The NFL Draft is always a bit agonizing for football fans, but no fanbase had it worse this year than the Packers. For Packers fans, the three days of this draft left us feeling like Big Worm—playing with our emotions.
Selecting Jordan Love in round 1, Packers fans were immediately triggered, teleporting back in time to the drama of 2008 when Favre and the Packers were entangled in a messy divorce, and with Rodgers in the middle of it.
People are quick to forget, but the 2008 saga split the fan base and got undeniably ugly at points. In my closet, an insulting “We’ll never forget you, Brent” t-shirt serves as a reminder of the era.
Given that history, it was almost surreal to watch a new GM and new Head Coach basically re-create the exact same script of that traumatic saga. The parallels were uncanny: Rodgers was drafted 24th overall. Love went 26th. Both Favre and Rodgers were around 35 years old when the Packers drafted their heir apparent.
Recently, the situation became even more surreal, almost Inception-like, when Favre joined the fray. After having spoken with Rodgers, partly in confidence, Favre gave an interview on The Rich Eisen Show and predicted that the Packers drafting of Love would “rear its ugly head” and Rodgers would (eventually) end his career elsewhere. For Packers fans, it was like hearing your parents are about to get divorced – for a second time.
Elsewhere in Packerworld, long-time Packers beat writer Bob McGinn delivered a different, but equally inflammatory take, writing in The Athletic: “Public niceties aside, my sense is LaFleur, fresh from a terrific 13-3 baptismal season, simply had enough of Rodgers’ act and wanted to change the narrative. With a first-round talent on the roster, the Packers would gain leverage with their imperial quarterback and his passive-aggressive style.”
Whether that’s pure conjecture on McGinn’s part, or based on anything real, almost didn’t matter. McGinn’s comments and Favre’s interview were both amplified by the national media, creating the troubling narrative that, once again, there was drama (the bad kind) brewing in Green Bay…But maybe that narrative is nonsense.
No question, Favre still has some hurt feelings about leaving Green Bay. As such, it’s totally understandable that, when looking at Rodgers’ current situation, Favre would see himself and project a little, relitigating some of his old grievances with the Packers front office. It was almost impossible not to hear those echoes when Favre opined: “They don’t draft any weapons — not just in the first round but any weapons that can help immediately, to my knowledge. And that just sends a disrespectful message to Aaron Rodgers. He has every right to be disappointed if he is.”
But was Rodgers actually disappointed? Well, not disappointed enough to give his new teammate the cold shoulder. Love told ESPN’s Maria Taylor that he had spoken with Rodgers and a source told ESPN that Rodgers initiated the call.
Dig deeper and the bad blood narrative falls apart even further. The media seems to have already forgotten Rodgers’ season-ending interview where he talked about a reinvigorating feeling with this year’s team and how the game became “fun again” in his first season with LaFleur. For his part, LaFleur reciprocated the goodwill and stressed his excitement for another year with Rodgers.
Despite the positivity, and Rodgers’ phone call to Love, is it also entirely possible that Rodgers was disappointed that the Packers didn’t add a wide receiver, and instead selected his future back up? In fact, it’s not only possible, but likely.
One thing we know for certain about Rodgers is that he’s a fierce competitor with an obsessive desire to win. Naturally, he wants weapons. But the notion that he hasn’t had weapons in Green Bay is belied by the facts.
A very misleading graphic recently made the rounds online. It showed the top 10 all-time passing TD leaders and how many of their TDs went to 1st round picks. Rodgers had only 1. Fans were quick to point to the graphic as evidence that the Packers hadn’t supported Rodgers properly. But that’s nonsense. Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams have all been elite, arguably top 10 in their era, receivers. And these stars were complimented by names like Driver, Cobb, Jones and Finley. In addition, the Packers have spent considerable resources, both draft picks and salary, to ensure Rodgers’ protection. Last year’s 2nd-round pick Elgton Jenkins and free agents Billy Turner and Rick Wagner, being three recent examples (not to mention the Packers using three of this year’s draft picks on the offensive line)
While Favre and the media were busy ripping Gutekunst and the Packers for not wanting to win now, they were conveniently forgetting how just one year ago the young Packers GM had spent aggressively, adding Za’darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos, three key pieces that would essentially transform the Packers defense overnight. It’s very hard to imagine the Packers even being in the NFCC last year without those moves.
So while Rodgers may be a little disappointed about the Packers taking Love, the notion that Rodgers is ready to abandon the franchise (or vice versa) is almost surely unfounded. If that’s in fact the case, then what happens next? For Packers fans, it could mean more of the same: winning.
Rodgers has always been at his best with a chip on his shoulder and a fire under his butt. Love will provide that. Additionally, while the media and many fans may worry that Rodgers doesn’t have enough weapons, it’s possible that management (and reality) disagree.
After all, the 2020 Packers team will feature Davante Adams, in the conversation of league’s best receiver and pass-catching running back Aaron Jones, who led all running backs with 19 TDs in 2019. Backing up Adams is Allen Lazard. Singled out by Rodgers during the season for more playing time, Lazard responded with a series of big games and clutch plays down the stretch. The Packers also have Equanimeous St. Brown returning from injury and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, two players who have both flashed at various points, and both entering their third season – a season where players at the position frequently make a jump. The Packers also added Devin Funchess to the mix, another player returning from injury, but at just 25 years old and 6’4” – one with decent upside. At tight end, the Packers have several promising options and the running game will likely get a boost from 2nd round battering ram, AJ Dillon.
This is all to say that if there is a football season in 2020, the returning NFC North Champion Packers will likely remain a very good football team, and certainly one with playoff expectations.
Meanwhile, Jordan Love falls into almost the perfect situation imaginable. In Green Bay, Love faces no immediate expectations. In fact, it’s the opposite – the fans and the organization would prefer that he didn’t play. He only has to learn.
And in Rodgers, someone who has been in Love’s shoes before, he’ll almost certainly find a helpful mentor and role model in the position room. And with Love’s history (his father committed suicide) and Rodgers’ documented family hurdles, it’s not hard to imagine the two developing bonds that go beyond football.
In LaFleur, Love gets paired with a young coach considered to have one of the strongest track records developing quarterbacks. To Love’s credit, he seems to have understood and embraced this developmental role, speaking with excitement about the opportunity to learn from both LaFleur and Rodgers.
By far, quarterbacks are the biggest factor in a football team’s long-term success (or failure). And if any franchise and fanbase should understand this – it’s the Packers, a team that has had two quarterbacks carry them for almost three decades, winning two championships.
Given the history, Packers fans would be wise to trust in the team and take the advice of their hero quarterback and just R-E-L-A-X.