The Packer brass are currently trying to be patient waiting for Aaron Rodgers to make a final decision on his future in Green Bay. Some would say that is the biggest decision looming for the Packers. But there is a decision beyond Rodger’s future that will ultimately have more impact on the Packers long term success. Is Jordan Love the heir apparent that will keep the Packers in Super Bowl contention?
Love had a washout of a rookie campaign due to Covid scuttling the preseason. In his second season he received a gift from Rodgers, more practice as the number one QB in camp than most backups ever get. Rodger’s bitter relationship with the Packer front office gave Love more time to practice, more reps, and more time to learn the playbook. He was slated to start every preseason game. His debut against the Houston Texans was not impressive and led to a 26-7 drubbing. Love excited early after being stripped of the ball on a sack that “dinged” his shoulder. He produced two first downs and a touchdown on one drive to stake the Packers to a 7-3 lead, but had four drives that resulted in four quick punts. When he left the field for good the Packers were down 13-7.
The second preseason game Love sat out due to his shoulder. What would have been an interesting dual between Love and the Jet’s Zach Wilson never materialized.
Week three of the preseason saw a good match between the Bills Josh Allen, drafted two years before Love. Allen looked like a frightened rabbit when he got run out of Lambeau in his fourth start for the Bills in 2018. The Packers took Allen and his Bills to task in a 22-0 victory. While that lopsided loss put the Bills at 1-3 for the season, they finished 6-10 and the next season Allen took Buffalo to the playoffs.
Love was overmatched by Allen in the preseason. Allen proved in 2021 he is a franchise quarterback, narrowly losing to Kansas City in the playoffs that included 36 points and a late touchdown drive that seemed to be enough to ice the game.
In preseason against Buffalo, Love and the second string Packers struggled against the Bills’ starters. Love went 12-17 for 149 yards, an interception and a fumble that was recovered. While he did lead a 12 play 75 yard drive with 9 first downs, the offense turned the ball over on fourth and goal at the one.
The next drive pushed the Packers to the Buffalo 21, but Love threw a critical pick ending that opportunity. The next drive went twelve plays and ended on a missed field goal. In the end analysis of the preseason Love showed improvement and was able to move the ball against a playoff caliber team.
Love’s next test was against Kansas City in the regular season. Love went 19-34, throwing one touchdown and one critical interception. Down 13-0 late in the third quarter, Love led a 14 play 68 yard drive that ended on a intercepted deep pass intended for Davante Adams. Love was handicapped by a missed field goal and a blocked field goal in the first half. If Love doesn’t throw the pick and the Packers make their field goals, their 16 points would have changed the conversation of Love’s performance and perhaps his future. But there is no way to erase that pick, or his other picks and fumbles. There are real questions about Love’s accuracy and his ability to make big plays at critical times.
As I sat in the stands watching Josh Allen on that pleasant evening in 2018, I could see panic in his eyes as he scrambled from pressure. He looked worse than any game I’ve watched Jordan Love play. Allen’s rise should give hope to any Packer fan. Early struggles by young quarterbacks can be learning lessons. The greats overcome early failures and rise above them. Love has made some inaccurate throws but he has also put together some decent drives and seems to have an NFL caliber arm and enough athleticism to concern defenses when he scrambles.
The 2022 NFL draft does not have a consensus #1 QB that pundits see as a future Hall of Famer. When the Packers drafted 2 quarterbacks in 2008, Brian Brohm in round two and Matt Flynn in round seven, they already had Rodgers ready to take over for Favre. If Gutekunst follows Ted Thompson’s QB strategy then he should draft more quarterbacks early in the draft, probably in this upcoming draft if Rodgers bows out of Green Bay. A number of websites point to the 2023 QB class as more promising that the 2022 draft class.
So do the Packers look QB in 2022 or 2023? The draft strategy may be driven by Mr. Rodgers decision of which neighborhood he wishes to play in next year.