Aaron Rodgers will not be the starting quarterback for the Packers forever. The Packers have been blessed by having back to back All-Pro throwers leading their team for the last thirty years. In 1992, Favre made his first start in the NFL. There have been a couple of other QB’s making spot starts due to injury, but the question of ultimate leader has been locked in for an NFL defined eternity in Green Bay. Even the 49er tandem of Montana and Young, the greatest Super Bowl winning back-to-back combo, came to an end after 20 years. Mark Twain once said, “I’m in favor of progress; it’s change I don’t like.” So sit most Packer fans as they contemplate an upcoming Thanksgiving season. Always looking for improvement, but knowing, deep down in the back of our sports obsessed brains, that All-Pro quarterbacks are not easy to find.
Ted Thompson had 27 teams pass on Aaron Rodgers. If any of those teams had seen MVP potential, Thompson’s legacy would have been quite different in the land of the Frozen Tundra. What Thompson should get credit for is letting Brett Favre go when he came back after his retirement press conference. Rodgers had impressed in practice and spot duty on the field. Favre was struggling to be fully committed to offseason leadership. He felt entitled to do less to prepare for the season, and his arguments had some good points. But knowing the playbook and leadership are two different things. The timing you need to ensure pass completions with new receivers takes repetitions.
This year, Rodgers took time off from preseason OTA’s. It is his contractual right to do so. Rodgers made this decision knowing his go to pass catcher was gone. The Packers were rebuilding the wide receiver room. Now, the failures of this 2022 Packer team do not rest on the decision of Rodgers’ attendance at OTA’s. But at 39 years old on December 2nd, we have seen games of brilliance (Dallas) and games of mediocrity. (Tennessee)in 2022. This journey with Rodgers will come to a close in Green Bay. He started his career here being booed by fans for taking Favre’s place.
He walked off the field on Thursday to boos again. Most quarterbacks in the NFL have an arc of success in the NFL that ends in failure. Montana was a shell of himself in his last year. Steve Young started just three games in his last year. Often it is injuries, but age is also a factor. Johnny Unitas was hard to watch in ‘72 and ’73. Unitas was forty when he finally hung it up for good. The question of when enough will be enough for Rodgers is still unanswered. But the answer is coming.
The Packers have another unanswered question. Is Jordan Love a legit NFL quarterback? The Packers could have traded him in the past three years if they doubted his potential. He is a first-round pick so they have an option to extend him, but the financial impact of doing that may be crippling if Rodgers’ contract is still weighing on the team. If the Packers tally eight losses, it will be time to give Jordan Love the reigns of this team. Rodgers has a thumb injury. Getting him healthy is the perfect excuse. Quarterbacks need game experience. Zach Wilson is the perfect example of that.
Rodgers and Troy Aikman both needed a full year to really show their full potential. So if you wait too long, say the last two or three games, you may be robbing Love of the critical playing time he needs to connect the dots and really show his talents. Or he could be a failure. If that is true, the Packers are much better off knowing that at the end of the 2022 season than in two years. The 2023 draft has quarterback draft options. Playing Love with the young receiver crew would also help build future connections that could be beneficial in 2023. Whatever the decision, it cannot be based on keeping Rodgers happy. As LaFleur recently said, playing for the Packers is a privilege. Even for the team leaders. The 2023 Packers may hang in the balance of this 2022 decision. Not if,…when.