The end of the Aaron Rodgers era — whenever it becomes official — will also serve as the start of the Jordan Love era.
In fact, it’s already begun. While there may be a slightly melancholy air surrounding the situation at the moment, Green Bay’s leadership is also making it very clear it is revved up for what’s to come, even if the results might not be instantaneous.
“(Rodgers’ impending trade) is what it is, and at the same time, we’re excited about Jordan and how he’s been able to progress as a quarterback, how he’s matured as a man,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Tuesday at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix. “It’s going to be a different role for him, certainly, and I think we all have to kind of temper our expectations for him. It’s different when you’re going into a game versus when you’re starting a game. It’s going to be a process, but it’s gonna be exciting for him, for us.
“I don’t think any quarterback can truly do it on their own in this league. So it’s going to be everybody rallying around him and trying to be at the best of their ability so that he can go out there and perform as good as he possibly can.”
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That will be the key for Green Bay: Rallying around Love, a quarterback who simply hasn’t seen significant playing time since he entered the NFL in 2020. That’s the downside of joining a team featuring Rodgers on the roster, but after two offseasons spent wondering whether Rodgers would walk away, the Packers finally have their answer — and a replacement ready to take over.
Credit is due to Love, who has been a consummate professional in the public eye. It can’t be easy to linger behind a franchise legend while wondering if your time will ever come.
“I think he just wanted to know what was going on,” LaFleur said of Love. “For a long period of time, I couldn’t tell him because I didn’t quite know where it was headed. I think there’s obviously some clarity to it, but nothing’s final yet.”
Nothing is final because, despite making it very clear he wants to be traded to the New York Jets, Rodgers remains on Green Bay’s roster. The job is general manager Brian Gutekunst’s to strike a deal with Jets GM Joe Douglas, which we can all expect will happen eventually, but cannot predict a time or date.
LaFleur is in the same position as the rest of the football world, waiting to learn what his team will receive in return for Rodgers.
“That’s all between Joe and Gutey,” LaFleur said. “I’m gonna leave that one to them. We’ll coach whoever’s on our roster. We’ll coach them to the best of our ability and always gonna put the best players out there that are gonna give us an opportunity to win football games.”
For much of the last two decades, Packers fans have enjoyed existing in the coveted tier of NFL teams whose supporters expect them to contend on an annual basis. This transition doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll drop out of that tier, but at this point, it’s not nearly as close to guaranteed.
They also might not be that far off, according to LaFleur.
“He’s come a long way, quite frankly,” LaFleur said of Love. “I know there were some times where early on, it’s just, you don’t know. I still think you have to go out there and you gotta do it consistently. It’s one thing to do it in practice. It’s another thing to take it to the game field and do it. But certainly have seen his performance in practice, his mechanics, his decisions, his timing within the pass game and just his accuracy. … I think he’s come a long way.”
Green Bay’s offense will look different at more than just quarterback. A receiving corps that has been slowly transitioning toward becoming a younger group in recent years has also watched Allen Lazard leave for New York, putting more responsibility on the shoulders of second-year wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.
An optimist would suggest a new youth movement is exactly what the Packers need. With Rodgers soon headed elsewhere and the book closed on his time in Green Bay, there’s no looking back.
“I think it’s gonna be a work in progress, quite frankly,” LaFleur said of his offense with Love at the controls. “We’re gonna have to be very intentional about what we ask him to do, about what we ask our guys to go.
“Obviously, there’s gonna be a lot of new pieces. When you lose guys like Allen Lazard and Robert Tonyan, you’ve got to find people to supplement those roles. I think our whole offense, we’ll have a little more clarity once we get through the draft and who’s going to be on our roster. Certainly, I think we’re a long way from the start of the season and who exactly is going to be out there, the 11 that’ll be out there. But it’s going to be a fun process for all of us.”
Watson and Doubs will have the benefit of having already worked out the rookie-year kinks. The Packers will hope Love has already skipped that level and is ready to roll in 2023.
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