Aaron Rodgers didn’t look like himself during the Packers’ Week 1 loss to the Saints. He performed so poorly that even one of Rodgers’ old teammates argued that Green Bay may have to replace him this season.
Jermichael Finley, who played six years with Rodgers and won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2011, recently explained that Rodgers’ tumultuous offseason could have had an impact on his on-field performance.
“Aaron Rodgers looks tired,” Finley said. “If you had the hoopla offseason like Aaron Rodgers had this offseason — I bet the guy is tired. I bet the guy probably don’t want to play football anymore.”
So, what would Finley recommend if Rodgers can’t right the ship? He would give Jordan Love a chance to prove himself.
“If you don’t see it [with Rodgers], let’s go to Love,” Finley said.
The Packers selected Love with the 26th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They traded up to get him, so clearly, they view him as the quarterback of the future.
In the unlikely event that Rodgers’ struggles continue, the team could give Love a chance to prove himself worthy of starting. If he can’t, then the Packers can go back to the drawing board at the NFL’s most important position.
When could a move to Love be made? When looking at the Packers’ schedule, there’s only a few of logical spots for the unproven passer to step in.
Week 5 at Bengals
Finley believes that Rodgers deserves at least the first four weeks of the season to bounce back. However, if the first quarter of the schedule passes and Rodgers still doesn’t look right, he would be OK with making the switch to Love, who is the ninth-highest-paid backup quarterback in the NFL, per OverTheCap.com.
“You’ve got one of the highest-paid backup quarterbacks sitting right behind Aaron Rodgers, so you might as well utilize him and get him going for the future,” Finley said.
The schedule actually would line up perfectly for a potential switch in Week 5. The easiest left game on the Packers’ schedule is, arguably, their Week 5 tilt with the Bengals.
Cincinnati’s defense is better than it’s been in previous years and just helped to severely limit Justin Fields in a half of action for the Bears rookie. Still, they allowed over 351 yards of offense to the Vikings’ potent passing attack, so the Packers could follow suit and find success in that realm.
Love would at least have a fighting chance if inserted at this point during the schedule. The rest of the matchups surrounding it are difficult.
NFL POWER RANKINGS: New team climbs to No. 2 spot
Week 9 at Chiefs
This is not an ideal spot to insert Love into the lineup. So, why is it listed? It’s the week after the NFL’s trade deadline passes.
If the Packers continue to struggle and fall behind in the NFC North race, they could look to trade Rodgers to a contender in-season. They may prefer to move him during the offseason, but perhaps the right offer will come along from a quarterback-needy team.
If that happens, Love could be asked to step in as early as Week 9. He would have to start for the first time on the road in hostile Arrowhead Stadium against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. That’s not exactly a fair fight, but it’s something that at least could happen.
That said, this seems highly unlikely. It is tough to trade players in-season in the NFL as it is. Orchestrating a deal involving a franchise quarterback would probably prove too difficult.
Week 14 vs. Bears
Starting Love at any point from Weeks 6-12 seems less than ideal. The Packers face a gauntlet during that time, including road games against the Bears, Cardinals, Chiefs and Vikings as well as home games versus the Washington Football Team, Seahawks and Rams.
Most of those teams have strong defenses. The lone exceptions, the Chiefs and Vikings, would be tough road games.
That said, inserting Love into the lineup in Week 14 could work better. The Bears are poised to be a solid defense, but the Packers have a Week 13 bye that would allow Love extra time to prepare for his start. Plus, this game is at Lambeau Field, so that could prove to be an easier feat than starting on the road against a divisional foe.
Week 14 would also give the Packers a better chance to fully evaluate Rodgers’ performance compared to that of Love. If they’re still in the playoff race and Rodgers is playing well, they can roll with him. If they are out of the race or if the Packers aren’t playing well, Love can get a chance to develop on the field or catalyze the Packers.
PACKERS VS. LIONS: Odds, prediction for MNF
Sometime in 2022
This remains the far more likely option for the Packers. Rodgers had one bad game against the Saints to kickstart the season. Maybe that will kickstart a trend, but more likely than not, the future Hall of Famer will find a way to straighten things out.
As such, Rodgers seems likely to finish the season as the Packers’ starter. He will continue his “Last Dance” type season as he looks to take the Packers to a third consecutive NFC Championship Game. After that, it’s anyone’s guess, as Rodgers’ contract with the Packers won’t void until 2023.
Meanwhile, Love will keep waiting in the wings for his opportunity. He will be ready for it when it comes, but there’s no guarantee that will be during the 2021 NFL season.