Nearly 16 months after he was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, fans will finally get a chance to see quarterback Jordan Love in action as the Green Bay Packers host the Houston Texans in Week 1 of the NFL preseason on Saturday night. It will be among the most anticipated preseason debuts in Lambeau Field history, and for fans, the worst thing that Love can be on Saturday night is mediocre.
Love showed flashes of brilliance in this past weekend’s Family Night scrimmage, but much was made of his three fumbles in a rain-soaked affair at Lambeau.
Is it fair to break down Love’s every single handoff, dropback, and pass? Well, kind of. There is a level of expectation that comes with being selected in the first round, even if that player is a raw talent at quarterback who thinks he might be thrust into the starting role after his MVP predecessor threatens retirement and/or a career change into a professional game show host. Sure, the specific set of circumstances surrounding Jordan Love’s tenure as a Packers quarterback are without parallel. Still, every set of eyes watching the Packers host the Texans on Saturday will be fixated on what No. 10 looks like under center.
Aaron Rodgers is back in the short term, dazzling and dropping dimes into fishing nets from 50 yards away. He was able to say his piece during his first press conference of training camp, and while next season could bring any number of scenarios, it certainly appears that Rodgers is back and ready to lead Green Bay to a deep playoff run.
So where does that leave Love? He’s a second-year quarterback who should have presumably soaked up an immense amount of knowledge in his time as a pro. Still, he has yet to have an opportunity to showcase his abilities properly. You can read all you want into 15 different reporters live-tweeting your every pass, but until that red jersey comes off and a defensive lineman is trying to separate your head from your spine, the lights aren’t really all that bright.
If you’re a Packers fan — or, honestly, a member of the Green Bay front office — you should be hoping for one of two scenarios. The first one is that Love comes in and looks comfortable running the offense, showcasing his elite arm strength and giving you a sense of optimism about what a post-Rodgers offense could look like.
The second scenario is that he’s just awful. He’s overwhelmed by the moment, even in the preseason against presumably one of the worst teams in the league, and what’s between his ears doesn’t translate to what he can do with the ball. Bad reads, bad execution, and a realization that the Packers may have made a mistake drafting him when they did.
The overwhelming likelihood is that Love ends up somewhere in the middle of these extremes. He doesn’t set the world on fire, but he doesn’t look like an immediate bust either. The worst-case scenario for Packers fans is that he floats in this uncertain purgatory for too long while the Rodgers saga continues to unfold to an uncertain end.
Having a definitive answer, either way, would go a long way in shaping what the next half-decade of football looks like at 1265 Lombardi Ave. Love deserves the benefit of the doubt, given the fact that COVID-19 eliminated the entire 2020 preseason, leaving him with literally zero professional snaps. Love has said all the right things as he prepares to embrace his opportunity on Saturday night:
“I’m super excited for it,” Love said following practice last Thursday. “The last time I played a game was the Senior Bowl coming out of college. Over a year and a half ago, I think. I’m super excited. This is the moment I’ve been preparing for ever since last year. It’s almost like I’ve been training a year just for this first preseason game. I’m super excited to get out there and get back to playing ball.”
Will the Packers have a definitive answer on who Jordan Love is as a quarterback after one preseason game? Certainly not. Will it be over-analyzed because it’s the first empirical data that Love will have as an NFL quarterback? Absolutely.
The scenario that gives Green Bay the best chance to win in 2022 is still way up in the air. It’s not outside the realm of imagination that last year was the last bit of greatness that Aaron Rodgers had, and a true decline occurs in his age-38 season. He could also keep that MVP train chugging along and use the massive chip on his shoulder to put up another jaw-dropping season.
With Rodgers’ situation beyond this season remaining unclear, the sooner the Packers’ organization can figure out whether or not Love is a question mark as well will be imperative. The logical desire for fans is for Rodgers to continue playing at an MVP level in Green Bay for as long as he’d like. If he holds firm to his grudges and moves on, it will be important to know exactly what Love can do as a QB. If he’s great and the Packers can make a relatively smooth transition (all things considered), that’s a win for the organization too. If Love clearly can’t hack it, and Green Bay needs to find a quarterback elsewhere, well, at least you know what you have.
If this season ends and the Packers still aren’t sure what Jordan Love could be, that’s when things get truly dicey. The will-he-won’t-he of the Rodgers tenure will eventually play itself out. Brian Gutekunst and Co. need to know whether Love can be the guy or whether they need to cut their losses and move on. It won’t be totally decided on Saturday night, but Green Bay fans will assuredly be forming their first true opinion of what Jordan Love can be.