Earlier this week Aaron Jones clapped back at the rebuild narrative surrounding the Green Bay Packers.
“We’ve got everything we need here. If you think we’re in a rebuild, you’ve got the wrong team, the wrong place,” Jones said Tuesday at OTAs. “We know it’s going to take all 11 and we’ll have to depend on each other in all phases, but we’re hungry, we’re ready to prove a lot of people wrong. We know what people are saying. Everybody has an opinion and most of them stink.”
The Jones sound bite made its way across the hot take sports world and landed firmly in an NFL LIVE segment on ESPN. After playing the clip, host Field Yates showed a graphic of the NFC North Division win predictions. The Packers were in last place with less than 7.5 predicted wins. The discussion that followed led to a Jeff Darlington quote that you’ve probably seen by now.
“It is so hard to replace a legend. It is so much harder than simply plug and play and expecting the culture to stay the same. Expecting the winning to stay the same. I don’t look at this roster and think that they are better without Aaron Rodgers.” Said Darington. “And I also trust Aaron Rodgers’ evaluation of the roster because if he believes this is a Super Bowl caliber roster, or to be fair, even just a playoff caliber roster, I think he’d still be in Green Bay.”
What was missed as Darlington’s words went viral, was the Keyshawn Johnson quote that led to them. Keyshawn’s take was pro Packer and Darlington’s was anti so of course, the negativity wins in the media cycle. But Johnson’s positivity. is worth noting.
When Yates asked if the Packers could surprise people and beat their predicted win total Johnson, a known Jordan Love optimist, displayed confidence in the Green and Gold.
“I mean, yeah, if that’s called a surprise, yeah I do. I look at it as yes, they lose Aaron Rodgers. They lose a Hall of Famer, but they still have pieces that are in place that played last year. They still got a defense that turned it up a little bit last year late in the season. So I understand that the top quarterback that was there…is no longer there and there’s a young man name Jordan Love. And when you look at Jordan Love and you go ‘well you know he’s never played. He’s never done it.’ But could it be such a thing as addition by subtraction. Yes it can be. Because you don’t need to do all the things you did [with] Aaron. Sometimes you overthink when you have powerful players like Aaron Rodgers because you get out of starting to do things. You start trying to be too fancy. Maybe simple is the better way to go and maybe that helps that move into the next direction to get past those seven wins that people think they’re only gonna get.”
Then, after Darlington spewed the previously mentioned quote, Mina Kimes joined the conversation and also gave Green Bay a positive outlook compared to the current national narrative.
“I suspect the truth kinda lies somewhere between playoff team and rebuild with the Packers. You know most people when they think of a rebuild they think of a team that has very little chance of being competitive and I don’t think that’s true of the Green Bay Packers. I think there’s just too much talent on this roster. It’s a defense that hasn’t played up to that talent level, but I thought played better at the end of last year. With tons of first round draft picks, it’s dominant offensive line, very good run game led by Aaron Jones, an underrated skill group and I think one of the better play callers in the NFL in Matt LaFleur. If Jordan Love plays in the top half of expectations they will absolutely be in the mix for the NFC North.”
Then Kimes hit on a truth that most talking heads just aren’t willing to see.
“But I also don’t think that’s the main priority for the season. It’s a possibility, but the priority is the development of the young quarterback and that’s what makes them different from the Vikings or the Lions who absolutely have to get back to the playoffs. It would be nice for Green Bay if they did, but they’re taking a longer view, with short term competitiveness being a very realistic possibility.”
After Kimes finished, Keyshawn jumped back in to respond to Darlington’s words.
“Here’s what I would say. I understand the fascination with Aaron Rodgers being a great Hall of Famer and they’re not gonna be better. Of course they would be better with Aaron Rodgers and of course they trust Aaron Rodgers judgment of the talent. This team didn’t go to the Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers. My whole point is when coaches coach sometimes they do more because they think they have something in a certain player. When they realize that they don’t need to do that things change for the better. This defense is still intact. They still have Aaron Jones. They got two young receivers that are studs that are going to their second year, not their first year. I understand we don’t know a whole lot about Jordan Love, but the throws I did see him make when he did start, I didn’t walk away going ‘Oh my God he can’t play in the national football league.’”
Who knows how the season will ultimately go for the Packers, but if I were a betting man I would put my money firmly against whatever Darlington thinks. For reference, as the world was predicting Rodgers to New York, Darlington famously had a source that disagreed.