Aaron Rodgers has been entertaining his NFL future for years. Now, as the quarterback's 18th season draws closer to the finish line, it might be time for the Packers to start making decisions for him. Forced into an early exit from Sunday night's loss to the Eagles with a rib injury, the reigning MVP may or may not be back in Week 13 against the Bears. He remains an elite talent when healthy, and his legacy is already written. But for the remainder of 2022, and perhaps for good, Green Bay should strongly consider sidelining Rodgers in favor of backup Jordan Love.
per SportsLine projections. Love, meanwhile, has gotten precious little action outside of a single emergency start for Rodgers last year. General manager Brian Gutekunst needs to see what he has in the 2020 first-round draft pick, Jones argues, for the sake of the post-Rodgers Packers. Love is under contract through at least 2023, but without additional experience, he'll remain an unknown at the most important position on the roster.has made the big-picture case for this: while mathematically alive in the playoff race, the Packers are on the outside looking in at 4-8, with just a 1.1% chance of earning a wild card berth,
There's an eerie parallel to the potential torch-passing, with Love's Sunday night appearance coming almost exactly 15 years after Rodgers first took over for an injured Brett Favre in 2007. But the reality is Rodgers' own flirtations with life beyond Green Bay -- soon to be 39, he's openly considered both retirement and a move to a new team since Love's arrival -- support an extended look at his potential successor. Even if Rodgers decides to return in 2023, Green Bay's struggles on both sides of the ball suggest Gutekunst could be motivated -- and maybe even smart -- to.
Here's the real kicker, though: besides the long-term implications, there's a case to be made that Love gives the Packers the best chance to win right now. Let's be clear: Rodgers is still close to unmatched when it comes to physical ability at the position. His shoddy setup this year should not hide the fact he still boasts some of the best passing touch and precision in the game. Even with a bad thumb on Sunday, he revived some trademark play-extending magic to keep Green Bay within striking distance of the soaring Eagles.
Consider, however, that Rodgers also threw two picks on Sunday. Whether or not the errors resulted in overcompensation for an offense that's too often plodded along in 2022, they brought his season interception total to nine, his worst in more than a decade. Simply put, he's been pressing -- more so this year, stripped of former No. 1 target Davante Adams, than any other time in recent memory. Now, with a hurt oblique that left him wincing on even the most basic short throws, who knows whether he'll even have the strength to offset his more-desperate mentality.
Love may not offer the savvy experience of his elder counterpart, and he may or may not be the future, but can his floor be that much lower than that of present-day Rodgers, on a 4-8 team averaging fewer than 20 points per game? Coming off the bench Sunday night, with no first-team reps, against the Eagles defense on the road, the Utah State product looked better than at any other point in his limited NFL career, flashing mobility and a noticeable zip on his throws. Teasing instant chemistry with recent breakout Christian Watson on a quick touchdown pass to pull the Packers within seven, he has the advantage of not only a clean bill of health and fresher set of scrambling legs, but of being a clean slate for coach Matt LaFleur's offense.
LaFleur has drawn praise from Rodgers this year when "simplifying" the offense to make up for personnel shortcomings. But there's no greater motivation for NFL teams to truly return to fundamental concepts than a QB switch. The Packers' Sunday night opponent famously rode Nick Foles to a Lombardi Trophy five years ago after going back to basics upon Carson Wentz's season-ending injury. LaFleur's brother, Mike, just oversaw the Jets' best offensive performance of 2022 by benching the big name, Zach Wilson, for a backup capable of simply making the easy throws.
That's not to say starting Love will be a cure-all. But if it means LaFleur leaning even more on the pieces proven to work -- Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Christian Watson -- then it's a step in the right direction for a club that's lacked a steady formula for much of the year. It might even better prepare Rodgers for whatever lies ahead in 2023, preserving the QB from further injury.
And if, somehow, an indefinite turn to Love pays off even better than expected, perhaps jolting the Packers back into the playoff race? Well then that's the best kind of problem to have in such a situation. In fact, it might be the dream scenario for fans and team brass: a scenario in which Rodgers' successor truly does emerge, allowing both A-Rod and the Packers to march more clearly toward an amicable split.