With a carousel of quarterbacks on the move this spring, the move most scrutinized and rumored has been the one yet to be completed.
The first night of the 2021 NFL Draft welcomed chaos; just moments before the Jacksonville Jaguars made Trevor Lawrence their face of the franchise, the news of Aaron Rodgers’ fuming frustration with Green Bay Packers’ brass went public. Now, nearly a month removed from the leaks out of Green Bay, with speculation and potential trade packages in aplenty, Jordan Love’s inherent reign to the throne of Rodgers could be closer than we ever expected.
However, there’s no need to worry Packer faithful. In an offense stemming from the fundamental concepts of Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren and littered with league-revolutionizing concepts from Kyle Shanahan’s West Coast adaptations, the Packers and head coach Matt LaFleur have a plan in place if Green Bay were to move on from Rodgers.
In the grand scheme of things, no matter how well the Packers are set up post-Rodgers, No. 12 playing elsewhere would surely open eyes; but this is the NFL, and it’s a next player up way of business. The bottom line is Love, a 2020 first-round selection, is Green Bay’s next quarterback; the second-year man out of Utah State will remain in the wings until his name is called.
As much credit is deserved to LaFleur and the tinkering of his offense just as much should be distributed to Los Angeles’ Sean McVay and Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski. While each of their respective quarterbacks are surrounded by unique athletes in Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Cam Akers, Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry, each touts varying skill sets as weapons within their respective offense. But, when it relates to Love and his progress when his number is called, neither system touts Davante Adams, the versatility of Aaron Jones… or LeFleur. With schematic adjustments in place prior to the 2020 season, the Packers offense took off in Year 2 under the LaFleur umbrella compared to the trial and error-filled 2019 campaign, despite the Packers finishing 13-3 highlighted by a loss in the conference title game.
The success was due mostly in part to Rodgers’ buy-in into LaFleur’s installation of increased play-action, pre-snap motion, and run-pass option foundations of the Shanahan offense; LaFleur was able to scheme open receivers for Rodgers in ways no coach had before. Despite a rather top-heavy attack led by Adams, the Packers still led the NFL in open percentage last year, totaling the most passing plays with wideouts at least three yards away from the opposing defender. Despite Adams being back, the Packers (again) failed to address their need for a true threat opposite Adams in free agency or the draft, but that’s for another time. Amari Rodgers will prove to be a nice addition, but you see where I’m going here.
Jones, however, is back and if there’s any way to ease the onboarding process for a young quarterback, it’s to have a supremely talented ball carrier (like Jones) adjacent to him in the Green Bay backfield. A.J. Dillon is also expected to garner work in his second year as is 2021 seventh-round selection Kylin Hill, who could provide a change of pace to Dillon who serves as the bulk of the group at nearly 250-pounds. With a successful running game comes efficiency in play-action with Ryan Tannehill (36.4%) leading the way in most plays including play fakes, followed by Jared Goff (34%), Baker Mayfield (30.1%), Nick Mullens (29.9%), Rodgers (29.8%), and Kirk Cousins (27.9%); all of whom are tasked with running a Shanahan-stemmed offense.
While Love won’t be asked to be Rodgers, the foundation is there for him to be successful. With 38 starts at the collegiate level, Love has the proven experience, and traits necessary to right the ship. With an elite offensive line in place coming off an impressive year in which they finished third-best in sacks allowed, the best way for Love to improve, and ultimately score points, is to remain upright.
Add in the presence of arguably the top pass-catcher in football, an impressive three-headed attack at running back, and the astute adaptation ability of LeFleur, and the Packers offense under Love shouldn’t flounder if Rodgers were to depart. Whether it’s a matter of reconciliation with the front office to continue his tenure or a matter of inevitability of Rodgers’ departure, the Packers future under center, as it always has been, should garner more optimism for a player yet to earn a snap in Green Bay.