In 1989 the Dallas Cowboys did two things that eventually led to multiple Super Bowl wins. In April, they drafted Troy Aikman. While Aikman tuned into a Hall of Fame quarterback, he did not produce wins in his first season. The Cowboys went 1-15 with Aikman starting 11 games and Steve Walsh starting the other five.
The second move that led to future Lombardi trophies was the trade of another Hall of Fame player, Herschel Walker. The result of the 18 players eventually involved in the trade came down to five draft picks for the Cowboys. Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Darren Woodson, and cornerbacks Kevin Smith and Clayton Holmes. Four of those players were named All Pro or went to a Pro Bowl in their career with Dallas. The fifth, Holmes, won three Super Bowls.
Since that trade GM’s from every team team have tried to repeat that winning move. Trade your best player for a bunch of picks, draft 4 great players, and get better. The biggest reason GM’s have not been able to repeat the winning formula in thirty years is the real key to the Dallas success; they were not trading their franchise quarterback. They had Aikman and let him learn from experience, with losses piling up, his first year. Another lesson that should be learned in this history lesson is the replaceability of running backs as compared to quarterbacks. Yes, Walker was a special talent, but even the greatest running backs struggle to win without great quarterbacks. Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and O.J. Simpson are all proof that quarterbacks are the key ingredient in champions, unless you live in the NFL Bermuda Triangle which is Baltimore.
The Packers currently have a franchise player that publicly has repeatedly stated he wants to be a Packer for life, but now is unhappy with the management team of the Packers. When asked point blank if he has demanded a trade he sidestepped the question. While his teammates on defense were all practicing, our franchise quarterback made sure numerous photos of his happy frolicking in the pools on the road to Hana were distributed for all of Packer land to see.
In 1989 the Packers also made a draft move. Tony Mandarich. Mandarich turned out to be a steroid induced, alcoholic shell of an NFL player. That Packer choice set the franchise back for years. There is little doubt that if the Packers trade Aaron Rodgers it will impact the franchise. If they think they can reinvent history and make a Super Bowl run without him, they should look at the last 30 years of history in the NFL. The list of NFL draft pick busts is stuffed with quarterbacks. Let’s troll the list from a recent article in of all places “The Business Insider”:
Christian Hackenberg. QB. Drafted in round 2
Paxton Lynch. QB. Drafted round 1.
Johnny Manziel. QB. Drafted round 1.
Matt Leinart. QB. Round 1.
Jake Locher. QB. Round 1.
Mark Sanchez. QB Round 1.
Dwayne Haskins QB. Round 1.
Josh Rosen QB. Round 1.
Vince Young QB. Round 1:
Robert Griffin III. QB. Round 1.
Jamarcus Russell QB. Round 1.
DeShone Kizer. QB. Round 2.
While this list is not complete, it is the last name on the list that should give the Packer front office the most concern. Sitting in the GM hot seat for less than two months Brian Gutekunst traded for a quarterback. DeShone Kizer. Kizer, had been a mediocre QB in college at Notre Dame. He never was able to bring his team to a shot at a national championship. His college coach said he should have stayed in school for his final year. To anyone who worked with him he was not ready for the NFL. The Browns let him start and he missed setting the all time interceptions record for a rookie mostly because he missed one game. His passer rating was a feather over 60. His Packer debut, admittedly under rough circumstances, was a complete disaster. Why even mention that awful day against the Lions? Because Gutekunst thought he had a starting NFL QB in Kizer. He was not close. The miss was equivalent to the “Wild Thing” first pitch in the movie, “Major League”. If you listen closely you can hear Bob Uecker shouting, “Juuuust a bit outside.”
Right now the Packers don’t know if Jordan Love can throw strikes or is more likely to hit the mascot. What they do know is Rodgers can win games and lead a team. If the top five receivers sitting out voluntary OTA’s says anything, it says Rodgers has the faith of his fellow players, not the front office. If amends cannot be made to satisfy Rodgers then Packer fans sit on a precipice. A change at quarterback is more likely to bring a fall from playoff regularity and could bring us back to the Mandarich years. Short term memory for Packer fans includes the Favre-Viking victories. How tough of a pill to swallow would it be watching Rodgers pick apart our team at Lambeau in another jersey? It was excruciating watching Favre do it. Fans knowing Rodgers was talented eased the pain slightly. As we sit today, fans don’t know if Love is more Rodgers or Kizer. And that makes this precipice seem perilous.