Is Aaron Rodgers debatably the best player in the history of the Green Bay Packers? Yes, without question. You can argue in favor of Bart Starr or Brett Favre, but Rodgers is at least firmly in the debate. Now as he’s headed to the AFC, and Green Bay’s second transfer of power in the 21st century is taking effect, the question isn’t whether they’ll be worse than they’ve been over the past two decades. The question is how much worse are they going to be, and will it last?
The answer depends on a lot of things. How will the team navigate the financial consequences of going all-in the past couple of seasons? How will their promising young players develop? Above all, though, is the mystery box that is Jordan Love. He’ll be a fourth-year quarterback who feels like a rookie. He’ll have a pretty solid defense behind him and at least a couple dynamic young weapons in front of him. And Love will be playing for a goddamn contract extension in his first year at the helm.
Fortunately, the NFC remains drastically weaker than the AFC. The omnipresent mediocrity of the NFC North perfectly encapsulates that. Even with the turnover and the uncertainty, it feels hard to count the Packers out. But for Vegas, it doesn’t seem hard at all. The odds market has Love and the Pack conquering the North at +500 odds ($100 pays $600). The Detroit Lions are finally on the come-up, and the Minnesota Vikings figure to put forth another solid yet unspectacular season. Seeing them at +140 and +300 respectively isn’t all that surprising. But by also giving Justin Fields’ Chicago Bears significantly better odds (+300), DraftKings and the gaming industry are painting a dire picture for the 2023 Packers.
Lost in the Rodgers discourse, which is ranging anywhere from his abominable contract to heated online debate on who has the leverage in this whole situation, is the amount of star power and leadership the Packers are retaining. Aaron Jones, David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Preston Smith, and De’Vondre Campbell are the first names that come to mind. And we know the sky’s the limit for 2022 rookies Christian Watson and Quay Walker.
Since taking over in 2018, Brian Gutekunst has added plenty of high-upside pieces to the puzzle. It’s fair to say that, heading into the first campaign without both Rodgers and Davante Adams, whether or not Matt LaFleur and Joe Barry are the right people to put them together is to be determined. For Barry, that’s very much on the generous side. There are a lot of needs to fill: receiver, tight end, safety, OL/DL depth, backup QB, kicker, and punter. And they only have the draft and a few inklings of cap space to address them. However, the team currently set to take the field in September is more dynamic and experienced. It also has more upside than what the Bears are projected to roll out.
Everything is priced into odds valuations. Salary cap troubles, the expected compensation for Rodgers, and the impending return of Eric Stokes and Rashan Gary are just a few of them. What also appears to be priced in, presumptuously, is this idea that Justin Fields is better than Jordan Love. For whatever the solution to the mystery of Love is, it can’t possibly compare to the dominant dual-threat ability of Fields, in Vegas’ eyes. While I’m sure D.J. Moore and a full season of Chase Claypool will make complementary football a little easier over there, I did cash repeatedly on even lines like Justin Fields under 147.5 passing yards in games Chicago was +7 — just saying.
All of this to say, yes, it’s going to be an adjustment for the Packers. Yes, there’s a high probability they will be getting worse. And yes, they will face these new challenges while grappling with the financial consequences of the past. But this idea of a complete rebuild, and of a potential last place finish in 2023, feels like a complete overreaction to what at worst is Schrödinger’s quarterback.