Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of days, everyone knows that the Green Bay Packers will be without superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers for their Week 9 contest in Kansas City against the Chiefs. In will step second-year quarterback Jordan Love, and this isn’t your typical backup situation. It could be Green Bay getting a peek at what the future holds.
Love has thrown a combined seven passes so far in his career, and they all came in the Week 1 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints. Like the Rodgers COVID story, everyone has an opinion on Love and what he will or won’t be as an NFL quarterback. Those keyboard warriors belting out boom-or-bust theories will get a little clarity on Sunday.
The start for the young signal-caller couldn’t be coming against a more disappointing defense. Kansas City currently ranks 25th in the NFL in points allowed per game (27.5). It’s a significant contributor to a shockingly underwhelming start for the Chiefs as a whole. If Love were going up against the defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with their front seven or the Buffalo Bills, perhaps there wouldn’t be as much optimism and curiosity about this first career start. Instead, the vibes feel pretty good heading into this one despite what the odds say.
Once the league ruled Rodgers, Green Bay went from +1.5 underdogs to +7.5. The oddsmakers believe Rodgers is worth six points in this contest, and they may be right. Head coach Matt LaFleur still has all the faith in the world in his young quarterback.
Whether it’s blind optimism or a genuine belief, LaFleur says it’s a next-man-up approach with Love starting and that his confidence in the second-year quarterback isn’t wavering.
“No one is going to feel sorry for us. We all have to prepare to the best of our ability to go down there and get a win. That’s the mindset. They’re not going to postpone or cancel the game. It’s a ‘Next man up’ mentality. That’s how we’ve operated for everybody. I think our guys will rally around Jordan. We have a lot of confidence in him. What a great opportunity to showcase what he can do.”
Showcasing what he can do will come down to the game plan.
It will be intriguing to see how LaFleur treats this. The Packers had extra time to prepare for the Chiefs after playing on Thursday night. But now they’re in scramble mode following the Rodgers news Wednesday. It’s hard to envision LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett rolling out the red carpet with the exact blueprint for Love that they had for Rodgers in this one. But it will be critical to open it up and see what Love can do against a vulnerable defense. Wrapped up in all of it are long-term visions as well.
In the short term, Green Bay will try to win another game in which not many are giving them a chance now that Rodgers is out. The Packers are trying to keep up with the other top-shelf teams in the NFC as they battle for home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Right now, that would go to Green Bay.
For the long term, Green Bay’s front office has to be plenty fascinated about this opportunity for their young quarterback in a regular-season game, even if it’s only one game. While no conclusions should be drawn from one matchup, young quarterbacks are judged differently in today’s NFL. Some will roll their eyes at this notion but take a look around at other young quarterbacks in the NFL right now. Take a look at Love’s draft class alone.
There seems to be a pretty clear consensus about some of the quarterbacks who were drafted in 2020, even though they are only in their second season.
Justin Herbert is considered the next big thing in the NFL. While he’s been excellent in his career so far, he’s still only made 22 starts. That hasn’t stopped those with a national platform from already crowning him as a future MVP winner who will go down as one of the all-time greats. Conversely, the Miami Dolphins took Tua Tagovailoa one slot ahead of Herbert and 21 slots ahead of Love. Most fans think that he’s no good and won’t ever succeed in the NFL after only 14 starts. Jalen Hurts falls somewhere between Tagovailoa and Herbert.
It’s insane how quick-twitch the reactions are to young quarterbacks in the NFL today. Love will be in the spotlight on Sunday. Will he embrace that moment and that pressure and flourish? That has yet to be seen.
The goal this year is Super Bowl or disappointment for the Packers. While that remains the case, getting a look at what the future may hold isn’t such a bad thing either.