Green Bay Packers

Signs Continue To Suggest This Could Be Aaron Rodgers' Final Season

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas (USA TODAY Sports)

“The tracks are looking more similar by the day,” Aaron Rodgers said about his heir apparent, Jordan Love, when speaking to reporters last week. “Him being in his third year and me waiting behind Brett for three years.” His comments come in the wake of two turbulent offseasons where Rodgers openly contemplated forcing his way out of Green Bay and gave a series of quotes alluding toward retirement.

He told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer that “the end is near.” Rodgers also admitted earlier in the summer that he thinks about retiring “all the time.” He also told Pardon My Take that “deep down, I realize this chapter of my life is coming to a close soon.”

Since Adam Schefter dropped that draft day bomb two and a half years ago, Rodgers has sounded like a much different guy. After being a pretty private person during his first several years in the league, he’s recently opened up about the COVID vaccine, his psychedelic use, and his tumultuous relationship with the Green Bay Packers’ front office. As usual, he’s spent almost all of the offseason in California, playing a lot of golf and romanticizing his post-football life during “The Match.”

From a football standpoint, it’s difficult to envision the reigning back-to-back MVP walking away before his 40th birthday, especially when Tom Brady is still getting after it at 45. It’s bizarre that the most talented quarterback in NFL history might not want to solidify his legacy with a few more cracks at the only accolade that has eluded him – multiple championships. He’s still in his prime, and the Packers have a roster that is more than capable of contending. However, he continues to remind us that his retirement is imminent.

It would be one thing if it were all media speculation, but it’s not. It’s Rodgers himself repeatedly telling us with different diction that “the end is near.” According to Mike Florio, Rodgers considered walking away after 2020 and again after 2021. He will now command an offense bereft of star receiver Davante Adams or a suitable replacement for the man who wore No. 17. Green Bay’s offense has struggled mightily so far in training camp, eliciting Rodgers’ highly publicized rant about the performance of his young wideouts.

It’s easy to see how the heartbreaking playoff losses of the past two seasons were enough to motivate Rodgers to return to Green Bay for another run at it. But the bitter taste of coming up short in January has been in the Packers’ mouths since 2011. The early offensive struggles have made it possible that the team takes a step backward in their effort to get over the hump, and that might just be enough to get Rodgers to hang ’em up.

Over the past year or so, Rodgers has also talked about his “great communication” with general manager Brian Gutekunst and Green Bay’s front office. They spent the weeks after last season strategizing on personnel decisions and agreeing on a lucrative extension to keep him around.

Love is what economists would call a sunk cost. The Packers spent premium draft capital trying to find Rodgers’ heir. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they will have to decide on his fifth-year option before Rodgers is out of his prime. Still, none of his film has been particularly exciting. Because he’s a sunk cost, it doesn’t matter what you gave up to get him. If you can get something back for him that can help you contend with the QB you have, you should do it.

So, why didn’t the Packers trade Love this offseason? The succession plan is still in motion. Love will likely take Rodgers’ place soon, probably before they’d have to sign him to a new contract. If the communication in Titletown is close to what Rodgers described, Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur know enough about Rodgers’ upcoming decision to turn down offers for Love.

That brings us back to Rodgers’ “tracks” quote.

In a heavy-handed way, he’s implying that Love is poised to be the next franchise quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He’s also basically the man in control of that outcome. Rodgers continues to sound like a guy who doesn’t expect to be around much longer, despite what his current level of play might suggest.

Should he call it quits next offseason, LaFleur and Love will have to carve their own identity with their inherited leader and new face of the franchise. The team they’re currently building will be led by a ferocious defense. The defense may expand the margin of error for a young QB with limited offensive help. The team will also likely drop to eye-level with the rest of the NFC North in the absence of the division’s king for the past decade.

No matter what happens, signs point to a potential farewell tour in Green Bay for the future gold-jacket gunslinger. Rodgers won’t stop talking about it, so it’s difficult not to take it seriously. It seems like that’s what the front office has realized, so we should at least be prepared.

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