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The Most Powerful Thing in Pro Football

When doing my research two weeks back, I happened upon a comment made, I think, by an NFL scout. It struck me as such a pithy, but salient, thought that I copied it down for future reference. I’m unable to recall the author of the quote, or I’d give that person full credit. [Editor’s Note: This quote seems to have originated from PFF’s analysis of Packers’ 2020 draft picks]

In referring to the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, the person said it made “the most powerful thing in football a good quarterback on his rookie contract.”

The guy went on to say this about the Packers’ situation:

“Even if Jordan Love becomes a great succession plan to Rodgers down the road, the Packers will have burned most if not all of the rookie contract that would have made him such a huge advantage presence behind center, but their below-market salaries create room to add more expensive veterans to their lineup in free agency.”

QB Jordan Love

Aug 30, 2019; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Utah State Aggies quarterback Jordan Love (10) changes the play call in the first quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, this isn’t a completely new notion. I’ve made the same point to TT readers any number of times – but it bears repeating. In July of 2019 Christian D’Andrea, writing for SB Nation, put it this way: “A productive quarterback on his rookie contract is a godsend for general managers across the NFL.”

D’Andrea went on to detail the new trend. Since 2013, only one quarterback on his rookie contract started and won a Super Bowl game: Russell Wilson. But then in 2018 seven of twelve quarterbacks whose teams made the playoffs were still on their rookie deals: Deshaun Watson (Texans), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Lamar Jackson (Ravens), Jared Goff (Rams), Mitchell Trubisky (Bears), Dak Prescott (Cowboys), and Carson Wentz (Eagles).

By comparison, between 2000 and 2011 the league never had a single year in which seven rookie contract QBs started a full season. Now they are beginning to dominate the playoffs.

Having a premium QB being paid a bargain salary allows such teams to shore up weaknesses elsewhere on the roster. D’Andrea offers up these examples: the Bears were able to sign up Khalil Mack, the Chiefs got Frank Clark, Dallas got Amari Cooper, the Rams brought in Sammy Watkins (and the Chiefs did the same this year), and the Ravens obtained Earl Thomas.

The Packers, meanwhile, got Funchess.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. GBPackerz May 18, 2020

    Your last “punchline” has nothing to do with the premise of your article. Devin Funchess was not brought in while we had a productive QB on his rookie contract. No correlation whatsoever.

    Meanwhile, everyone keeps wringing their hands over the timing of Jordan Love’s rookie contract in relation to Rodgers’ contract. These are the same people that are saying Love was a wasted pick. So which is it? Was it a wasted pick or is he a franchise QB? No one knows! This contract talk is all a moot point if Love is no good. If he is good, we’ll be thrilled that we have him on any timetable.

    Please stop acting like there is only one way to get to a Super Bowl(See 49’ers,Broncos,Patriots, etc.). It makes you sound like a hysterical housewife.

    1. MJ May 18, 2020

      The “funchline” means that we could only get mid-to-low tier help, because we do not have the luxury of a QB on a rookie contract.


      The team took a low-risk low-reward approach. They get to evaluate and teach Love for three years, which should be enough to assess where he stands three years from now. If, and it’s a big IF, he pans out, then we get a good QB, however, by that time we would have to extend him at FA rates. That in itself is still an OK gain, since not every team has a starting-quality QB. If he doesn’t, and maybe by the second year he shows he sucks, no love lost (painful pun intended), we can take another gamble at the QB roulette. Meanwhile, the franchise would have been under Rodgers’ command, so no huge downside either.
      So there you have it. Low risk, low upside.


      The polar opposite would be make a strong push while Rodgers is at the helm, only to make a QB gamble three or four years from now, where we could go anywhere from sucky QB play to great QB play at a bargain price. The more you overlap the current and the future QB contracts the lower the risk but the lower the upside (again, a good QB on a rookie deal for a number of years)

      1. S.A.P. May 21, 2020

        Sad, it is that you had to rewrite the last paragraph, so the first one to comment still doesn’t understand it. But keep trying, I’ll give you an attaboy for your efforts. 😁

    2. Robster May 18, 2020

      When I wrote this, I decided to add some more names of players who were obtained by teams with bargain-priced QBs – I think I sent on the earlier draft, however. The added info is below. As to the commenter; Hysterical? Just wait till I get really lathered up! The reference to Funchess is relevant. It illustrates that most teams with highly-paid QBs have to settle for trying to obtain mid-level, not top-of-the-crop, roster addition. That’s been the Pack’s situation for around 26 of the last 29 years.

      Acquiring Premier Players

      Having a top-tier QB being paid a bargain salary allows such teams to shore up weaknesses elsewhere on the roster. D’Andrea offered up these examples: the Bears were able to sign up OLB Khalil Mack, the Chiefs got DE Frank Clark, Dallas got WR Amari Cooper, the Rams brought in WR Sammy Watkins, the Ravens obtained safety Earl Thomas, and the Texans brought in safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Bradley Roby. Another such player is Marcus Peters, picked up in mid-season in 2019 by the Ravens.

      D’Andrea might also have included these 2018 wide receiver transactions: Brandon Cooks going to the Rams, Sammy Watkins going to the Chiefs, and Allen Robinson joining the Bears.

      To bring D’Andrea’s list up to date, in just the past few months: the Texans added WR Randall Cobb; the Chiefs extended the franchise tag to DT Chris Jones; the Bengals put the franchise tag on WR A.J. Green; the Ravens acquired DE Calais Campbell; the Texans acquired WR Brandon Cooks; and the Eagles acquired cornerback Darius Slay from the Lions.
      Most of the above players have been either All-Pro or Pro Bowl caliber. Skilled wide receivers in particular have seen their market values soar.

      The Green Bay Angle

      One thing we need not doubt: when it comes to making business decisions, Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur have shown themselves to be ruthless in their dealings with veteran players. In this instance, there are two primary variables to weigh: the trajectories of Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love.

      If and when the latter overtakes the former, I suspect that LaFleur won’t hesitate to make the switch. In fact, if Love even approaches Rodgers’ level of play, the QB-under-a-rookie-contract factor encourages a switchover for financial reasons.
      If that time comes, especially if it’s prior to the 2022 season, and the Packers release (or more probably, trade) Rodgers, they will find themselves awash in salary cap space – a situation Green Bay hasn’t experienced in decades due to having Favre, and then Rodgers, on the payroll.

      In drafting Jordan Love, Gutekunst appears to me to fully subscribe to the most-powerful-thing-in-football theorem.

      1. PF4L May 18, 2020

        Theorm?…..At first i thought you fell out of your chair and hit reply by accident, before you were done typing. I was staring at the word like a fool trying to figure out what you meant to type. As i’ve said multiple times…i’m not the brightest animal in here. I feel like giving you change for a $20.
        If they traded Rodgers, they will still have large dead money any way you look at it. The only benefit of having a low priced rookie QB is that you could still trade Rodgers and live with the dead cap money if you wanted him gone that bad and Love under center.

      2. Ferris May 19, 2020

        I was really excited you used pithy in a sentence. Your reply defending your article was more words than your article. I find that interesting too.

      3. Brian Vogt May 21, 2020

        I think most teams would rather have a great qb like AR12 on there team rather than signing cream of the crop FAs and over paying for them at that, then always looking for a franchise qb. (I.e Chicago Bears)

        1. PF4L May 23, 2020

          Great point……If Franchise QB’s were easy to acquire…everyone would have one.

  2. Tim May 18, 2020

    The article could use some improvements.
    The analysis should start with 2011, when the new CBA came into effect.
    Updating for 2019 and Mahomes would be appropriate.
    The strategy of using the cap space from a cheap QB to load up on FAs only works for a very small target window of 1-2 years. Success can undermine the strategy – the Rams got to the SB in Goff’s 3rd year, which gave Goff the leverage to get a new contract, requiring cap cuts. They didn’t make the playoffs the next year. (Wilson didn’t get a new contract because the Seattle D got most of the credit.)
    GB’s current cap situation (and the Funchess angle) has nothing to do with Rodgers/Love, but with the expensive FA deals for Smith, Smith, Amos, and Turner. Which in turn were caused by bad drafting/FA decisions at CB dating back to 2015.
    If GB trades Rodgers before the 3rd day of the league new year in 2021, they save cap space and could still try to execute the strategy.

    1. Tim May 18, 2020

      and to reply to my own post

      The basic thesis of the article seems to be in error. Looking at total SB victories since 2011, the most powerful thing in pro football is a genius coach/GM allied with a HOF QB.

      1. PF4L May 18, 2020

        ^^FkN A^^^….right there people.
        Signing Drops a Bunchess, has/had nothing to do with the QB’s salary, Loves salary. It had to do with priority (or lack thereof). A better receiver than Funchess could have been added through the last 2 drafts. Could have been added in 2019 free agency. Could have been added in 2020 free agency. To make a joke that all we could afford was Funchess because of our QB’s is baseless and ludicrous.If we can keep paying T Willy 5 million a year, if we can spend 180 million on free agents, if we have 10 picks in a deep receiver draft…..surely we could do better than Devin Funchess. Lets wake up.

        1. PF4L May 19, 2020

          What went wrong: In an offseason in which the draft was full of wide receiver talent and veteran wideout prices were depressed, the Packers really couldn’t come away with more than Funchess? – Bill Barnwell
          ESPN Staff Writer

        2. Tim May 19, 2020

          The proper place for GB to take a WR was the 2018 Draft – 2nd round, pick 45. In 2015, GB’s first two picks were DBs – Randall and Rollins. In 2017, first two picks were King and Jones. 2018 first pick – Alexander. Then Gute took Jackson at 45, and was elated he was still on the board. Two problems – 1) You can’t keep throwing assets like that at one position group without allowing others to deteriorate. 2) Jackson was plummeting down the board for a very good reason. He was a one-year-wonder zone poacher at Iowa, and his lack of speed was exposed at the Combine. He will never be a viable boundary corner in a system that isn’t zone heavy. If he was that high on Gute’s board, Gute doesn’t know how to build a board.
          Meanwhile, there were six WRs and two TEs still on the board that would be picked before the end of the third round. Kirk, Miller, Washington, Chark, Gallup, Smith, Goedert, and Andrews. In just two years, two have made the Pro Bowl.

          1. PF4L May 19, 2020

            You don’t have to even really defend it.
            The assertion we couldn’t do better than Funchess because of our QB, is again…baseless and absurd.
            It’s almost embarrassing we are even discussing it.

      2. Deepsky May 19, 2020

        What makes Belichik a genius is those he hires. Like I’ve said before I think they decrypt NFL communications, but they probably do other statistical research better than anyone else. The Patriots are located within minutes of both MIT and Harvard and, yes, they get MANY research folks from each of these Universities. Even their Cheerleaders have come from Harvard. There’s not much Green Bay can do to compete with that.

        1. PF4L May 19, 2020

          What makes Belichik so good is he’s the final say in personnel. When they have a need area, they fill it…in a timely manner.
          When the Packers have a positional need area, it can linger for years, and usually does.

          1. Deepsky May 20, 2020

            Dan Devine had final say too. He acted to fill needs too. Right away.

          2. PF4L May 20, 2020

            Yea…a little before my time to be honest. All i know about Devine is something about his pooch, and one of the worst trades in the history of the NFL.
            Both of which have nothing to do with Belichik or his success.
            Mike Sherman had final say also.
            Not sure what your point is. Maybe you don’t agree with the premise of my post. But i just don’t see what Dan Devine from 40 plus years ago has anything to do with it.

  3. PF4L May 18, 2020

    So here’s what i’m wondering……when Murphy, Gute, Ball, LeFleur talk about their strategy, are they kicking themselves for giving Rodgers his contract, when they clearly didn’t have to?
    I mean, if your priority (plan) is building a team for the future (obvious), Why dish out that much cash and handcuffing yourself financially in dead money if you plan to move on.
    Maybe this strategy with Jordan Love was made back in 2019 (very possible). Not that the 2019 12th pick made ANY sense at all. But maybe that’s the thing, maybe the strategy just doesn’t make that much sense.
    The only thing we know for certain, is that the Packers are mentally moving past Aaron Rodgers, and it isn’t just just based on drafting Love, there’s more to it.
    I could be wrong i guess. So..if someone can convince me that the Packers are doing everything they can….to win now. I’ll retract my belief.

    1. Ferris May 19, 2020

      I remember a time when NOBODY EVER thought Bert would play for another team. If it can happen to Joe Montana and Tom Brady. AR 12 may be under center for the Vikings in 2 years…..I just threw up in my mouth a little.

      1. PF4L May 19, 2020

        Like i said back when Favre played for the vikings, i don’t have a problem with it. People ….like all of us, have a right to work where we want, it’s a free Country. His methods were subject, but he outsmarted two teams to reach his goal. Maybe outsmarted is the wrong word, when Favre asked for his release from the Jets (after he retired (again). It’s very possible that the Jets simply didn’t give a shit.
        Rodgers faces a tough task to win another Super Bowl, especially if he stays with the Packers more than 1 more season. The reason….it’s easier for the Packers to trade him at 37 vs 38,39 years old. Then….he needs to go to a team that is ready to win, like the 9ers, Ravens, maybe the Patriots
        My preference….Bree’s retires and Rodgers goes to the Saints. But i don’t know the Packers even consider trading with a NFC team
        I’d also say the Bucs, but their defense…….

      2. Deepsky May 20, 2020

        What made me angry was it was clear that the Vikings were tampering with Favre, even before the Jets thing and that Favre was so bitter he wasn’t welcomed back with open arms after another year of crying and retirement talk and an official retirement announcement, that he went to the most hated team just to extract revenge. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings have already contacted Rodgers to put a plan in place. Remember too that Favre encouraged Peppers to beat the Packers and he encouraged Jennings to move on to the Vikings. I give Rodgers a lot of credit, even though he’s probably not very happy, he is much more gracious than Favre was.

        1. PF4L May 20, 2020

          Remember when Peppers tried to take Rodgers out of a game and got fined for a cheap hit?
          If Favre didn’t go to the vikings, i wouldn’t have experienced the extreme pleasure of watching him throw a pick against the Saints, and watching him lose to the Packers twice in 2010. Not to mention the immense pleasure of watching queen fans blow a gasket on you tube after blowing a SB chance.

  4. Deepsky May 19, 2020

    Another powerful thing is an aging quarterback who restructures his contract. Manning (with the Broncos), Brady and Elway did and they won the Super Bowl more than once. Brees did it last year. Favre never did and I doubt Rodgers will. I guess quarterbacks believe they need to be paid a premium to work in lowly Green Bay.

    1. PF4L May 19, 2020

      We haven’t been through this 20 times?
      The Packers have pissed away 10’s of millions of dollars over the years on bad contracts. Rodgers should help pay for those mistakes out of his salary…….why?
      Who is to say if Rodgers only took 20 million a year, it wouldn’t be pissed away? At least those other teams knew how to build a winning team.
      Should Rodgers have to hire his own receivers?

      1. PF4L May 19, 2020

        BTW…..I’m a life long Packer Fan and i’m proud of it.
        Being such, i have never referenced Green Bay as “lowly Green Bay”. Most likely because in my heart, Green Bay to me is a Mecca. It’s historic relevance in the NFL is arguably second to none. It’s sacred ground to the faithful. The smallest NFL City, holding the most Championships.
        I guess the biggest reason is….i would never disrespect it like that.

        1. Deepsky May 20, 2020

          Of course Green Bay isn’t lowly, but, like it or not, players would rather play somewhere else because its a small city.

          1. PF4L May 20, 2020


  5. Veej May 19, 2020

    It is advantageous to get premium performance at a minimal cost. If Love does become a legitimate replacement for Rodgers or attractive enough to be traded to another team for another high pick or even just an affordable upper-eschelon backup to Aaron, then it’s okay to gamble. This may not even be the last shot at drafting a QB this organization takes if Love goes the way of Kizer. I feel for Aaron but it is a business and that QB room hasn’t really had a capable backup to run our offense since Matt Flynn. A lot of us like Tim Boyle but is he going to win you football games week in and week out if Aaron gets injured for any length of time? Doubtful. Earlier in the comments someone noted that you can win Championships with a more expensive starter which Love might be in a four-five years but it would only be his second deal and with limited actual game time, he’d probably end up still being paid a mid level value which would possibly be a bargain anyway.

    1. PF4L May 19, 2020

      When you clearly go for a QB in the first round, so much so that you traded up. And you do this after a 13-3 season and NFCCG appearance, instead of bringing in players that can help you now. If that QB flops, that is how GM’s usually get themselves fired in the NFL. Maybe not in Green Bay
      I always said this is Gutes 3rd season and it’s near judgement time after this coming season. but…….by picking Love, he may have bought himself another year or 2, or more, especially if Love doesn’t get on the field. Gute’s 5 year contract is up after the 2022 season. If Rodgers is still here and stays healthy, we still will not know what Love has to offer. which may buy him a contract extension. In a way, Gutes picking Love, may very well have bought him some job security in that scenario. This scenario becomes real if Rodgers plays another 2 or 3 years and stays relatively healthy.

  6. PF4L May 19, 2020

    The biggest problem in all of the post these days (including mine)….is everyone’s use of the word “IF”. Too many IF’s. That’s all speculation into the future….and i get it, but…
    Better use of the word “IF”.
    IF the Packers would have drafted better…..
    IF the Packers didn’t waste so much money signing bad contracts.
    IF the Packers could fill a need area sooner than 3-8 years
    IF the Packers weren’t so dysfunctional.
    IF the Packers middle and upper management were held accountable
    IF the Packers President did his job, before being told to.
    IF the Packers didn’t regress for years.
    IF they didn’t “give up” while still having a HOF QB under center
    IF Gute had a better ratio than 1 good move to every 5 bad moves.

    1. Deepsky May 20, 2020

      They say that to be happy you have to appreciate what you have. Be thankful you aren’t a Vikings or Lions fan.

      1. PF4L May 20, 2020

        I am happy, very happy, i love life.
        But in my Green Bay Packer world…I’ve seen what we have, the last 9 years i’ve been watching very closely what we have.
        I’m not impressed…..

    2. MJ May 21, 2020

      And then… he became known as P-if-4L.

      1. PF4L May 21, 2020

        I wish i could say i get it but……
        Further proof, i’m mentally challenged.

        1. PF4L May 22, 2020

          Ok, ok, ok……..(IF)….only 24 hours..didn’t take me long at all..Thanks MJ :)

  7. Steve May 20, 2020

    The Packers have chosen to move on from Mike McCarthy, and the previous system, in favor of bringing a New Coach and game plan to town. Aaron Rodgers is still very well paid, even if it’s just to hand the ball off. I haven’t seen Devin Funchess in a Packer uniform, or a Matt LaFleur offense yet. Not have I seen Rick Wagner, or Jordan Love been even allowed an opportunity to exhibit their skills. The entire offense was playing in a red shirt season last year, and I haven’t seen any of our players able to exhibit their newly acquired skills and fresh experience they just started on last year. It’s sad to hear all of the people herein, that make comments to the effect that this most recent draft was a failure as well. Is there even one person that can find some tad bit of hope, that all of our players and coaching staff are not just a complete and utter waste after their freshman season. I must say, that babies have to crawl before they can stand or walk, didn’t any of you people know this? The GM and HC have a plan for this franchise, but before you have given them their first chance in hell of even implementing what they have taught and learned, for only one season, you have done absolutely nothing but condemn it. There’s a salary cap to deal with as well, but Devin Funchess, Rick Wagner, Kirksey, and everyone else that was brought in here to help, are condemned before they have even started. If Rodgers feels slighted by any or all of this, why doesn’t he take a pay cut. He can get himself a fist full of SB rings, if he doesn’t overpay himself. When he is gone, nobody cares if the Packers ever win a championship again. We are all just wasting his career anyway, so why do we make him suffer any longer. This hero shouldn’t need a great offensive line to get the job done, he’s been paid enough to do it all by himself. It’s like sad violin music, hearing all this whining about a team that went 13-3 last year in it’s infancy, and all of a sudden, it’s just doomed for failure. My, what a pissy attitude towards a team that has nothing to lose, but great potential. Is there anybody out there that has a little something good to say about the Packers.

    1. PF4L May 20, 2020

      If Rodgers takes a 10 million dollar a year pay cut, then he’ll have a fistfull of SB rings? No chance in hell the Packers would squander that money amirite …Steve?
      Fun Fact:..Drew Bree’s was only paid 13 million in 2017, and they didn’t win the SB. I’m confused.
      The premise of your post depends on one important thing. What’s their objective? Winning now, or building for the future. a distinction has to be made to be able to agree, or disagree with you.
      Oh boy…lets see, what’s next? If you pay a QB enough money, “he’s been paid enough to do it all by himself.” Is that what you wrote? I think i read that correctly.
      Why do we make him suffer any longer? That’s a great question. A question that should be asked to Murphy and Gute. Why hand a guy a lottery ticket, when winning with him now is no longer your priority. That is a great question Steve. Perhaps bad upper management?…idk.
      It’s true, you haven’t seen Funchess in a Green Bay uniform. But he’s been in the NFL for 6 years. are we not allowed to look at his past production? Are we not allowed to mention his league leading low target catch rate of 51%? Now i just feel bad.
      I’m not so sure if i’d call it Matt LeFleurs offense, but what the hell, ok.
      Yes…there is a salary cap to deal with. That’s what happens when you spend over 180 million in one free agency period.

      1. MMSUCKS May 20, 2020

        I believe that Steve may be Stephen and sometimes is also named some other guy who all seem to use the same Avatar. His real name(s) should be “SALT”. Because he sounds like a company man who has salted into Total Packers and is being paid to spread some Green Bay Packer “homer” propaganda while in here . . . It just seems fishy . . . like “chum smell” fishy . . .

        1. PF4L May 20, 2020

          I don’t really care if they call themselves Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Fat Albert or Scooby Doo…lol.

          It;s just so weak sometimes….All in the name of cheap entertainment i guess :)

          As much as i hate to say it, even the Lonely Boy was somewhat entrenched in reality sometimes (RIP).

  8. Todd Chike May 21, 2020

    For this asirtion to be true – one would have to expect – that a rookie QB – can acually be good enough to play let alone be good enough win and go to the super bowl? ya it could happen … moter cycle on top, human on the bottom ,..I could see that.

    1. MJ May 21, 2020

      Unusual, I give you that, but Mahomes would like a word with you.


      Any QB entering the league faces long odds to become even a decent starter. Let’s say… Eli Manning to Philip Rivers grade. Let alone be the driving force towards a SB. Nevertheless, assuming your team does indeed find the talent, a 3rd year QB is on a rookie contract, but not a rookie himself, you know? The writer never asserted the QB had to win the SB on his first year…

  9. PF4L May 21, 2020

    I think Ron Wolf was a genius for trading for Favre.
    I think Ted Thompson picking Rodgers took big balls.
    I think Gute honing in on, and trading up for Love took………..
    Can’t wait to see how this story unfolds.