Jordan Love has justified extension discourse, but process more complicated than typical negotiation
Due to the unusual circumstances surrounding Jordan Love, an extension might not materialize as easily as it would from most other QB negotiations.
The Green Bay Packers' worst fears had come to pass. A 14-point lead in the fourth quarter had vanished with plenty of time to spare, the latest humiliation of Joe Barry's defensive-coordinator tenure. With the game tied at 30 with just under three minutes remaining, the offense needed to put points on the board or risk watching Barry's defense melt down yet again.
The Carolina Panthers have found their footing defensively since halftime. They've forced three-and-outs on three of the Packers' four second-half possessions, helping to turn the tide in their favor. After back-to-back carries by running back Aaron Jones pick up only 6 combined yards, the Packers find themselves staring at another punt and, potentially, a third straight heartbreaking loss.
On third-and-4, head coach Matt LaFleur dials up a play for Romeo Doubs, seemingly the only healthy receiver left standing for Green Bay. The Panthers respond with man coverage, hoping to take away Doubs while filling the box with enough bodies to deter a run call. Their linebackers also creep up just before the snap, signaling a blitz that never comes but can still disrupt the offense's protection call.
The situation leaves little margin for error. For the Packers to move the sticks and keep their battered hopes alive, they need Doubs to win on his route and get behind the defender. They also need a well-placed ball from their first-year starting quarterback, Jordan Love.
And in the biggest moment of the game, Love delivers. Off his back foot, the Packers' young signal-caller drops the ball into the bucket beyond the reach of veteran corner Troy Hill. Doubs hauls in the pass for a 36-yard gain that sets up the offense in field-goal range.
"We got one-high coverage, man coverage, we ran a stomp route with him," Love said of the play for Doubs. "He made a fantastic catch right there on the sideline which was a huge play on that drive."
The Packers went on to burn almost all the remaining game clock before kicker Anders Carlson knocked in the go-ahead field goal. The Panthers attempted a comeback but ran out of time, sealing the Green Bay victory.
Earlier in the season, such a conversion would have seemed highly improbable. Love and his receiving corps -- the youngest in the NFL -- struggled to get on the same page throughout October, leading to late-game breakdowns against the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos, among others. As the Packers' record plunged to 2-5 while Love threw almost as many interceptions (eight) as touchdowns (11), little suggested the team had found its next long-term starter under center.
But Love steadied during the second half of 2023 while the Packers' pass catchers began to turn the corner. Starting with the team's win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 9, Love has thrown for 2,095 yards, 16 touchdowns, and just three picks, adding another 82 yards and a score on the ground. Love has worked for that production too, completing throws down the field with regularity rather than piling up cheap yards on screens and other concepts that place the burden on the pass catcher.
And Love even engineered the late-game heroics that, if not for the defensive implosions that succeeded them, would have mirrored his performance in Carolina. In the final minutes of Week 14's tilt with the New York Giants, Love drove the offense down the field, capping the series with a beautiful throw to Malik Heath at the goal line to reclaim the lead. Yet, the Giants quickly moved into scoring position and kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired. The following week, Love brought Green Bay back within a touchdown twice in the second half only for the defense to blow the potential comeback on each occasion.
While the Packers didn't leave those games with wins, Love did everything within his power to carry them across the finish line. His performance looks even more impressive when considering that Aaron Jones, Christian Watson, Jayden Reed, and Dontayvion Wicks missed part or all of that stretch and the defense provided effectively no support.
The once reasonable doubts about Love's status as a franchise quarterback have faded. While the Packers don't yet know exactly how good the 2020 first-round pick will eventually become, they've seen enough to know that they found their guy.
In most cases with an ascending QB eligible for a new deal, the team in question would start working toward a long-term agreement. However, due to the unusual circumstances surrounding Love, an extension might not materialize so easily.