Jordan Love has a mountain in front of him. Replacing 30 years of Hall of Fame quarterback play for one of the NFL’s most iconic franchises is an unenviable task.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur knows this. While speaking at the NFL owners meetings last week in Phoenix, Lafleur said.
It’s going to be a different role for him certainly, and I think we all kind of have to temper our expectations for him. It’s just different when you’re going into a game versus when you’re starting a game. It’s going to be a process, but it’s going to be exciting for him, for us. I don’t think any quarterback can truly do it on their own in this league. It’s going to be everybody rallying around him and trying to play to the best of their ability, so he can go out there and perform as good as he possibly can.
In a vacuum Lafleur makes sense. What his comments lack is context.
The Packers front office, not the fanbase, created Love’s expectations. By opting to use prime draft capital on a quarterback while their Hall of Famer was still in his prime, they told the fan base that Love was worth that large of a risk. They essentially pitted Love’s potential against what they are losing given his presence.
What they are losing is obvious. Aaron Rodgers will not finish his career as a Packer. Make absolutely no mistake about it, the Jordan Love pick undeniably led to the split between Rodgers and Green Bay. The same way Rodgers’ pick undid Brett Favre‘s relationship with the franchise.
This is not personal with Love. Rodgers deserved the exact same expectations when he took the reins. If an organization thinks you are worth running a Hall of Famer out of town prematurely for, you damn sure better well be.
It is important to note the difference in Love and Rodgers situations. Rodgers had been discussed as the potential No. 1 pick in the draft. When Alex Smith went first overall. Rodgers, as the second-best quarterback available, slid all the way into the late first round. Love was mocked by many as an early second round pick. Green Bay traded up to take the fourth quarterback in the draft. All while Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman, the sort of weapons who could’ve changed the Packers fortunes over the next two seasons, sat on the board. These are the sort of things that create expectations.
If Rodgers fizzles out in New York, it relieves a lot of pressure. The narrative would become that the Packers found the right time to move on from an aging pro. If Rodgers, and his petty ego, go to the Jets and win the Super Bowl while Love struggles? Uh oh. There’s nothing that Lafleur or Brian Gutekunst can say at the podium that will keep Cheeseheads calm.
Jordan Love doesn’t deserve any extra hate or criticism. He didn’t call Gutekunst on draft night and say, Hey, could you piss off one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and draft me? I’m really hoping to be in a situation with almost unachievable expectations. But that doesn’t change the result. We are where we are.
Matt LaFleur instructing people to temper their expectations is ludicrous. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too. It’d be like if a realtor knocked on your door and convinced you to sell your great house because there was a great house across town that you could get for cheaper. Then, on the drive over, he tells you to temper your expectations. You would be right to wonder what the hell are you talking about?
There is only one other example in league history of someone following back-to-back Hall of Famers. In the late 90s, Jeff Garcia replaced Steve Young, who had replaced Joe Montana. But Young was at the end of a career. He wasn’t the winner of two of the last three MVPs. He retired as a Niner. Jordan Love is in completely uncharted territory. But it was Gutekunst and Lafleur who dropped him off there.
Everyone in Packers nation will be pulling for Jordan Love. Everyone will understand if he’s not as good as Aaron Rodgers. But the expectation will be that he was worth this move. That’s fair. And if he’s not, the people who told you he was should be held responsible.