Comments already made this offseason by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers have the rumor mill all fired up. The New York Jets’ hiring of former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on Thursday poured gasoline onto the idea that Rodgers could be traded this offseason. It’s 2022 all over again!
One thing that hasn’t been brought up: If Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst really is entertaining and taking calls on a Rodgers trade, the Packers must feel pretty damn good about quarterback Jordan Love.
There’s no certainty when it comes to Love, or any prospect for that matter. One glaring difference in Love’s case that makes him different from most rookie quarterbacks selected in the first round is that the Packers have gotten an extensive three-year look at him without Love being the starting quarterback.
Trading Rodgers would be a seismic shift for the franchise, with No. 12 having taken over for Brett Favre in 2008. When Rodgers replaced Favre, general manager Ted Thompson and the rest of the brain trust felt good about going forward with Rodgers. Now, a similar feeling may be swirling around 1265 Lombardi Ave., but now with Love.
The difference, of course, is that Favre retired, the Packers moved on, then Favre wanted to come back. Rodgers hasn’t retired, even though he’s flirted with the idea the last couple of offseasons. It will undoubtedly raise eyebrows if Rodgers makes his intentions known that he wants to return, and then Green Bay trades him.
Green Bay is coming off an 8-9 season, a disastrous result based on internal and external expectations at the outset of the year. Cap issues are very prevalent, and even if Rodgers were to hang it up, the dead cap hit the Packers would take on is massive. All of it leads down a path that could result in the Packers living in purgatory if Rodgers comes back and is Green Bay’s QB1.
It’s one thing to want to turn the keys of the car over to Love with the assumption that the championship window is closed on this current group with Rodgers at the helm. It’s another thing entirely to believe Love is ready to take over. The latter seems to be how the Packers feel.
“We really like the development of where Jordan is,” Gutkeunst said at his end of season press conference on Jan. 13. “I think he’s ready to play. I think that’s the next step in his development. Those guys work well together in the room. … We are very excited about Jordan, and where he’s at, there’s no doubt about that.”
It all circles back to the Rodgers trade dialogue that hasn’t quieted down.
Last offseason, it was made apparent by head coach Matt LaFleur, Gutekunst, and the front office that if Rodgers wanted to return, he was the starting quarterback.
The only trade rumors surfacing were those who wondered if Rodgers would be the one wanting out and asking for a change of scenery. Green Bay never budged on its stance that Rodgers was the guy.
This time around, it’s a different tune.
When Gutekunst was asked if they wanted Rodgers back next season, instead of a simple “yes,” Gutekunst sidestepped by saying he wants all the guys back for 2023. Sure, this could include Rodgers, and maybe it was a slip-up by Gutekunst in not being more direct. But it didn’t seem that way.
It also would’ve been easy for Gutekunst to say that Rodgers is the guy to run the show if he returns in 2023. Instead, when he was asked, Gutekunst simply noted the contract extension last offseason as being more than a one-year commitment.
Go back to Love.
If the Packers didn’t like what they saw with Love’s development, this wouldn’t be the dialogue taking place. Green Bay would give Rodgers his space but make it crystal clear that he is the quarterback for the franchise as long as he wants to be. If there was any hesitancy with Love and his future, the Packers would run it back with Rodgers and Co. in the snap of a finger.
Clearly, they feel good about Love, and they aren’t alone.
Wide receiver Romeo Doubs appeared on The Jim Rome Show Thursday and said he knows for a fact Love can play and that he has belief in No. 10. Now, obviously, he isn’t going to say he doesn’t believe in Love, but Doubs didn’t shorten his praise for the backup quarterback.
Even Rodgers has stated on his weekly appearances on The Pat McAfee Show that Green Bay may want to go to Love because he’s ready.
“To be open to the possibility, if I want to keep playing, that it might be somewhere else, I understand that,” Rodgers said. “I understand they might want to move on and go younger at several different positions. That’s a part of it.”
What happens with Rodgers this offseason is still a great mystery. Based on his comments in recent weeks, it appears he plans on playing, although he hasn’t ruled out retiring. What’s different this time around is the Packers might want to go in a different direction because they believe they have a gem in Love.
They could shut down all the trade speculation by declaring Rodgers as their guy if he opts to return. They haven’t, and there’s a reason for that. It’s Jordan Love.