In Moving on From Aaron Rodgers, the Packers Shift From Quarterback Stability to Uncertainty
When the Packers switched from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers as the starting quarterback after Favre’s (first) retirement in March 2008—almost exactly 15 years ago—Rogers pointed out the obvious. “I’m not Brett Favre,” Rogers said. Associated Press. “And if they want me to be the next Brett Favre, I’m not going to be.”
Turns out Rogers was wrong. He was the next is Brett Favre, from his only Super Bowl win and multiple MVP awards with the Packers to leaving the Green Bay Packers for the New York Jets. And he will probably go to the Jets – eventually.
This is what Rogers said in an hour-long speech on Wednesday at The Pat McAfee Show. Rodgers said he decided a few days ago that he didn’t want to retire and that he was ready to play for the Jets, and he dismissed the notion that he was postponing the trade. In fact, Rogers told McAfee that the delay is because the Packers want a better trading package—they are “stubborn,” Rogers said—meaning the Packers are actually holding the Jets (and Rogers) hostage. Rogers also opted out of ESPN reporting on the saga, which was confirmed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Confirming Aaron Rogers’ report: pic.twitter.com/XRhhd58Qm5
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2023
But the deal – whenever it happens – closes out one of the neatest full story arcs you’ll ever see in sports. Favre spent 16 years as a starter for Green Bay versus 15 years for Rodgers. Favre has won three MVP titles while Rodgers has won four. Both won the Super Bowl. And now both have been traded to the Jets to make room for first-round QBs, who have spent three years on the bench patiently waiting to be replaced. As they say in True detective, time flat circle.
“I intend to play for the Jets, but I’m still under contract,” Rodgers told McAfee. “Facts right now [the Packers] I want to move on, and now I do too.”
For an astrology fan like Rogers, it might be peaceful in the nature of the vicious circle to leave the Wisconsin sports universe the same way he was allowed to enter it (and he’ll soon appreciate how the Jets were in the 40-year retreat of darkness). For the Packers, the move marks a new chapter after an unprecedented 30-year quarterback consistency that saw Favre and Rodgers start 519 games together since 1992 (while their backups only started 22 during that period). Whether Green Bay can extend that QB fortune for another decade depends on Jordan Love finally getting the chance to be a Packers starter.
The Packers planned this ahead of time. The Green Bay succession plan began when general manager Brian Gutekunst sketched Love in 2020, which Rodgers mentioned repeatedly on Wednesday. But the Packers really took that path last March when they structured Rodgers’ contract extension in a way that would essentially force the team to choose between Rodgers and Love this March. Rogers has a guaranteed salary of $59.46 million this year, which is more than $31 million against the Green Bay ceiling; Love is cheap for now, but the team has a deadline in May to pick up Love’s option for a fifth year. Green Bay’s pick was between a 24-year-old first round pick by that front office and a 39-year-old QB who won MVP twice in the last three years and discussed retirement about a billion times. Rogers astutely told McAfee that Green Bay has historically preferred to walk away from the players a year early rather than a year late, and indeed that seems to be exactly what the Packers are doing.
It’s a decision that most teams might not have the nerve to make, and Gutekunst deserves credit for trying, even if this division has gotten messy. But the Packers have been in trouble before. Favre has worn down the Packers organization and many fans by talking about retirement over the past few seasons, and Rodgers has spent the last three years cajoling away from the good graces of Green Bay. It’s not that Packers fans don’t like Rogers. Many people adore him. But many of them may be willing to walk away from a relationship that has become exhausting.
Gutekunst was criticized by a lot of people, including yours truly, for taking Love and running away from AJ Dillon in the first two rounds of the draft in 2020, and for several years these attempts have held. Both Love and Dillon were understudies, with Love playing especially infrequently in his first three seasons at Green Bay. But if Love becomes the Packers’ next great quarterback, their quarterback of the next decade, Gutekunst will be more than justified, especially given the criticism he’s received from both the media and Rodgers himself, as Rodgers wanted to speak in front office decisions.
Now the question is, is Love good. Clearly, the fact that the Packers, especially Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur, are willing to make this deal suggests that they have been encouraged (if not encouraged) by what they have seen in Love in practice over the past few years.
“We are delighted with him. I think I’ve already told a lot of people that he needs to play. This is the next step in its development. He needs to play,” Gutekunst recently told reporters at the NFL scouting group. “Jordan has done a great job of working hard, so he’s doing everything we ask.”
The game action of love was limited. He started once in 2021 in place of Rogers after Rogers tested positive for COVID-19. Love completed 56 percent of his passes for 190 yards with one touchdown and one interception and hardly looked ready to go. But it was his first career start, and it happened on the road to Kansas City against the Chiefs defense, which pressured him 19 times. Love looked significantly better in his main appearance in 2022 when he replaced Rodgers in Sunday Night Football lost to the Eagles in Week 12 and hit rookie wide receiver Christian Watson on a short pass over midfield by Watson. 63 yards for a touchdown.
Danny Kelly’s scouting report for Jordan Love’s Bell ringerLove is described in the 2020 NFL Draft Handbook as having “a shooting style with a light wrist movement, good touch and great athleticism, but big questions about his decision making and ball safety.” Regarding Love’s main benefit, Kelly wrote: “tools, tools, tools.” Love can move and he has a gun – and now the question is whether he really learned to play quarterback in three years of waiting behind Rodgers.
Rogers and Lafleur often broke the Green Bay compromise, settling on a combination of what Lafleur wanted and what Rogers felt comfortable with. Meanwhile, Love is apparently going to execute any attack LaFleur orders him to, and there’s a chance that Love implementing LaFleur’s vision without diverting the attack in a different direction could look better than the product Green Bay showed off with Rogers. last season, especially after Green Bay was near average in points per game.
“We took him on for a reason back in 2020, he is progressing well and it was great to see him make the jump he did last year,” Gutekunst said. “Again, this is very different from going out week after week taking on challenges as teams schedule games for you. We talked earlier about how long it takes for a quarterback to go from playing well to winning this league, and he’s going to have to go through it all just like any other quarterback. He has made some really good jumps and he has a lot more opportunities, but I think he will need to play for that.”
Rodgers and Favre were known to have a cold relationship during their three years together as the Packers. Rogers seems to have gone out of his way to have an opposing relationship with Love. On Wednesday, Rogers called his successor a “fucking great guy” with a “bright future ahead of him.” Rogers needs to know. His past is the future of Love. But Love has the pressure of following two legends rather than one. Loving being Rogers is an unfair expectation. But deep down it must be hope.