Schrödinger's Quarterback: the unknown and upside of Jordan Love
If Aaron Rodgers elects to continue his NFL career outside of Green Bay, the Packers will turn the franchise over to a quarterback that, after three years, remains an unknown.
Over two weeks have passed since Aaron Rodgers emerged from his underground meditation retreat, but the Green Bay Packers remain in the darkness. Until the four-time MVP quarterback informs the team whether he plans to retire, continue playing in Green Bay, or pursue a trade, the franchise remains in stasis, unable to formally commit to a direction for 2023 and beyond.
But make no mistake, Rodgers has pushed the process to the brink. Less than a year removed from declaring he would "definitely" finish his career with the Packers after signing a record-setting contract, he has fully embraced exploring his options and considering futures in other uniforms. A cabal of New York Jets brass -- a group that included head coach Robert Saleh, general manager Joe Douglas, and team owner Woody Johnson -- met with Rodgers in California on Tuesday. This marked the second time Rodgers spoke with the Jets about potentially engineering a trade to the Big Apple.
With the Jets meeting barely in the rearview mirror, speculation abounds as to what path Rodgers will take and how soon he will arrive at that decision. The future Hall of Famer could still elect to retire after everything that has transpired. He could also opt to stay with the Packers regardless of the organization's preferences. And, in addition to New York, other franchises could make a push for his services at the 11th hour. All options remain on the table.
However, if the mounting reports connecting Rodgers and the Jets serve as any indication, the Packers will soon ship off their longtime signal-caller. A trade would entail Rodgers again following in the footsteps of predecessor Brett Favre who likewise saw his Green Bay tenure end with a trade to New York, albeit under far dissimilar circumstances and for different compensation. History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Should Rodgers ultimately choose to leave, whether to join another franchise or head off into retirement, a new era will dawn in Green Bay. For the first time in 15 years, the Packers will feature a new starter under center. Jordan Love, the quarterback the team drafted in the first round three years ago in a move that shocked the NFL world, would find himself in the unenviable position of following a legend.
But while momentum has steadily built toward such an outcome, Love remains largely an unknown. The Packers have all but pinned their future to Love yet have barely seen him play in meaningful games. Not since Rodgers took the reins from Favre has a franchise attempted such a controversial, willing move away from a future Hall of Fame signal-caller. Even the Indianapolis Colts' transition from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck failed to reach this level of risk. The maneuver could mark the beginning of the end of Green Bay's leadership or pave the way for another extended run of title contention.
Those stakes will loom over the Packers as they navigate the most pivotal moment the franchise has seen in over a decade.
The notion that Love has demonstrated the ability to take command of the Packers offense has served as the backdrop of every conversation surrounding Rodgers this offseason. That assumption didn't just materialize out of the ether. The man who put his job on the line by drafting Love has said as much.
"We really liked the development of where Jordan is," Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said during his season-closing press conference. "I think he's ready to play."
After spending his entire rookie year inactive on game days as the third quarterback on the depth chart, Love stepped into the backup role the following season. Still, he saw limited action as Rodgers started nearly every game en route to his fourth career MVP award. Love made a spot start against the Kansas City Chiefs while Rodgers recovered from a bout with COVID, but did little to suggest a changing of the guard might transpire in the near future.