Packers’ problem: Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre careers uncomfortably similar, but Jordan Love is no Rodgers


The Green Bay Packers just put themselves on the clock.

They have two years to win a second Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers, and then it’s over. He’ll be gone by then (if not sooner). Make way for The Jordan Love Experiment. Next man up and all.

The Rodgers era has about 16 more regular season Lambeau appearances left. Get your tickets now. And when it ends, it very well might look an awful lot like that long Colts run with Peyton Manning – all of those regular season wins, and all of those individual accomplishments and not enough titles for a generational talent at the quarterback position. I reckon Rodgers’ time in Wisconsin ends up mirroring Brett Favre’s tenure in Green Bay in uncomfortable ways no one in that front office would want to even consider right now.

In Titletown, one ring might not be viewed as good enough.

But make no mistake, this team’s decision to avoid the myriad ways in which they could have helped themselves win RIGHT NOW with a Hall of Fame 36-year old quarterback, to instead gamble on a quarterback project of the future – and moving up to do so no less, despite no one else around them clamoring for the fourth-best QB in the draft (at best)  – virtually ensures that by 2022 Love is taking over. You don’t make a move this bold, when a starting quarterback as good as Rodgers is already starved for skill position talent in a generational wide receiver draft, without having every intention of Love getting his shot in two years.

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That’s when it becomes easy to get out of Rodgers’ contract, and that’s when, even if Love still looks like a project, he is going to play – because you don’t take this gamble only to admit defeat without playing Love quite a bit just in case you were actually right. Of course, no one knows this better than Rodgers himself. He’s cerebral and calculated, almost to a fault, and he’s lived through the other side of this already when he slid down draft boards 15 years ago to eventually replace Favre.

Problem is, Love ain’t Rodgers and Love didn’t slide – according to numerous evaluators I spoke to throughout this process there was no way in hell he should have gone any higher than 26, if even there. There are issues with accuracy and consistency and decision making. Offensive coordinators who I deeply respect and trust who studied him – and some who have had the chance to spend a decent amount of time around him – loudly question his mentality and productivity.

“If someone takes him in the first round they don’t know how to evaluate quarterbacks,” one coordinator told me Monday night during a lengthy chat breaking down all the top passers in the draft. “He’s a good kid but there are a lot things that worry me. I honestly can’t see even considering him in the first round. It’s going to take a lot of work and you really better know what you are doing.”

One evaluator who watched Love closely had been echoing that sentiment to me throughout the process. “Yes, the 2018 film is better, but I still have some serious questions about him being anything close to a franchise quarterback. If he goes in the first round it’s because someone is reaching.”

Newsflash: You have to be lucky and good to have a talent like Rodgers fall in your lap. The odds of it happening twice, and of any QB in this draft be as good as Rodgers – much less of Love being ever as good as Rodgers – are microscopic.

The window to win something else of note with Rodgers is right bleeping now and there will be another draft with plenty of intriguing QB talent next year, plus the potential for robust supplemental draft(s) given the pandemic going on in a time of unrivaled uncertainty in this country on every level. Now’s not the time to be reaching and gambling on developmental players after just spending over $100M to prop up a suspect defense a year ago (that still remains kinda suspect to me). No, now is the time to maximize every effort to not have Rodgers’ Packers career not end like Favre’s did – one banner and decade-long supply of sour grapes.

You want to get cute? That’s fine. You’d just better be right.

And you know who has been right about a lot of quarterbacks over the years? Bill Belichick and Sean Payton. You know who both need a QB of the future, some would say desperately? Yup, those two. You know who spent countless hours pouring over the QBs in this draft? Right again! You know who dropped entirely out of the first round rather than select Love, believing that last year’s fourth round pick, Jarrett Stidham to be a superior prospect? The hoodie. Meantime the other guy drafted a center in the first round for the second straight year rather than take Love to replace 40-something Drew Brees. Cheeseheads, this should give you great pause.

You know who has zero experience identifying, drafting, developing and cultivating a quarterback in their current roles? Yeah, that would be Packers GM Brian Gutekunst and second-year head coach Matt LaFleur. And now they must do so while also navigating the potential minefield with Rodgers, who has a black belt in brooding, passive-aggressive attack methods, media manipulation and overall mental subterfuge. He doesn’t suffer fools and doesn’t have to bite his tongue. Good luck with that.

Remember Big Ben losing his mind when the Steelers had the temerity to select Mason Rudolph in the third round? Yeah, multiply that. Heck, I wouldn’t blame Rodgers if he wanted out now. If he requested a trade in the next year, would you really blame him?

A year ago they traded up in the first round to continue throwing assets at the defense by grabbing a safety (almost as if they were constructing a team that could win 17-14 with a cheap novice QB under center) after going all defense in free agency. And now this. I can only imagine the text messages Tom Brady – who suffered from chronic lack of skill players late in his New England tenure – is sending to Rodgers.

Yet despite all of that – and the fact that this is the most saturated QB market in history with guys like Jameis Winston (he’s only 26) languishing on the street despite leading the NFL in yards (yes, and picks) – the Packers jumped ahead of a bunch of teams who clearly were not interested in Love. And parted with a fourth-round pick in the process. All because maybe they were scared that Chris Ballard, despite just signing a geriatric QB himself and already without a first-round pick from the DeForest Buckner trade, would jump all the way up to take a polarizing QB?

I’ll let you in on another dirty little secret, one the Packers clearly seem to know as well: Rodgers is declining. No one plays at the levels he’s reached forever, and one could make the case that his best days are behind him. Happens to us all. Given the way LaFleur deployed Rodgers last year – basically requiring a $35M a year quarterback to merely manage games, go 18-for-22 for 220 yards and a touchdown or two – I guess we should have seen this coming.

Problem is, even Rodgers at, say, 75 percent of what he used to be is better than most of the league. Far better than what Love could ascend to in the near future. And Rodgers’ discerning eye will be ahead of the coach and the GM in determining if Love really has the stuff or not once they get on the practice fields. And that could be a real problem.

If the Packers were going to go this route, they should have had true conviction and traded Rodgers last year when they changed coaching regimes. That would have displayed a singular intent. That wouldn’t be sending mixed messages (team president Mark Murphy signs the aging QB to record-setting contract extension just before the 2018 season; reaches for his replacement 18 months later!).

That would have brought back a massive draft haul (remember, that’s a full year before the QB market crumbled). They would have already broken in the new QB they drafted with the multiple first round picks they got back for Rodgers, and they’d have that expensive defense to help them win ugly in 2020 with even more money to spend with a QB on a rookie deal. Plus, they wouldn’t have to worry about potentially alienating an iconic figure in an iconic franchise for years to come.

I might not have totally agreed with that sort of transaction, either, but I would have understood it. I would have respected the decision. That would have sent a singular organizational message. Instead, we’ll have more drama and palace intrigue in Green Bay whenever we play football again. Rodgers in the role of Farve. Love in the role of Rodgers.

In the end I expect Rodgers to have far too much in common with Favre than the Packers would care to admit. And I fear that Love’s Green Bay career will have virtually nothing in common with the legend he will succeed.





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