When Aaron Rodgers announced his decision to sign an extension with the Green Bay Packers and, presumably, finish his career with the team that drafted him, it led to an interesting conundrum. What are the expectations for Jordan Love, who the Packers drafted as Rodgers’ heir apparent before the latter’s back-to-back MVP performances?
To say Love’s selection in April 2020 was polarizing is an understatement. Both camps had legitimate supporting arguments at the time. But with Rodgers’ play returning to MVP level and his likelihood of quarterbacking for Green Bay through the entirety of Love’s rookie contract, Love’s status as the heir apparent became uncertain.
Rodgers has expressed that he’ll reevaluate his future at the end of every season, so we aren’t sure how long he’ll remain under center. His time in Green Bay could surpass Love’s cheap rookie contract, making the inevitable transition awkward. But for now, Love is doing everything he can to prove he belongs in Green Bay. By all reports from training camp, Love is taking a big Year 3 jump and making a case for a future in Titletown.
The 2022 draft lacked top-tier quarterback talent, and Love, who now had an awkward timeline thanks to Rodgers’ recommitment to Green Bay, looked like a prime trade candidate for a QB-needy team. While having a high-level backup quarterback is an asset, trading Love would have had value for both parties. The Packers could have gotten back some of their investment in Love, while Love could go elsewhere to compete for a starting job.
Ultimately, just one quarterback was selected in the first round. While there was a lot of veteran quarterback movement, Love remained in Green Bay.
So far, it seems like Love is capitalizing on his opportunity and making leaps in his game. As a first-round pick, you’d hope to see some serious development at this point, and all reports from training camp suggest a boost in Love’s play, confidence, and leadership entering Year 3.
Last week, Matt LaFleur told the media that Love had his best practice since joining the Green and Gold in 2020.
“That might have been one of his best practices we’ve seen in three years,” LaFleur said, per Zach Kruse of PackersWire.com. “I thought there was a lot of great things that he did. He made some big-time throws – with pressure in his face. Some of those are questionable whether or not he would have had an opportunity to get them off, but I thought he had a nice day.”
Love followed that performance up with an excellent Family Night showing last week, garnering the attention of those in attendance — and his teammates.
“I think Jordan’s played his best football that I’ve seen,” Allen Lazard remarked.
For his part, Love knows he’s not all the way there yet, but he’s growing more confident and command under center.
“I think it does show growth,” Love said, per Packers.com’s Mike Spofford, “just to be able to trust that I know where the receiver is going to be, with pressure in my face, and still try to slow it down a little bit to focus on where I need to put the ball. [Previously] I wasn’t going to make those throws under pressure. I might just try to escape and throw the ball away. But being able to trust where the receiver is going to be, it comes down to that.”
It’s far too early to call Love the second coming of Rodgers (or the third coming of Brett Favre, or the fourth coming of Bart Starr). The young quarterback still makes plenty of mistakes, and his decision-making needs some work.
Practicing against the maybe-actually-really-good Packers defense is certainly helping, and Love is developing that vital chemistry with his receivers. But until we see Love ball out against other teams in an NFL football game, we still don’t know who Love the football player is.
This will be a huge preseason for Love. He will start against the San Francisco 49ers this week and should see most of the QB snaps throughout the rest of the exhibition games. Considering 2020 didn’t have a preseason and Love dealt with injuries in the 2021 preseason, this will be his most prominent showcase yet.
Until we get more data on Love’s growth and Rodgers’ future in Green Bay, it’s hard to know what to expect from Love’s tenure in Green Bay. The timeline is too murky, and Love hasn’t had many opportunities. But the apparent Year 3 jump Love has taken means he can’t be discounted as the future starting quarterback of the Packers just yet. It’s still a long shot, but if he can develop into the player Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur think he can, Love might still be the heir apparent.