It has been a long month for the Green Bay Packers, with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers’ unhappy situation taking the world by storm. The debacle escalated a bit this week, with the star quarterback choosing to skip attending organized team activities (OTAs), an offseason event he has religiously attended for his 16 years in the NFL.
Rodgers spoke with ESPN’s Kenny Mayne on Monday night. He made it clear that his issue does not lie with Jordan Love or his teammates but with the organization’s culture and philosophy. Now the focus moves toward Brian Gutekunst and Ted Thompson.
No one knows if Rodgers will suit up for the Green Bay Packers ever again, but one man who will soon is Love. He is entering his second season in the NFL and has already looked like a brand new player at Packers OTAs. He’s throwing to a makeshift wide receiver crew including Reggie Begelton and Malik Taylor because Green Bay’s top five receivers, including Davante Adams, did not report.
“You can tell he’s just a lot more comfortable out there, even from communicating in the huddle to the command of the huddle to just everything,” Aaron Jones said. “He’s had a year under his belt, he’s had time to watch and learn, so you can tell it’s a little bit different from what it was before.
The Packers and Matt LaFleur cannot fathom their team without Rodgers as the starting quarterback next year. But with the Love pick, releasing Jake Kumerow, Jordy Nelson, and whatever else has Rodgers angry, this may not be the possibility.
If Love ends up being the starter in Green Bay this year, will the Packers survive the transition? After all, quarterback dynasties are rare. The Packers specifically have been blessed with top-notch play at the game’s most important position for over 25 years, shifting the mystical paradigm of ‘Title Town’ to ‘Entitled Town.’
The San Francisco 49ers did it, going from Joe Montana to Steve Young. The Indianapolis Colts transitioned from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck. We’ve seen a single transition once before, but no NFL has successfully transitioned twice, from top quarterback to top quarterback to top quarterback.
The Packers drafted one quarterback to succeed the other when both vets were 36 years old. The difference is that Rodgers had the luxury to sit behind Favre for three seasons before taking the reins; Love has only one so far. So now we are left with one unclear NFL season in which Love did not play a single snap. He also did not have any preseason opportunities due to the coronavirus.
Although Rodgers isn’t pleased with the ‘higher-ups’ within the Packers organization, Gutekunst has done a fantastic job putting together some of the better teams that Rodgers has had at quarterback in Green Bay.
They have a young, talented defense led by stars on all three levels in Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, and Darnell Savage. On offense, the Packers boast a top offensive line, run game, and the best receiver in football in Adams.
Can Rodgers get better elsewhere? Green Bay has a great roster. The broadcast of every Packers game occasionally references a statistic: Rodgers doesn’t have any touchdown passes to a first-round pick.
Why does that matter? This pattern is fairly similar around the league.
If Love were to step in this season, he would be walking into one of the better scenarios for a first-year starter. There has to be a reason Gutekunst put his job on the line for Love. The Packers know Rodgers’ personality. They know that he holds grudges and gets what he wants. They knew this, but they still drafted Love.
If they trade Rodgers and he lights the NFL on fire, going full LeBron James, it’s a nightmare. But, if Rodgers never wins another Super Bowl, like Brett Favre, and Love is good, then passing on Tee Higgins and Chase Claypool will be forgotten — just like nobody remembers passing on Marlin Jackson and Brodney Pool when Ted Thompson drafted Rodgers.
The biggest question that remains is this: is Love even good?
“I haven’t seen somebody with arm talent like he has, honestly,” Henry Colombi, Love’s backup at Utah State, said. “He can make every throw possible. It’s almost like he does it nonchalant. He doesn’t try to put his all into it. He just is so smooth when he throws. It’s crazy. He has all the tools. He can make all the throws NFL quarterbacks can make, and the thing with him is he’s going to keep on getting better. His ceiling’s so high, he wasn’t even at his best in college when he came out.”
Love threw for 3,567 yards, 32 touchdowns, and only six picks in 2018 before regressing to 3,402 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 17 picks in 2019. But after 2019, Love lost four offensive linemen, his starting running back, starting tight end, and top three receivers.
We know Love’s strengths (release, arm strength, and launch point) and weaknesses (decision making, reads, awareness), but he remains a mystery beyond this. If Green Bay transitions from Rodgers to Love this year, it won’t be apocalyptic.
“He understands,” his agent David Mulugheta said, “whether Aaron is traded, he stays, he gets hurt, he plays all year, he needs to be ready to go.”
The Packers will survive the transition. And even with growing pains, it will be smoother than many believe.