Now that the NFL season has concluded, one of the biggest storylines is what Aaron Rodgers will do. Given his recent statements, it appears as though he’ll either return to the Green Bay Packers or retire. Given how this Super Bowl transpired, it may have him considering hanging them up in frustration.
The Packers beat both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams in the regular season, but both wins were rendered meaningless after Green Bay’s quick exit from the postseason. The Bengals and Rams provided an exciting finish on Sunday night, but neither side put together a fantastic outing. It had many in Packerland wondering how it would’ve looked if the Green and Gold were playing in that game.
Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions. Although one wasn’t his fault, it still left a salty taste before the final drive. He made some big-time throws. But he also stalled out several consecutive drives in the second half before the final one, which was assisted by some awful officiating.
Nothing can be taken away from Stafford. He’s now a world champion, and he earned it. But that’s the team that will go down as being better than the Packers this year? Maybe that’s not the proper way to think of it. The best team doesn’t always win. But this will always be remembered as the year of the Rams now. Green Bay fans had to be upset watching that performance, knowing it was good enough to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Stafford wasn’t the only one who had a less-than-stellar day.
Sean McVay unrolled a fairly conservative game plan and kept beating the dead horse with the running game even though it produced nothing. It’s one thing to keep a defense honest. It’s another to call running plays repeatedly when they aren’t doing squat. The Rams were able to muscle up for 23 points, which ended up being just enough. Cincinnati wasn’t brilliant either.
The offensive line for the Bengals is a complete joke. Joe Burrow deserves so much better. They were able to find a rhythm on some big passing plays to Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, but 20 points is a tricky number to rely on in today’s NFL. On Sunday, it wasn’t enough.
Perhaps it’s the salty Packers fan inside us. But watching those two square up on Sunday night made it sting even more. Green Bay could’ve beaten either of those teams again. Rodgers could go from leaning towards returning to thinking seriously about retirement.
On one end of the spectrum, Rodgers could recognize that the Packers were good enough this year. The Packers could’ve beaten either of these teams again, and running it back is an easy choice. The other side suggests that this one may sting so much, knowing that this felt like Green Bay’s year. Maybe that will push him away from the game. It all circles back to one big question that popped up throughout the end of the regular season: If not this year, then when?
Rodgers has nothing left to prove. He’s got a ring and four Most Valuable Player awards, and money is no motivator at this point. However, if he does return, he’ll get a bag over a two- or three-year stretch. Still, it’s hard to blame him if he decides to pull a bit of a stunner and retire. Sunday night’s game may have left a sour taste in his mouth, but it might be the one that has him thinking it just won’t happen for him again in his career. If that’s the case, retiring could become Option A.
All Super Bowls sting for Green Bay when they make the playoffs and come up short. It’s almost become an annual tradition at this point. Everyone knows it’s incredibly difficult to be the last one standing. But if we want to call a spade a spade, the Packers had home-field advantage and the top seed the last two years and did nothing with it. What made this big game even worse was that the Packers dominated the Rams in the regular season and beat the Bengals in Cincinnati. It’s not to say they would’ve beat Cincinnati a second time around. But it would’ve felt a lot more doable than if the Packers made it last year and faced the Kansas City Chiefs. Or the year before against the Chiefs when Green Bay lost the NFC Championship to the San Francisco 49ers.
There comes a time when reality sets in, and it can be a brutal pill to swallow. Aaron Rodgers can take a redemption tour, but, let’s face it, that’s what this year was supposed to be. The NFC is set up to be somewhat weak next year, given all the quarterback talent in the AFC.
Rodgers’ return would immediately boost Green Bay to the top tier for title consideration. The worry is that Sunday’s Super Bowl could’ve triggered a thought that if the Packers couldn’t make it this year, then it just isn’t going to happen anytime soon. It could push Rodgers into an earlier retirement than anticipated.