When Aaron Rodgers signed a three-year, $150 million contract extension in March 2022, 2020 first-round pick quarterback Jordan Love had no idea if he would ever have a chance to the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. Fast forward to Wednesday, when Love stood at the Lambeau Field podium in his first press conference as THE guy -- the Packers' starting quarterback.
"I'll admit, I think the hardest time was when [Aaron Rodgers] re-signed the contract last year," Love said. "It was kind of like, 'Well, where do we go from here? What do I do?' I think I sat back, thought to myself and just came back with the approach like, 'Let's just go ball out any opportunity I get.' I'm going to get preseason, and who knows what happens after that? So just grow and try and become the best version of myself, and I can't really control what happens after that, so let it play out."
While Love was stuck tapping his toe behind Rodgers, the Packers' all-time leader in touchdowns passes who collected a Super Bowl MVP trophy and four NFL MVP trophies in 15 seasons as Green Bay's starter, his focus was on how he could develop as the clear-cut backup.
"It's very hard to be patient, it's not easy," Love said. "Obviously, you want to be the guy. Everyone wants to be the guy. Everyone wants to be on the field making plays. It's not easy, but it was the situation I was put in. Nothing I could do about it. ... What I could control about that situation was how I approached each day, how I learned, and grew."
Love ensured he was like a sponge when it came to learning from Rodgers, absorbing what made the all-time great ahead of him thrive, both on and off the field.
"I learned a lot," Love said of his predecessor. "I was just able to watch a great quarterback: how he works every day, how he handles business in the locker room, interacts with teammates, and how he attacks every day. To be able to sit back as a quarterback and observe him, his footwork, how the ball comes out of his hands, how he practices every day and takes it into the game, is very valuable stuff that I was able to pick his brain on and watch him work. ... Watching him, watching the confidence that he has, how he operates every day, how quickly he makes calls and is able to process information, and how well he knows the system. All those little things, to get to see it from a guy who's been doing it a long time elevates your game by building all that into [my game]."
Even though Rodgers' final days as a Packer this offseason were seemingly frosty with the Green Bay front office, Love revealed Rodgers has kept the door open for future communication between the two of them.
"He wished me the best, and said he'd always be there for me if I need anything or have any questions," Love said when talking about his conversations with Rodgers after the trade with the New York Jets went through. "I will always be grateful to be around him, and the time I had with him where I was able to learn and be behind him. I'm very grateful for it."
The waiting game has played out, and Love has now taken the baton from Rodgers, who took the mantle of Packers starting quarterback from first-ballot Hall of Famer Brett Favre. With the uncertainty around Rodgers all offseason, starting with his darkness retreat, Love attacked the offseason with the idea that he could be the starter. Once Rodgers revealed his "intention to play for the New York Jets" on "The Pat McAfee Show," then Love was able to do more things that starting NFL quarterbacks do, like organize workouts with teammates outside of the facility.
"The whole offseason I approached it as I'd be the starter. That was just my mindset going into it. I couldn't control what happened going forward. ... I approached it [this offseason] the same way [as past offseasons]. The only thing that changed is getting [our] guys out to throw with me to get some more reps. It's a little easier being the starter to have guys out."
Two of the teammates Love has spent the most time working with this offseason are second-year wideout Romeo Doubs and Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones, both of whom came to work with him on the West Coast.
"Romeo [Doubs] is out in California, the same as me, and we train with the same coach, so that one is easy," Love said. "We've done that in the past. Getting Aaron [Jones] out, he's come to California a couple times. He hit me up and wanted to come when out there. I think it's beneficial. Any time you get extra reps outside of here to work and build that chemistry is huge."
Jones, who initially made a plea for Rodgers to return to Green Bay, is now all aboard the Love train after working with him and observing his development over the past three years. Jones said Love's timing with teammates and hisare both elements of his game that have improved in a noticeable way this offseason.
"He believes in himself, that's No. 1," Jones said of Love on Wednesday. "You've got to believe in yourself or nobody else is going to believe in you, so he believes in himself, he cares about everybody around him, and we've seen him just come in consistently and just work, work, work. As an athlete, you want to come in and play right away, and that wasn't Jordan's case. He didn't have that opportunity, and he did it the right way. He waited his time and you never heard one peep or complaint out of him. ... He has everybody's full trust."
Love categorized his own growth since becoming a Packer as "drastic." Now, at 24 years old, he gets to help lead the growth of his wide receivers and tight ends, just about all of whom are younger than him: 2022 second-round pick wide receiver Christian Watson (24 years old), 2022 fourth-round pick wide receiver Romeo Doubs (23 years old), 2022 seventh-round pick wide receiver Samori Toure (25 years old), 2023 second-round pick tight end Luke Musgrave (22 years old), 2023 second-round pick wide receiver Jayden Reed (23 years old), and 2023 third-round pick tight end Tucker Kraft (22 years old). That's a dramatic age shift in comparison to the veteran-laden group that was present during Love's first three seasons with Rodgers as the starting quarterback.
"I think it's great," Love said when asked about being older than. "We'll get the opportunity to grow together, learn each other... It's easier with younger guys that haven't been around other guys [quarterbacks] who want it a certain way. It's easier to get my point across about how I want things to run. It'll be great to be around these younger guys."
A lot of Love's leadership as the backup quarterback came by example, like when he came off the bench in Week 12 of the 2022 season on "Sunday Night Football" on the road at the eventual NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles. He completed six of his nine passes for 113 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown pass to Watson. Love's second and final drive of the night culminated in a 33-yard field goal by kicker Mason Crosby, the final points in a 40-33 defeat.
"I've always been confident in myself," Love said. I've always known that if I had to go in, I need to make the most of my opportunity. Just going in there with confidence and not worrying about making mistakes. I was able to show what I always believed."
Now, his leadership presentation will change as the Packers QB1.
"It's exciting, I think there's a lot energy around it for myself, and I think I can step up and be more vocal knowing I am the guy and not the backup," Love said. "I think it changes a little bit from that aspect. My main focus is to try to bring guys along, trying to give everybody else confidence in themselves, confidence that I believe in them, I trust them and just try to bring guys up."
While Love's focus is to lead others, he understands his first year as the franchise quarterback isn't going to always be rainbows and sunshine. That's why he's going to continue to focus on the team as a whole instead of himself as an individual.
"It's always ups and downs in this sport," Love said. "It's not easy, I know it's not going to be easy this year, but I tell myself every day that I am good enough. I really have confidence in myself. One of my college coaches told me, 'It's never as good as you think it is, and it's never as bad as you think it is.' That's one thing that's stuck with me. ... my thing is to keep is to keep growing. I know it's not going to be easy. I know there's going to be ups and downs, so we just have to stay together through the whole process. The tighter we can get together as a team, the easier it's going to be to face the challenges."
One of those challenges is following in Favre's and Rodgers' footsteps as Packers fans and the front office hope he can be their third straight starting quarterback who produces at the highest of levels for more than a decade. Love is aware of the underlying expectations his job title comes with as he enters ato be the long-term quarterback solution in Green Bay.
"It's pressure, no matter where you're going to be, there's going to be pressure as an NFL quarterback," Love said. "Everyone is watching you and every move you make on the field. It's pressure, that's what I signed up for, and that's what I knew I was getting myself into. It comes down to making the most of that. I'm comfortable with it. Obviously, it's something I'll have to grow into. It's a new start for me, so I'll continue to learn and grow and develop."
Love refused to make any declarations about how the 2023 season will go being the underdogs in the NFC North for the first time in awhile, once again focusing on overall growth. That's the fun that comes with the Jordan Love Era. There's so many different ways things could turn out. He could be off the team in a year or two, or he could continue Favre's and Rodgers' legacies as the next superstar quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. Not even Love knows how the season is going to go. In Green Bay, Love and the Packers are embracing that beautiful mystery.
"I have confidence in myself, and I have confidence in the team. We're just going to take it day-by-day. I can't say what might happen this year or next year, who knows. I think we have a really good team, and we're going to work together each day to grow and keep growing."