Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers both indicated that Rodgers would start this Sunday when the Pack takes on the Chicago Bears on Sunday if the future Hall of Famer gets medical clearance. In fact, Rodgers indicated he wants to start every game until the Packers are mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture. This decision is a mistake as Jordan Love should be given the chance to start as often as possible for the rest of the 2022 season.
This has been a tough season for Rodgers and the entire Packers team. Rodgers struggled to get comfortable with his new and less experienced receiving corps this season and then suffered a broken thumb on the final play of the team’s loss to the New York Giants in London. Since then, the Packers are 1-6 and Rodgers has clearly not played up to his usual high standard.
The Packers are now 4-8 and have roughly a three percent chance of making the playoffs. Even if the Packers finish the season with five straight wins, they will need a lot of help to qualify for the postseason and the way the team has played this year, there is very little chance they win their final five games.
There is very little to be gained by playing Rodgers. The thumb injury alone has clearly affected his performance this season and now he also has an oblique injury. The thumb didn’t need surgery, but it does need rest to improve. It’s been more than six weeks and the thumb is still bothering him. Rodgers has toughed it out and tried to play through the injury and he deserves credit for that.
But at this point, Rodgers has nothing to prove by playing more this season. He is a future Hall of Famer and whether he struggles the rest of the season with the thumb injury or throws four touchdown passes in each of the team’s remaining games, nothing much will change.
Rodgers and the Green Bay front office will have decisions to make over the offseason. Rodgers could retire, which is unlikely considering he will earn more than $50 million by playing another year, he could demand a trade, which is also difficult to do because of the cap implications, or he could say he’s returning in which case he’s almost certainly going to be the team’s starting quarterback in 2023.
But Love has a lot to prove. He’s started only one NFL game in his first three seasons and that was due to Rodgers missing a game while he was in Covid protocols in 2021. The Packers must decide whether to pick up Love’s fifth-year option this offseason and they have to figure out whether Love is the heir apparent to Rodgers or if they will look to move on from their former first round pick.
Love looked good in his fourth quarter appearance against the Eagles on Sunday night. He was decisive, had good zip on his passes and went through his progressions well. The former Utah State star finished the game by completing 6-of-9 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m not shocked, to be honest with you, that he went out there and played well and showed great poise,” LaFleur told reporters. “We see it on a daily basis in practice. I know people might not necessarily agree with that, but I see it every day. I think he’s a guy that has continued to get better and better each and every day in practice and just does a great job against our defense, giving them fits and giving them really tough looks.”
The Packers need to figure out what Love can do in real game situations. The more he plays, the better idea they’ll have. Love will get to play with the team’s top receivers and against a real NFL defense. LaFleur can also create a game plan around Love’s skills and what he does best if he knows in advance that Love is his quarterback.
If Rodgers is healthy enough to start against the Bears, LaFleur and Rodgers said he will play. But after the game in Chicago, the Packers have a bye week. It is likely that even if the Pack defeats the Bears, they could still be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention after this game. That would be the time for LaFleur to place Rodgers on the IR with his assorted injuries and turn to Love.
If Love plays poorly, the Packers will know he is not the future of the team and they will not pick up his option and either try to trade him or let him walk after the 2023 season which is the final year of his entry level contract. They will also know the time has come to acquire or draft another quarterback to be Rodgers’ heir apparent.
If he plays well, they can either pick up his option or try to sign him to a long-term extension. They could also say his trade value will never be higher and trade him for a high draft pick.
If Rodgers wants to return in 2023, he’ll be the likely starter and the Pack will know they have a capable backup. If Rodgers wants to leave, Love will already be in house and be ready.
Shutting down Rodgers may disappoint or even anger the Packers starting quarterback. But the franchise is fooling itself if they are willing to put Rodgers’ ego ahead of the good of the team. If Rodgers won’t do what’s best for the team, if he’s that insecure about his own future status as a Packer, that says a lot about him and his attitude. And if GM Brian Gutekunst and team president Mark Murphy won’t stand up to AR12 and do what’s best for the team, that’s a big problem as well.
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