The Green Bay Packers face a lot of unknowns at the quarterback position now that Jordan Love is the starter and Aaron Rodgers has been traded to the New York Jets. For the first time in 15 years, things will be different. But how good can Love be in his first year as a starter and how good does he need to be for the Packers to contend for a playoff berth?
The Packers finished 8-9 last year with Rodgers in a season plagued with inconsistency on both sides of the ball. Rodgers himself had his worst statistical season since he took over as the team’s starter in 2008. There were reasons for that some of which were beyond the quarterback’s control and some that were not. He was playing through a broken thumb suffered on the final play of the team’s Week 5 loss to the Giants. He later suffered injured ribs and was playing with an inexperienced receiving corps and an offensive line that lacked continuity early in the season due to injuries.
His final numbers included a 64.6 completion percentage, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, a disappointing 6.8-yards per attempt and a quarterback rating of 91.1. That placed Rodgers as the 15th highest rated quarterback in the NFL out of 32 starters. In other words, statistically, in 2022, Rodgers was a very average quarterback.
Can Love provide the Packers with average quarterbacking in 2023? If he can be in that middle tier of quarterbacks like Rodgers was a year ago, can the Packers win somewhere between seven and 10 games and compete for one of the playoff spots in the wide-open NFC?
There are some similarities between Rodgers and Love. Both were drafted late in the first round and were surprise picks for the Packers. Both sat on the bench behind future Hall of Famers for three years and both had the difficult task of taking over for a legend.
Looking back to Rodgers’ first season as the Packers starting quarterback, the team went 6-10 and lost a lot of close games. In fact, seven of the team’s 10 losses were by four points or less.
Late in the season, coach Mike McCarthy explained that Rodgers was still learning. “Disappointed offensively with the red-zone production,” McCarthy said. “We had a number of minus decisions down there. We need to do a better job of taking what the defense gives us, staying within the offense. Our decision-making was poor as a whole in the red zone, and it factored in the outcome in a number of those series.”
Rodgers showed potential as he learned. He finished the season with 28 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions while completing 63.6 percent of his passes and had a quarterback rating of 93.8. He had a yards-per attempt of 7.5.
By his second season as starter, Rodgers and the Packers improved to 11-5 and reached the playoffs as a wild card. Rodgers threw 30 touchdowns and just seven interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 103.2. He made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his NFL career and put 45 points on the board in an overtime loss in the wild card round.
There are some significant differences between the 2008 Packers and the 2023 team. In 2008, the team was coming off a 13-3 season and a trip to the NFC Championship Game. They had established veteran receivers like Donald Driver and Greg Jennings and the defense in 2007 was sixth in the league in points allowed and 11th in yards allowed.
A year ago, the Packers finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs when they lost the season finale at home to the Detroit Lions.
The 2023 offense has some talented young receivers like Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, but nobody with more than one year of NFL experience as of now. More talent is expected to be added at wide receiver and tight end in the 2023 NFL Draft, but rookies need time to adjust to the NFL game. The defense last year was 17th in points allowed and 17th in yards given up although there is talent on this defense which was viewed as underachieving in 2022.
Can Love match Rodgers’ first year numbers and have a quarterback rating in the low 90s? Many of his teammates have said he’s ready to start from De’Vondre Campbell and Aaron Jones. He doesn’t have to be outstanding in year one, but can he show potential and learn as the season progresses?
There is little doubt that Love is unlikely to be MVP level Aaron Rodgers right away and probably not ever. But can he establish himself as the next good quarterback in Packers history and a quarterback that can eventually lead the team to the playoffs? The success of the team in 2023 will largely depend on it.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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