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which you may remember as the hotel that hosted the teams seeded fourth through eighth during the 2020 NBA playoffs, but not the hotel where the eventual NBA Finals participants stayed. Rodgers and Woodley also filmed an extremely strange video on Disney’s behalf in which they complimented each other’s toothbrushing and bed-making skills:
April 13: Aaron Gets Roasted on Jeopardy! Again
In Rodgers’s second week hosting Jeopardy!, the show’s writers lobbed the contestants a softball question about the Green Bay Packers. None of them knew the answer. Rodgers handled the moment expertly:
If he really had one foot out the door in Green Bay, would he be so offended on the Packers’ behalf?
April 29: All Hell Breaks Loose
Just hours before the first round of the draft, multiple league insiders began to report the same thing: Rodgers no longer wants to play for the Packers. The draft is one of the NFL’s marquee events, but this year it felt overshadowed by the colossal news that the reigning MVP wants to leave the only team for which he’s ever played.
Notably, nothing actually happened between Rodgers and the Packers on April 29. ESPN’s Adam Schefter later reported that he decided to break the news on draft day even though he hadn’t received any new information about the quarterback’s situation. If that’s the case, then the breakdown between Rodgers and the team happened primarily over the past few months—while Rodgers was hosting Jeopardy! and jetsetting between Mexico and unheralded national parks.
Still, Rodgers talk dominated draft day. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that contract negotiations with the Packers had broken down; Trey Wingo reported that the franchise had promised to trade Rodgers earlier in the offseason but then reneged, and that “it’s been a bleep show between them ever since.” Schefter reported that Packers president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst, and LaFleur had taken “separate trips to meet with Rodgers.” NBC’s Mike Florio reported that Rodgers “doesn’t like anyone in the front office for a variety of reasons,” which is one of the better sentences in the history of NFL reporting.
But the best report of all came from Rapoport, an NFL insider who briefly moonlighted as a TV insider to note that Jeopardy! bigwigs legitimately thought Rodgers did a great job hosting.
One more note on #Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: He really impressed the brass during his stint on Jeopardy. The belief is, when they finish auditions, he’ll be among those with a chance to do the job full-time. If this isn’t sorted out, a job hosting is also a possibility.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 29, 2021
This tweet is the essential document of Rodgers’s offseason. One of the most plugged-in people in all of sports media vaguely shrugged and wrote the equivalent of, Hey, I’m not really sure what the hell is going on here, but maybe this TV thing is sort of related to the football thing? Frame it and hang it on the wall of that motel café in Hot Springs.
May 1: Everything Is Normal in Kentucky
Rodgers has become a staple at the Kentucky Derby over the years, making the trip year after year with a rotating cast of teammates and friends. Why change that just because we’re amid a pandemic and you reportedly hate everything about your team? During the third day of the draft, Rodgers made his annual appearance in Louisville, looking like a particularly sleazy magician and making a strange hand gesture:
He gave an interview to an Australian man who was apparently completely unaware of every major development in Rodgers’s life, choosing to ignore the engagement, Jeopardy! stint, and unfolding Packers drama to instead grill Rodgers about his exacta picks:
The interviewer also failed to notice Rodgers wearing a nametag that read TURD FERGUSON, a reference to an old Saturday Night Live skit.
May 5: The Fallout Continues
Rodgers isn’t speaking publicly about football right now—just his exactas, his TV aspirations, and his fiancée’s impressive toothbrushing ability—so the only news items about his NFL future are coming via leaks. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports and Bob McGinn of The Athletic both recently reported that Rodgers won’t return to Green Bay as long as Gutekunst remains the general manager, and McGinn added some juicy and hilarious tidbits. He reported that Rodgers has taken to calling Gutekunst “Jerry Krause”—a nod to the former Chicago Bulls GM and villain of The Last Dance—and that much of Rodgers’s dissatisfaction with the Packers came from their decision to cut Jake Kumerow, a now-29-year-old wide receiver with 21 career catches to his name.
The story goes like this: Rodgers repeatedly went out of his way to praise Kumerow. In a 2018 training camp interview, he said that he was getting “piss-poor” effort from all of his receivers except Kumerow; on September 3, he gave another enthusiastic endorsement of Kumerow only for the team to cut the receiver on September 5. Kumerow went on to sign with the Bills, playing in six games and recording one catch—a catch he could’ve made with the Packers.
McGinn called the Kumerow cut “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” So we’re left wondering: Is Rodgers moving on from the Packers? And if so, is that because he wants to host Jeopardy! or because the team cut a reserve wideout with 21 career receptions?