With Super Bowl in rearview mirror, Packers nearing biggest moment since 2008
Super Bowl LVII has come and gone. Perhaps as early as this week, the Packers will learn whether Aaron Rodgers will retire, return for a 19th season in Green Bay, or ask for a trade.
Last night, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles to win Super Bowl LVII. The game featured a gutsy performance from Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes who battled through an aggravation of a high-ankle sprain to deliver a three-touchdown performance, earning him game MVP honors.
Now, with the 2022 season now officially in the books, all 32 teams can turn their attention to the offseason and the major decisions it will bring, and no franchise faces a bigger potential inflection point than the Green Bay Packers. The decision their four-time MVP quarterback makes regarding his future will create ripple effects across the NFL on par with Brett Favre's infamous retirement-turned-unretirement in 2008.
Today's edition of The Leap tries to take stock of the Super Bowl from the Packers' perspective and tries to read the tea leaves regarding more than just QB1.
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From the Packers' perspective, what was the biggest takeaway from Super Bowl LVII?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: The Super Bowl provides many lessons. From the Packers' perspective, the game further underscored the mistake they made in not finding a way to land superstar wideout A.J. Brown this past April.
Following the Davante Adams trade, Green Bay needed a new fulcrum for the passing game. Wide receivers of that caliber rarely become available, but the Tennesee Titans signaled more than a little hesitancy about committing long term to Brown. That seemed odd at the time given his résumé through three seasons, but not strange enough to scare off potential suitors.
Flush with extra draft capital, the Packers had more than enough ammunition to beat the price the Eagles paid for Brown's services: the No. 18 overall selection and a late third-round pick. However, Philly proved the more aggressive team, landing the soon-to-be second-team All-Pro instead. That proved to be a sliding-doors moment for both franchises, with one riding Brown to the Super Bowl and the other struggling to find any rhythm in the passing game until November.
In the direct aftermath of the trade, a narrative formed suggesting that the Titans only engaged with the Eagles for Brown, but this misses the point. Personnel departments reach out to other clubs over players far less obviously available than Brown. The Packers, in desperate need of a field-tilting receiver, faced absolutely no impediment in making a deal for one here.
And the criticism doesn't just seem justified after Brown delivered his latest stellar performance. The night of the trade, The Leap laid out the blunder in detail. Even the contract Brown signed as part of the move wouldn't have blown up the Packers' cap situation as it included highly affordable figures for 2022 and '23. Green Bay could have and should have done this deal but didn't.
Because the Packers didn't land Brown, they went on to select Christian Watson instead the following day. Watson, after a slow start to his rookie year, came on like gangbusters. Though he still has significant strides to make as a receiver, he looks like a strong bet to eventually establish himself as a true field-tilter.
But what Watson might develop into down the line and what Brown actually provides now remain far apart. With Brown, the Packers almost certainly avoid some of their offensive shortcomings early in the season, and that lone would have flipped enough games to earn a playoff berth. And at 25, he has almost as much runway ahead of him as Watson, who turns 24 less than three months from now.
Ultimately, the Packers acquired a good wide receiver last year with the potential to become a great one. But they could have instead landed a superstar, one capable of making incredible plays on the largest possible stage.
And that remains a missed opportunity for Green Bay.
Peter Bukowski: Even when you do everything right, it can still go wrong. Jason will never let the A.J. Brown non-trade go (and that’s fine), but the Eagles did the thing! They did what he’s insisting the Packers should have done even if the “could,” part remains very much a mystery.
Philadelphia loaded the defense with short-term cost veterans like C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Javon Hargrave, Ndamukong Suh, and others. They brought in Vic Fangio to consult and even paid him extra to help them game plan for the Super Bowl when he was taking a job elsewhere as a full-time defensive coordinator.
And they still lost.
More than half a dozen key contributors on defense hit free agency this spring for Philly. Two of their five starters along the offensive line will need new deals and Jalen Hurts enters the final year of his rookie wage contract. Sure, they can be good for a long time after this, but this was their best window. They came painfully close and still came up short.
This is not to absolve the Packers for not making the Brown trade or failing to entice Odell Beckham Jr. in 2021 but rather to point out that merely having the best season or the most complete roster assures a team nothing in the NFL.
Green Bay can say it did (nearly) everything right in both 2020 and 2021 to win a Super Bowl and, like the Eagles, came up short.
As Aaron Rodgers once said of losing to the Buccaneers in the regular season: shit happens.
What do you make of Sunday's report from NFL.com about the Packers' willingness to deal Aaron Rodgers if he requests a trade?
JBH: I don't find much compelling in the report that hadn't already surfaced before in one form or another. While the framing of the Aaron Rodgers situation has changed since the end of the regular season, the actual information hasn't to this point. Rodgers still holds the keys, and he will ultimately determine if and where he plays in 2023. Until he provides the Packers with his intentions for the future, nothing has really changed.
The report includes a line that will probably generate some consternation but probably won't make a significant difference:
"Sources say other teams have already inquired about Rodgers, and the answer from Green Bay has been consistent: until Rodgers decides what he wants to do, it's too early for any negotiations."
That creates the impression that the Packers haven't taken the temperature of the market to figure out what Rodgers might command. However, the team already knows most of the important information. The cost for Rodgers won't go below a certain floor -- likely multiple first-round picks, perhaps with conditions tied to those coming after 2023 given his flirtations with retirement -- something the front office won't allow and will have the leverage to enforce given the number of suitors.
That is, of course, if Rodgers asks for a trade. Otherwise, none of this matters.
PB: Duh and/or no kidding. It’s not a surprise to hear the Packers are willing to trade Rodgers when Adam Schefter reported weeks ago he expected Green Bay not only to listen to offers but actively seek them.
But the war for the narrative isn’t that interesting to me. What is interesting is what this says about Green Bay. Nothing in these reports undercut what Schefter and others have said about the team’s willingness to move on in previous analyses of the situation. But if this new report is to be believed, the Packers haven’t engaged in any meaningful way to talk about what they could actually get for Rodgers.
This is troubling and suggests they’re serious about waiting for their quarterback to make a decision before moving forward. It suggests they’re happy to let him continue to control the franchise by the scruff of its neck. The wise thing to do would be to at least gauge the market to see what Rodgers might be worth before deciding, “Yep, if Rodgers is back, we’re all set.”
If the Jets wants to get crazy and off three first-round picks, wouldn’t that change the team’s thinking? Presumably, it would. Certainly, it would be logical. And maybe if that were the situation, Green Bay would know it and this would all be moot, but the framing of this suggests the Packers are content to let Rodgers decide. Not them. Not the market.
How can that inspire confidence in the team’s plan for what comes next?
Plenty of Packers went through Super Bowl radio row this past week. What, if anything, did you learn from those conversations?
PB: Jordan Love has plenty of support on this team. Aaron Jones and Christian Watson mentioned their support for Love. In fact, when asked about the quarterback situation in our episode of Locked on Packers, Watson brought up Love first in his answer.
Maybe it’s nothing or maybe it’s something. Jones’ praise for Love drew eyeball emojis from Packers fans as well, though the crew of the debate show in question asked specifically about Love and we wouldn’t expect him to trash the guy.
Still, it’s an important tonal shift from how players and coaches talked about Love before the 2021 season when it was a lot of “we’ll see.” Even Matt LaFleur admitted outright they didn’t know what they had in Love.
It’s fair to say that’s changed, and it’s not just a media narrative driven by a few nice throws against the Eagles. It’s also fair to say those same players would be thrilled to have another shot with Aaron Rodgers. For whatever misgivings anyone might have about him, it’s hard to argue anyone but him gives this team the best chance to win games in 2023.
PB: Matt Nagy left the Bears and immediately won the Super Bowl. Makes you think.
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