Thursday night’s NFL Honors Awards marked an unofficial bow on the Green Bay Packers’ 2021 season. Aaron Rodgers took home his fourth Most Valuable Player award and shined a little light on his future. It’s become pretty evident that Rodgers isn’t going to play anywhere else.
Rodgers has yet to make it official. But based on his own words in the last month, it would now be pretty stunning if he opted to ask for a trade this offseason.
We can’t rule out retirement. However, Rodgers has said that a lot of that will be determined by if he thinks he can still play at a high level. Securing back-to-back MVPs is a good sign that there is plenty of gas left in the tank.
On Thursday night, his words sent Packers Twitter into a frenzy. Everyone was dissecting each word. Rodgers thanked Brian Gutekunst, Russ Ball, and Mark Murphy directly in his speech. Lately, he’s been mentioning Gutekunst more frequently, dating back to his postgame press conference after the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He was asked how the relationship grew throughout the year.
“A lot, honestly. Brian came out and saw me on the west coast and we had some good conversations. And from the day I got back, I feel like there was earnest decisions on both sides to meet in the middle and communicate. I’m very thankful to be a part of the conversations I was a part of. I feel like my opinion mattered. To feel the even deeper and more meaningful support from him and him and Russ (Ball) and Mark (Murphy). So that was definitely a special part of the season, to see that relationship grow.”
Around that same time, he had appeared on Adam Schein’s podcast and discussed his relationship with Gutekunst again in a similar light.
“When you face down adversity and you face down problems, that’s the quickest way to growth. The organization and I, the conversations we’ve had, we’re in a way different place than we’ve ever been, and I’m really appreciative of Brian.”
All of that is fine and dandy, but it still doesn’t shine a light on what the future could hold for Rodgers. However, he articulated some of those thoughts in his Zoom press conference on Thursday night.
It’s noteworthy that Rodgers is referencing the future. He’s left bread crumbs along the way this offseason. It’s gotten to the point where it would be pretty shocking if he still asked for a trade. Rodgers has talked about the future of the franchise and him feeling like the Packers want him. He stayed back in Green Bay following the season’s disappointing end to speak with the front office and Matt LaFleur. He’s gone out of his way to praise Gutekunst and be open about how great their relationship now is.
Rodgers didn’t have to do any of that, and he’s always been calculated with his words. With all the praise for Gutekunst, Ball, and Murphy, and Rodgers being open about feeling included with the future plans, it would be shocking if he turned around and asked for a trade.
There’s one more possibility that looms.
Retirement sounds like a genuine possibility. Rodgers is still playing at an extremely high level, but so were some of the other greats when they hung it up. Tom Brady was second in MVP voting this year and called it quits, albeit at age 44. All of the dialogue from Rodgers suggests one of two outcomes: Stay in Green Bay for the remainder of his career or hang it up now.
That doesn’t mean the rumors will go away or that trade speculation will stop. What if Rodgers wants to come back but the Packers still opt to explore trading him? However, that’s unlikely given Mark Murphy’s recent statements. But who the hell knows how the next chapter is written. Thursday night didn’t do much but seemed to narrow down the options to two.
Rodgers has always been willing to discuss interests outside of football, and he has been comfortable accepting the reality that it doesn’t go on forever. Rodgers has stuck his foot in his mouth a couple of times this year, discussing an array of topics. But to his credit, he doesn’t shy away from it. Rodgers seems just as excited about his post-football life as he does about continuing to play, leaving this decision to hang in the balance.
It’s more fun when there are more options to discuss. But it would be shocking if, after all Rodgers has said in the last month, he asks for a trade out of Green Bay.
He may not be back with the Packers if he chooses to retire. However, it’s become more evident that he won’t be playing anywhere else. It’s the Packers or its retirement for one of the greatest to ever do it.