It’s still not clear how the Packers’ ongoing situation with Aaron Rodgers will be resolved, but one clear loser has already emerged: Jordan Love.
The second-year quarterback didn’t ask for any of this, but he’ll be asked to bear the brunt of the controversy this fall no matter what happens. Worse still, many of the potential outcomes for this fall will result in significant criticism — all for a quarterback who didn’t ask to be selected by the Packers, much less in the first round, much less after the team traded up to get him.
There are four potential endgame situations for Love this fall, two involving Rodgers’ return, two with Love taking over as the new starting quarterback. Here’s a look at each, ranked from most to least desirable.
1 - Rodgers returns, but Love looks like a solid backup
This is the optimal outcome for every party. In this situation, Rodgers returns to the Packers at some point in the next few weeks and resumes his role as the starting quarterback, giving Love more time to develop while the Packers make another run at a Super Bowl.
With Rodgers under center, Love’s only real playing time would come in the preseason. In the best-case scenario, Love would play well in three preseason performances, proving the Packers at least somewhat right for their decision to move up and get him in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Everyone wins here: the Packers look smart, Rodgers (presumably) gets some or all of the security he wants, and Love looks like a legitimate NFL quarterback.
2 - Rodgers doesn’t return, but Love plays well as a starter
In the event that Rodgers doesn’t return, Love could still redeem the Packers’ season by playing like the first round talent the team believes him to be. It’s a tough road, but not an impossible one. The NFL is more quarterback friendly than ever, and the Packers have a bevy of talented skill position players and a creative coach. It’s certainly possible that Love — given his physical tools and the solid team infrastructure that’s in place — could come out and play well.
It’s not an ideal solution; even in the best of circumstances, it’s hard to imagine Love playing close to as well as Rodgers did last year. There would be some inevitable drop off. But a solid season out of Love would assuage a lot of the hurt feelings inevitably generated by Rodgers leaving town.
3 - Rodgers returns, but Love looks like a bust
Getting Rodgers back in the fold would be cause for celebration in Green Bay, but that celebration would quickly be muted if Love looks like he can’t play this summer.
If that turns out to be the case, the Packers would, essentially, be stuck with Rodgers (and his presumably increased contract) for basically as long as he wants to play. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the entire crux of the conflict between Rodgers and the Packers is differing views over Rodgers’ future. If Love looks like a bad pick when he’s finally on the field, the Packers will have basically no choice but to eat a heaping helping of crow to go with the significant amount of egg on their collective faces. Sure, they’ll still have their MVP in the fold, but they’ll have been proven spectacularly wrong for ever doing anything to raise his ire in the first place.
4 - Rodgers forces his way out while Love flounders
Finally, in the worst of all possible scenarios, there’s a non-zero chance that the Packers end up trading Rodgers only to watch Love fall completely to pieces.
There are obvious reasons why this would be a disaster in the short term, but it carries long term consequences, too.
Given the Packers salary cap machinations this offseason, there is going to be a reckoning next spring, one that will likely see a good portion of the core of the team heading elsewhere. Rodgers’ exit would solve some of the issues, but not all of them, and if Love can’t play, the Packers will have sacrificed both the short and long term fortunes of the franchise for absolutely nothing.
Should this be the scenario that ultimately plays out, a new general manager should probably be the one to use whatever draft picks the Packers ultimately receive in the Rodgers trade.
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