Green Bay Packers

Green Bay's Desperation Is An Indictment of Their Failed Succession Plan

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan (USA TODAY Sports)

Amid the turmoil of last offseason, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy called his disgruntled quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, a “complicated fella.”

He said that while the Packers were desperately trying to keep their Hall of Famer in town for one last ride. As such, his comments were met with a lot of confusion and criticism. However, it’s hard to develop a more accurate description of the Panchakarma-loving signal-caller nearly a year later.

Brian Gutekunst probably couldn’t have imagined this would be what he was setting in motion when he sent in that fateful ticket to select Jordan Love out of Utah State in April 2020. But what did he expect?

Gutekunst put Rodgers on the clock by selecting a quarterback in the first round after a 13-3 season. Yes, we’ve been through this a million times. But as we watch the Packers’ front office take every possible measure to hold onto their back-to-back MVP two years later, it’s clear that whatever vision led to the Love pick has flamed out.

The armchair GMs may have called it from the minute the Packers selected Love. But after a hot start in charge of the war room, Gutekunst had earned the benefit of the doubt. His rationale likely followed one of two paths. One, that Rodgers only had a couple of years left, so it was time to begin developing his successor. Or, two, that Love was such a slam-dunk that they had to move up to get him while they had the chance.

Rodgers was 36 years old on that consequential night. He was coming off a season where he threw for 4,002 yards, 26 TDs, and only four interceptions, leading Green Bay to a 13-win season and an NFC Championship game appearance. Despite the successful season, many began to speculate that his best days were behind him. His response? “A lot of times, down years for me are career years for most quarterbacks.”

Obviously, he’s turned things around, winning the MVP award each of the past two seasons. But it was incredibly difficult to be surprised by that. He may be the most talented quarterback ever to pick up a football and is years away from the age Drew Brees (42) and Tom Brady (44) were when they retired. Rodgers won’t even hit the 40-year-old mark that Peyton Manning called it a career at until December 2023.

We’ve only got a small sample size for Love, but I don’t think a single Packers fan is eager to inaugurate him. His only meaningful snaps came against the Kansas City Chiefs. He mustered just 134 yards and a touchdown, throwing a pick along the way. After Green Bay clinched the top seed, LaFleur gave him the second half in Detroit. He was intercepted on both two-minute drives, illustrating a clear contrast from the late-game magic that cheeseheads have grown accustomed to.

Young QBs are being handed the keys increasingly earlier in today’s NFL. Out of 19 other first-rounders since 2017, only Patrick Mahomes and Trey Lance haven’t been named the permanent starter during their rookie year. Mahomes promptly took over his sophomore season, and Lance looks poised to do the same.

The Packers have a little more breathing room given their precedent for drawn-out development with Rodgers when he sat behind Brett Favre for three years. However, Love is now halfway through his $18 million rookie contract. So far, there are no signs that he can lead the team to a fraction of their victories over the past few seasons, nor will the Packers allow him to do so.

Murphy wrote in his monthly column on Packers.com that Green Bay’s leadership is in “agreement that we want Aaron to come back.” They’ve said it outright, they’ve leaked it to the press, and one can imagine they’ve pled with Rodgers behind closed doors. Murphy, Gutekunst, and Russ Ball are showing the desperation of an organization that sees its championship window closing abruptly.

Short of a trade, this desperation is as damning of an indictment of the Jordan Love succession plan as one could imagine. A trade probably isn’t coming, either. At least not yet. On Wednesday, Gutekunst told reporters it is “very doubtful” that he’d take calls on Love. The first reason is probably that he isn’t getting any, and the second is that the fourth- or fifth-round pick he would likely get in return would probably be too blatant of a white flag.

I’ll leave you with this: The Los Angeles Rams went all-in and won a Super Bowl. As it stands, general manager Les Snead’s brazen disdain for picks has them set to make their first 2022 selection in the fifth round and miss the first round for the seventh-straight year in 2023. The Packers went all-in, too, pressing so tightly against the salary cap that they couldn’t offer Odell Beckham Jr. more than the veteran minimum when he came knocking at their door midseason.

But when building their championship contender, instead of flipping a first-rounder for an impact defender like Jalen Ramsey or Von Miller, they exchanged their top pick in 2020 for two years of turmoil that continues to this day. Now Matthew Stafford, the decade-long leader of the Packers’ perennial punching bag, is smoking cigars while Rodgers was forced to pick out yet another nice outfit for the NFL Honors.

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