It worked last time.
In 2005, the Packers invested their 24th draft pick on quarterback Aaron Rodgers to replace Brett Favre when it appeared Favre had plenty of good years left in him. Rodgers sat behind Favre for three seasons before getting a chance to start in an NFL game.
Rodgers went on to put together a first-ballot Hall of Fame career as the starter in Green Bay. In 12 years, he has earned eight Pro-Bowl nods, two NFL MVP awards, a Super Bowl championship and is the all-time leader for career passer rating (in the regular season with a minimum of 1,500 attempts at 102.4).
But in a day and age where Tom Brady and Drew Brees are still shredding secondaries into their 40s, the 36-year-old Rodgers didn’t appear close to the end of his time as a top-level starting quarterback. It also doesn’t appear Rodgers was expecting the Packers to secure his successor on the first night of the 2020 NFL Draft; he was hopeful for a weapon to help him move the offense.
It’s a smart idea in theory. Nothing is needed more in the NFL than a top passer, so thinking ahead by drafting Jordan Love to make sure the Packers are set beyond Rodgers seems like a sound idea. Love is a fairly raw college quarterback with exciting physical tools, and time spent as Rodgers’ understudy would be terrific for him and the long-term stability of the position. That’s until you leave utopia and consider Rodgers just might not be on board with that idea.
Rodgers’ arrival in Green Bay wasn’t met with much enthusiasm from Favre, who famously said: “My contract doesn’t say I have to get Rodgers ready to play. Now, hopefully, he watches me and gets something from that.”
While the relationship between Favre and Rodgers grew with time, it got off to a bumpy start. There’s no guarantee of how things will unfold with Rodgers and Love. Perhaps Rodgers will remember his time in the exact same position as Love and choose to be more welcoming. But Rodgers doesn’t even talk to his own family because of disagreements.
Green Bay’s best-laid plans may blow up, depending on how Rodgers responds to the situation. Should things get bumpy again and Love isn’t ready to take the reigns, the Packers will have a choice to make. Green Bay already made its decision by trading up for Love. General manager Brian Gutekunst wasn’t around when Rodgers was picked and head coach Matt LaFleur arrived on the scene last season. They are tied to Love.
While Love profiles as an intriguing long-term plan in LaFleur’s offense, the timing of the move feels peculiar. Green Bay is coming off a 13-3 season and won the NFC North by a three-game margin. Looking towards 2020, the Packers appear to be divisional favorites once again and primed for a deep postseason run.
There’s a chance that Love’s arrival will fuel Rodgers and maximize the latter years of his career, but his acceptance to a role as a mentor to Love remains a question. Perhaps Love will just have to do his best by observing Rodgers and hope he gets something from it.
Expectations are high for quarterbacks in Green Bay, given the rich history of elite passers the city has enjoyed. Like Rodgers did, Love has big shoes to fill. Time will tell if it works out.