At the end of Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, when the Green Bay Packers seemed to have little to gain from an embarrassing defensive curb hit, a moment of intrigue came from the most unexpected places.
2020 NFL Draft.
Jordan Love, the first-round pick of that year who once captivated NFL coaches and executives with his arm strength and unwavering confidence, has finally had a breakthrough. It only lasted one quarter and two drives, but it came at exactly the moment when the Packers and their fans needed something – anything — to convince them that the 2022 season has made a significant contribution to the future.
An impressive touchdown and impressive playmaking explosion from Christian Watson will certainly fill some of the void next offseason. But with so much work ahead in just about every corner of the roster, potentially having a realistic young asset as a quarterback could mean the difference between turning around after Aaron Rodgers or a complete overhaul.
This is what Love can still represent: a lighted path forward that doesn’t count on Rogers to hold the light. If this player is already on Green Bay’s roster, that could make a difference. The only question is how badly the Packers want to find out? This team is 4-8 and not going anywhere, and a now significantly beaten Rodgers has become a stumbling block to much-needed clarity.
Bottom line: Green Bay needs to know what he has in Love. And his little spark leading two assists in the fourth quarter against the Eagles – with Love going 6 of 9 for 113 yards and a touchdown – suggests it could be more than expected. Not only did Love look determined and unflappable, he finally looked ready for the opportunity that fell to his knees as Rodgers walked out with damaged ribs.
As he told reporters after the speech, “I felt more prepared. It all comes down to reps, getting those reps, and doing those games comfortably. The more I can get, the more comfortable the situation is.”
It sounded almost like a subtle call for game time. Maybe even a few starts before this season is in the books. If that’s the case, then the Packers should be overjoyed because Rogers’ drive to compete eventually led him to a three-year injury and awkward strain with Brett Favre before he stepped into the starting role hungry and ready to prove that Green -Bey was right when it happened. threw the bones at him.
This could be what Love is now, the 2022 edition of what Rogers was in 2007. And the brief flashback against the Eagles can be compared to when Rodgers replaced an injured Favre against the Dallas Cowboys that season, giving fans an unexpected glimpse of what lay on the other side of the aging veteran. The Packers lost that game too. But the seeds have been sown in the heads of the management and coaching staff, hinting at a worthy transition that is guaranteed to be difficult.
It’s hard to tell if Love is that player right now. He had snaps in six games last season, including one very forgettable start in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. But interestingly, Love’s limited efforts this season have been much more productive than they were a year ago. And the simple truth about Rogers is that during his first three seasons in the NFL, there were times when he gave plenty of reason to doubt he would ever live up to his bill as a first-round pick.
So what to do in this situation? Well, Rodgers wasted no time pushing his way after losing to the Eagles.
Asked about next week’s game against the Chicago Bears despite a broken arm and damaged ribs, Rodgers told reporters, “As long as I’m checking, everything is fine.” [I will play]. maybe I can’t go [practice] On Wednesday, but as long as there is no major structural damage, I will try to get back there.”
And if the Packers suffer their ninth loss of the season, effectively taking them out of the playoff hunt, what then?
“I really don’t want to think about it, but as long as we’re mathematically alive, I’d love to be there,” Rogers said. “…Obviously, after you’ve been eliminated, a lot of other conversations come into play. I will be open to such conversations.”
That’s the mindset of every quarterback in the NFL when it comes to this kind of situation. You keep fighting until the fight for the postseason is over. This should not be seen as selfish. He may be overly optimistic about his chances of winning the table in his remaining five games, but he’s not being selfish.
But this does not mean that the organization cannot be selfish here. Sometimes that’s what front offices are paid to do: be selfish about long-term viability, not generous about short-term sustainability. That’s where the Packers are now. This team is terrible against running. The attacking line needs some serious work in the offseason. And it’s time to lean more on some young players, whether Randall Cobb is healthy or not. There might even be a little chemistry between the quarterback who throws them after Rodgers leaves. You can’t do it with Love if Rodgers is holding on with all his might, hoping to achieve a 9-8 record.
Every game he takes as a starter is one game short of the team to see what Love brings to the table as a substitute. And there are only five shots left this season and a few big line-up decisions, including with Rodgers and Love on the other hand.
If Love is found to be a legitimate answer to the quarterback role, it opens up the possibility that Rodgers and the Packers could sit down and work out a deal. Give him a Tom Brady-style refresher at the end of his career with a Super Bowl team of his choice. They can also use Love in different ways. Either as a hot commodity (if he plays well enough in the future) or as a commitment to him to take over the team when Rodgers either retires or is released after the 2023 season.
Green Bay needs to focus on all of these possible outcomes, viewing each one through a single lens: The beginning of multi-game love, no matter what Rodgers prefers. Yes, even if it means benching a Hall of Famer quarterback. The Packers put over $300 million into Rogers’ pockets. Now the 2020 draft may finally be ready to pay off the franchise.
This is the moment when Green Bay needs to make a small withdrawal from Rogers’ gambling bank and hand it over to Love. For a kid who was waiting for a chance and a future that might be a little better than anyone thought.