Green Bay Packers

Rodgers Is Gone But the Memories Will Remain

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

On the Ides of March, Green Bay Packers fans received the news we’d been expecting for some time.

The Aaron Rodgers era is officially over. After nearly three decades of Hall of Fame quarterback play, the franchise will turn the page and sail into uncharted waters.

Of course, as of this writing, Rodgers is still a member of the Green Bay Packers. But we’ve been reading between the lines for a few weeks, and Rodgers made his future plans clear in one simple, powerful statement.

“Since Friday, my intention was to play and play for the New York Jets,” Rodgers told viewers on The Pat McAfee Show.

Because neither Rodgers nor the Packers had commented on the issue, many believed the lack of development was due to a hold-up on Rodgers making a decision. But it’s clear the future Hall of Famer knows what he wants, and it’s just a matter of working out the logistics.

After a long era of stability, Rodgers’ relationship with the Packers changed when Brian Gutekunst selected Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Since then, we all know the history—Rodgers had issues with the front office, and each off-season has been a guessing game on whether the four-time MVP would return to Green Bay.

Rodgers claims that experience was strongly guiding him towards retirement, and he felt there was a 90% chance of retirement and a 10% chance of returning to Green Bay. But something changed.

Rodgers said that when he emerged from the darkness, there had been a shift in the front office’s attitude towards him. He heard he was being actively shopped and that the Packers, who had been riding the fence for three off-seasons, had finally decided to go in a different direction and embrace the Jordan Love era.

We likely will never get a clear picture of the process, but Mark Murphy‘s recent comments support what Rodgers says. Their plan was to move forward with Love, barring any obstacles.

Rodgers had a minor airing of grievances but looked fondly upon his 18 years in Green Bay.

“No malice, no bitterness toward the Packers. It’s been bittersweet for sure the last 10 days,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers also went out of his way to praise Love, claiming his replacement has a bright future ahead of him.

Time is a flat circle. Rodgers will head to the Jets after the Packers decided to bet on their young, unproven quarterback 15 years after Brett Favre did the same. But there doesn’t seem to be the same level of malice as that transition. Rodgers and the Packers are both ready to turn the page, and Rodgers knows in a few years he’ll be in the Ring of Honor and have his number retired. He won’t retire as a player who only played for one team, but we rarely get storybook endings.

Rodgers, perhaps arrogantly, called himself potentially the best player in franchise history, but he’s certainly the franchise’s longest-tenured player. It’s hard to put his value above that of the late Bart Starr, but Rodgers’ record is one for the history books.

In his 18 years as a Green Bay Packer, Rodgers had 59,055 passing yards, 475 passing TDs (to just 118 interceptions), and a 103.6 passer rating. He led the team to 147 victories, eight NFC North titles, and one Super Bowl victory. Personally, he was a 10-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, four-time NFL MVP, and a Super Bowl MVP. That’s one hell of a career.

Public opinion of Rodgers the last few seasons has been mixed. Whether it was coming up short in the playoffs, his long-standing feud with the front office, or some of his questionable personal rhetoric, many fans have been ready to move on. But Rodgers’ legacy in Green Bay Packers history likely won’t be topped anytime soon, and he’s one of the most gifted to ever throw a football.

I remember watching the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV appearance during a (poorly executed) fraternity philanthropy event. I tried to be social and interact with new people when all I wanted to do was be a feral fan and watch my team in the big game. Even completely sober and in an not-ideal viewing environment, I’ll never forget seeing the Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers and Rodgers’ hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. It seemed like the beginning of a dynasty.

Rodgers and the Packers would never make it back to the big game, though they made it close a few times. Some would call “just” one Super Bowl a failure. But that’s a hella dumb way of being a fan.

Sure, coming up short so many times was painful. Between the playoff heartbreaks, the cheese, and the beer, being a Packers fan is not good for one’s heart. But having Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback meant always having a chance. Rodgers could elevate a team to new heights and constantly made throws that went against all conventional wisdom and my (limited) understanding of physics. Sure, it was a weird ride at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

From the first signs of his greatness, to the Super Bowl win, to the otherworldly 2011 offense, to R-E-L-A-X, to Run the Table, to his Revenant-like comeback in the 2018 opener, to his back-to-back MVP seasons under Matt LaFleur, and all the little moments in between, it was truly a blessing to watch Rodgers these last 18 years.

It’s the dawn of a new day in Green Bay. Jordan Love appears ready for the spotlight, and he deserves his chance. No one knows what the Love era will look like. It’s hard to believe the Packers will catch lightning in a bottle thrice in a row with HoF quarterback play. But anything can happen under the NFL scriptwriters.

While it’s unlikely the Packers are a true contender in 2023, the inevitable compensation from the Rodgers’ trade should help the front office build a strong team around Love. Rodgers’ last deal was not team-friendly, and it was time to transition into a new era. The Packers’ front office’s constant half-measures weren’t doing anyone any favors. The team needed to go in a new direction. But adjusting to seeing Aaron Rodgers in another uniform with take some time to get used to. Hopefully, the next era can be as fun as the previous one.

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