GREEN BAY, Wis. -- How can something be such a windfall and such a calamity all at once?
Randall and Aiyda Cobb know the answer.
It happened in July, when their dream of returning to Green Bay -- Randall’s to play for the Packers again and Aiyda’s to be reunited with their best friends -- had come true.
So improbable that in October 2020 they sold their house in Green Bay, one they held on to for more than 18 months after Randall left the Packers as a free agent and signed with the Cowboys in 2019. When they sold it, Randall was well into his first season with the Texans.
“We held on to it just at the off chance that there might have been the possibility after the year in Dallas to come back,” Randall said. “But that didn’t happen, obviously, so then we sold it after I had signed with Houston.”
There’s the story of how Cobb returned to Green Bay thanks to a move orchestrated by quarterback Aaron Rodgers seemingly as a condition of his return for a 17th season. Rodgers wanted his dependable slot receiver back, and that could prove crucial Thursday night as the Packers (6-1) -- who are without three of their top receivers -- face the Cardinals (7-0) in Arizona (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox).
And then there’s the story of what happened after the trade went down.
“It was a beautiful, chaotic mess,” Aiyda said.
‘We’re on the move again’
Cobb spent the 2019 season with the Cowboys on a one-year, $5 million deal. He then signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Texans in 2020.
"Now there may have been some television on or something and he shushed me a few times when it was too much info, but yeah, I wanted to get him up to speed as quickly as possible ..." Aaron Rodgers, on helping ex-roommate
Randall Cobb learn the playbook
Tired of living half the season in Randall’s football city and the other half jumping around the country -- from his native Tennessee, where they will eventually settle after his NFL career; to Los Angeles, where he worked out; to Washington, D.C., where Aiyda’s law firm is located -- they finally decided on a permanent (or at least as permanent as you can get in the NFL) home.
“When I signed with Houston, we were like, ‘OK, we’ve got three years -- two guaranteed -- we’re for sure going to be there for two years,’” Randall said. “So we decided to sell everything else and go to Houston and make that home for at least the next two years.”
They bought a house that was featured in Architectural Digest.
“After all the moves we’ve had in the past three or four years, I’d say we’re experts at moving,” Randall said. “That’s one of the reasons why we were wanting to be settled in Houston. After everything had happened, we were tired of doing the six months here and six months there. So we said, 'Let’s go to Houston, we’ll stay there year-round until we make one last move to Tennessee.'”
As good as life was off the field, it wasn’t ideal on it.
In 10 games last season, he caught 38 passes for 441 yards and three touchdowns -- not great numbers by his standards -- and missed the final six games of the season because of a toe injury. Then came a major rebuild with a coaching change and the uncertain status of quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“Even though it wasn’t the most desirable situation in terms of what the organization was going through with all the changes, it was the first home we stayed in all year,” said Aiyda, who continued to practice law remotely on a part-time basis. “And we finally got rid of two storage units.”
Familial stability lasted barely more than a year.
Cobb left Houston two hours after the trade to Green Bay went down on July 28, with only the clothes on his back and what he could fit into two small bags.
He would worry about the rest later.
But he was worried about Aiyda and their sons right away.
“She was in full rental mode, trying to find us a place here in town,” Randall said.
The goal was to get the rest of the family to Green Bay in time for the Packers’ annual Family Night, a practice at Lambeau Field followed by a fireworks show. That was on Aug. 7, three days before their older son, Caspian, turned 3.
“I was trying to just pick up the pieces on our end and figure out the move,” said Aiyda, a patent attorney who represents generic pharmaceutical companies. “I was in the middle of three very big cases, and I had to call my boss and say, ‘Listen, we’re on the move again, I’m so sorry. This is very unexpected but so exciting and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’”
Rooming with Rodgers
In the meantime, Randall moved into Rodgers’ house in the village of Hobart, just west of Green Bay. In between watching Olympic events on TV, Rodgers got him caught up on the changes to the offense under coach Matt LaFleur.
Cobb never played for LaFleur, who was hired by the Packers two months before Cobb signed with the Cowboys.
“Now there may have been some television on or something and he shushed me a few times when it was too much info, but yeah, I wanted to get him up to speed as quickly as possible, and translate,” Rodgers said.
Said Cobb: “You know how he is, the way his brain works. Mine doesn't quite work that way, so I had to be like, 'OK, this is enough, I'm gonna get this from my coaches, OK? Because you're just going too fast right now.’”
More than the football, Cobb enjoyed catching up.
“We probably hung out more in that time than in the past three years,” he said.
Rodgers joked that, “It was a good time 'til Aiyda came up, and the fun was over.”
'Everyone loves a storybook ending, right?'
They made it in time for Family Night, although rain washed out the fireworks, and they celebrated Caspian’s birthday on Aug. 10 back in the city where he was born. Their younger son, Cade, who was born in Dallas, will turn 2 in January.
“The boys have had a hard time transitioning from house to house,” Aiyda said. “Then we had the terrible rental situation; we’re on our second rental home since we've been back here, but we’re just so thankful to be back that you just roll with the punches."
Randall’s memorable quote at his introductory news conference said it all: "I've seen the other side, and I'm excited to be back here, and I'm excited, I'm smiling. It's funny, my teammates said you act like you just got out of prison, and I said, well, you know ... I'm very, very excited to be here."
His best game since his return to Green Bay came in the Packers’ Week 4 win over the Steelers. He caught five passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Cobb has stayed healthy, played in every game and has 14 catches for 179 yards with two touchdowns.
Who knows what will happen after the season?
Randall and Aiyda certainly don’t. But they’re settled -- for now -- and back in their happy place with their friends. They hang out whenever possible with Rodgers, who is Cade’s godfather; with Davante Adams and his wife, Devanne; and with David Bakhtiari and his fiancée Frankie.
Some believe this could be the year the Packers return to the Super Bowl for the first time since Feb. 6, 2011, which was two and a half months before Cobb was drafted.
“Just to be reunited with these friends, and then to be able to have a run at the Super Bowl … it just feels like all the chips are going to fall in the right places,” Aiyda said. “Everyone loves a storybook ending, right?”
Even if nobody likes moving.