So much for the tranquility that reigned in Green Bay during the 2019 season, when first-year coach Matt LaFleur and Rodgers led the Packers to the NFC championship game and erased the disconnect that had gotten former coach Mike McCarthy fired. The Washington Post’s Jerry Brewer pointed out that while it may take some time to know whether drafting Jordan Love 26th overall was the right move, “you already know one thing: The fun of 2019 is over. The atmosphere in Green Bay just got awkward again.”
It was a reminder that time is undefeated. Brett Favre found out firsthand when Green Bay drafted Rodgers, and now Rodgers is getting the same treatment.
“I’m very hopeful Aaron continues to play at a high level for years to come,” Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst told NBC’s Peter King. “I know a lot of people are saying this puts a clock on Aaron, but I don’t see that at all. We prioritize the quarterback position and have for a long time with this franchise. I remember one year in camp they had Brett Favre, Ty Detmer, Kurt Warner and maybe Mark Brunell. It’s one of the most important positions in sports, and if you don’t have one, you can’t win.”
Still, it’s a situation that no quarterback likes. As King noted, Rodgers “is a prickly guy at times,” and in that he isn’t alone. Favre refused to mentor Rodgers when the latter was the No. 24 pick in 2005. Ben Roethlisberger reacted icily when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph in the third round in 2018.
“I was surprised when they took a quarterback, because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know, you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” Roethlisberger said at the time. “And nothing against Mason. I think he’s a great football player. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he’s a great kid.
“I just don’t know how backing up or being the third guy — who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart? — helps us win now. But that’s not my decision to make. That’s on the coaches and the GM and owner and those kinds of things. So if they feel like he can help our team, so be it, but I was a little surprised.”
“I plan on playing for three to five more years, depending on how the line goes and staying healthy, if I can stay healthy,” he said. “If [Rudolph is] going to be their guy, that’s great, but in my perfect world it’s not going to be for a while.”
The situation was a little different in Baltimore when the Ravens traded up to take Lamar Jackson with the 32nd pick in 2018. Longtime starter Joe Flacco had the chance to hold off Jackson and could not. “It’s definitely not the most fun position in the world,” Flacco admitted. “It is what it is.”
Will Rodgers end up more like Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, who fended off Jimmy Garoppolo’s challenge with New England, or Flacco? Love is saying the right things, and in-person meetings are on hold with offseason programs suspended because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Love said Rodgers called him after he was drafted.
“You know, really good guy. Just congratulating me, and I was just letting him know that I was excited to be able to work with him,” Love said (via ESPN). “It’s a lot of things to be able to learn. I’m just going to take it step by step. Just trying to get behind him, learn everything he’s doing and understand the process.”
For now, that’s a far cry from the way Favre treated Rodgers.
“My contract doesn’t say I have to get Aaron Rodgers ready to play,” Favre famously said. “Now hopefully he watches me and gets something from that.”
The relationship between Favre and Rodgers is considerably warmer now, and Favre told ESPN Radio’s “Wilde and Tausch” in 2018 that Rodgers understood how Favre felt.
“He said: ‘I get it now. I get what you were saying, or how you carried yourself,’ ” Favre said. “There is no clause that says, ‘You groom the next guy who’s going to take your job, or else.’ It doesn’t work that way.”
LaFleur said he was confident Rodgers would mentor Love. At any rate, Rodgers is under contract through 2023, and Love faces the prospect of sitting for a few seasons, just as Rodgers did behind Favre.
“The reason … when we moved from Brett to Aaron was because of what Aaron had done his first three years here, and that’s got to happen with Jordan,” Gutekunst said. “He has to be able to do the work and he has to do that for us to make us believe that he can be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. We drafted him in the first round; we certainly think he has that kind of talent. But that’s not enough in the National Football League. You’ve got to work, you’ve got to earn it, you’ve got to become a good enough player.”
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