The loss to the Philadelphia Eagles has basically confirmed that the Green Bay Packers won’t make the playoffs this season. Even if they go on a run and win the final five games, it probably won’t be enough to secure a wild card spot in the NFC. Therefore, the team’s entire focus must be on the future, even after Matt LaFleur tried to keep his team in a competitive spirit. And if the future is the highest priority, it’s also time for the Packers to make a quarterback decision.
Love did enough on Sunday night for everyone to be intrigued again by his potential. After investing as much as the Packers did in Love two years ago, it wouldn’t be wise to let him leave without more evidence of what he can do in the NFL.
If Green Bay wants to see Love in game action, there are three potential scenarios. The first and most logical one is to put him in the lineup as soon as possible. The season is over, and Aaron Rodgers reportedly has a broken thumb, plus a rib injury he suffered against the Eagles. The obvious move is to put Rodgers on the injury reserve and start Love for the final five games. Six starts over three years wouldn’t be the ideal sample size, but it would be enough to have a clearer picture of what Love can do after so much time playing and practicing in the system.
The second possible scenario is letting Rodgers play his last game against the Chicago Bears next Sunday if he’s healthy. Then Love would take over after the bye. Considering Love had so little time to prepare for his first start against the Kansas City Chiefs last season — Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, four days before the game — it would be fair to give the young quarterback extra time to prepare for his first start of this season. Moreover, it would allow Rodgers to play once more against the Bears, and the coaching staff would have more time to adjust the offensive game plan for Love.
If the Packers want to see what they have in Love, the last alternative is to play him whenever they are mathematically eliminated.
“As long as we’re still mathematically alive, I wanna be out there,” Rodgers said after the game on Sunday night, while also admitting he would be open to conversations about adjusting his role when they have no shot at making the postseason.
It might not take long for the Packers to be officially eliminated. The losses are piling up, and it would allow the locker room to accept the transition more easily. After all, it’s hard to bench the back-to-back MVP when the team is still technically in the hunt, even though Green Bay’s chances are minimal and unrealistic. The problem with this last approach is that the Packers would have fewer data points and less film on Love to evaluate.
There is also a scenario where the Packers have already decided that Love isn’t the future and that maybe playing him won’t make his trade value any higher. In this case, they might finish the season with Rodgers as long as he is healthy. But then it wouldn’t make any sense to keep Love beyond this season — especially because the team would undoubtedly decline his fifth-year option.
Love has clearly made strides since last season. His preseason performances and what he showed against the Eagles were relatively inspiring, considering what he had shown in his first two seasons. However, people outside the building haven’t seen him regularly since August and have little information about what Packers management really thinks of him. And it is impossible, even if the team has seen Love in practice every day, to be sure about what he will be as a player without seeing him in extended game action during the regular season.
Next offseason is too important for the Packers to get to it without having as much information as possible about their former first-round pick. They need to know what they have in Love, which will ease a series of decisions for them — Rodgers’ future, Love’s fifth-year option, and maybe the possibility of starting Love at some point.
If they go into Love’s fourth NFL season without knowing what they got, maybe that’s the clearest answer they can offer.
It’s not clear yet how serious Rodgers’ rib injury is. Maybe the question about when the Packers will play Love won’t have to be a team’s decision after all. However, even if Rodgers is back healthy at some point this season, it’s time for them to put the franchise ahead of their star quarterback and make decisions based on what the management needs to know, allowing them to make the best moves for the future.
Letting Jordan Love leave without a full assessment of what he can do would be a franchise failure and roster-building malpractice. Maybe he isn’t good, but the Packers need to be sure about that — and the costly worst-case scenario would be allowing him to be great elsewhere.