Mike McCarthy | Aaron Rodgers
 Christopher Hanewinc | 2016 Nov 13
Mike McCarthy | Aaron Rodgers Christopher Hanewinc | 2016 Nov 13

"If you can't adapt, you die."

It's a common refrain in life and, from our vantage point, the most important refrain in the extraordinary behind-the-scenes exploration by Bleacher Report's Ty Dunne of the crumbling of the Green Bay Packers empire led by Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers — though maybe it's more aptly described as McCarthy or Rodgers.

Dunne's fascinating and exhaustively reported profile, built around quotes from dozens of past and present Packers — on and off the record — reveals the franchise's second-winningest coach ever regularly skipped team meetings for massages in his office. McCarthy reportedly fancied himself as the QB guru and master architect on offense, bragging to players about his work with Joe Montana — in Kansas City, mind you — and showing little interest in updating his scheme to coincide with the constantly evolving league.

"I don't know where to start or where to stop," with the report, McCarthy told ESPN and NFL Network Thursday in response to the story. "I've never missed a team meeting for a massage; that's absurd."

The piece also details Rodgers' extreme sensitivity and the passive aggressiveness and resentfulness it fueled, explaining how the vital quarterback-head coach relationship was fractured before it truly began because McCarthy, formerly the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator, selected Alex Smith with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, while Rodgers famously squirmed in the green room until the Packers were on the clock with the 24th overall pick. Rodgers, according to one of Dunne's anonymous sources, said McCarthy has a low football IQ — "one of the lowest IQs, if not the lowest IQ, of any coach he's ever had."

It should be noted that a number of former and current Packers have refuted parts of the report on the record over the past 24 hours. Ex-Packers FB John Kuhn tweeted: "Never knew my coach to get a massage instead of attending meetings and my QB never threw me under the bus. #justsaying."

Added former WR James Jones, now an NFL Network employee: "To me it's just a bunch of peoples opinions. And that's not the opinion I have about Aaron Rodgers. And the crazy thing about it is I'm getting texts from a bunch of my former teammates and they're like, 'where was I at when this stuff was going on.'"

Although the feature also makes it clear that the McCarthy-Rodgers pairing, which spawned a then-NFL record-tying eight consecutive postseason appearances, two MVPs for Rodgers and one Lombardi for the organization, was a failure because it didn't lead to a Patriots-esque dynasty, it's amazing to us they accomplished as much as they did together if we're to believe the incredible acrimony illustrated in the piece. Sure, we knew the relationship had deteriorated over time, but not nearly with the type of incredible detail Dunne includes.

Ted Thompson didn't get a pass, either, reportedly falling asleep in meetings and failing too often to properly address a locker room devoid of leaders, a fact punctuated by the clear leadership absence from what should be the two most important sources.

And president Mark Murphy regularly punted on intervening, too, until the past 14 months, when he replaced Thompson with GM Brian Gutekunst and, of course, Mike McCarthy last December with Matt LaFleur.

Imagine being LaFleur today and reading this piece. Few doubt he'll share McCarthy's X's and O's rigidness, so perhaps he'll earn the respect of Rodgers that his predecessor never did. But reading about Rodgers' alleged freezing out last season of rookie WR Marques Valdes-Scantling because he wouldn't defy McCarthy's orders and follow his roque quarterback? Or learning that Rodgers basically shut out his former No. 1 WR Greg Jennings, much like he did his family a number of years ago, partially because he greeted Brett Favre on the field prior to a game after Favre joined the Vikings?

Talk about a unique set of challenges and inordinate amount of pressure the rookie head coach who's only four years Rodgers senior immediately inherits.

"If you can't adapt, you die."

McCarthy's Packers death was a slow, painful one, not unlike Thompson's. The coach's scheme barely evolved and, according to this profile, his biggest adaptation after years of Rodgers' sub-ordinance was to check out on the team. For Thompson, by the time he finally, begrudgingly dipped more than a toe in the free-agent waters two offseasons ago, it was too late.

Rodgers is the only one left from the foundation the last Packers era began with in 2005. But, new contract and all, otherwordly ability or not, can Rodgers survive another regime change without adapting?

One of the more telling parts of Dunne's feature describes the circumstances under which Rodgers learned of LaFleur's hiring. Murphy called Rodgers, the source told Dunne, only after the decision had been made with one directive: "Don't be the problem."

Murphy, who vowed in January to hire McCarthy's replacement in lockstep with Gutekunst, not Rodgers, reportedly has tired of the quarterback's "diva act. Sure it's easier to put up with when the team's winning, not coming off its first back-to-back sub-.500 seasons in nearly two decades.

Which is another reason the stakes are so high for the Packers, with their 35-year-old quarterback who had never been painted in this kind of light prior to Thursday; with a free-agent haul that included spending more than $90 million guaranteed on four Day 1 starters; with their most draft leverage since 2009, when the acquisitions of B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews helped propel the Packers to Super Bowl to their Super Bowl XLV triumph only less than two years later.

"If you can't adapt, you die."

Is Rodgers capable of adapting? Are the Packers still set up to succeed if he won't?