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PHOENIX — You know the Aaron Rodgers story has hit critical mass when paparazzo pictures of the future New York Jets quarterback drinking coffee are purchased by the New York Post and it turns out to be a good investment because the “story” becomes the second-most clicked item in the newspaper’s sports section.
You know the Rodgers drama is a national thing when Packers coach Matt LaFleur, surrounded by local and national reporters at his breakfast interview session Tuesday, was asked a question about the team’s long snapper competition.
And LaFleur, surprised and perhaps relieved the Rodgers peppering took a break, thanked the reporter asking the question.
But amid all the sideshow stuff about a trade that absolutely, positively, will happen for a couple of second-round picks, there’s this serious question to ask about the Green Bay Packers:
No Denying Packers Are Not Upgrading
Are they going to improve by trading Aaron Rodgers?
Is the move to Jordan Love an upgrade?
The answer is no and, while it hurts to admit, LeFleur did exactly that.
“I mean, certainly, I think we’re fooling ourselves if we think he’s going to go out there and perform at a level of the likes of Aaron Rodgers,” LaFleur said. “This guy (Rodgers) is a once-in-a-lifetime generational talent.
“I don’t think it started that way when he first started, but he progressed. So, you know, it’s going to be a progression. And hopefully we can surround him with enough people to help him perform at the level of his ability. And we have to do a great job as a coaching staff.”
This is interesting because the offseason is typically when teams try to get better. The point of free agency, the draft, and making trades is to get better.
But in their most gargantuan move of this offseason the Packers admit they’re actually doing the opposite.
Packers And Others Have Done This Before
Yes, there are tangential reasons for that not involving just on-field performance. But the decision to move on comes with uncertainty. And danger of failure.
The New England Patriots thought they would be fine without Tom Brady when he left (and they allowed him to go) but have not been the same since.
The Miami Dolphins once upon a time got rid of Dan Marino and they haven’t found a comparable replacement 23 years later.
Even the Packers understand moving on from a “generational” quarterback will be painful if the young guy taking over isn’t immediately “generational” in his own right.
It’s because Green Bay had a 13-3 record in 2007 when Brett Favre played his final season there. And then the club sunk to 6-10 in 2008 with Rodgers starting for the first time.
So, unless and until Love becomes great, the decision to move on from Rodgers should be portrayed as a step backward.
Jordan Love Could Be Great But Not Yet
“Listen, I’m going to throw it out there right away,” LaFleur said. “I’ve got nothing but love and appreciation for what Aaron has done for so many in our organization. And obviously we’ve experienced so many great times together. Won a lot of football games together. Ultimately, we didn’t bring home a Super Bowl, which is disappointing.
“But he’s done so much for myself, my family, our coaches’ families, so many people in the organization, other players. A lot of people have been rewarded, quite frankly, by his ability to go out there and play and play at such a high level. I’m just going to kind of leave it at that.”
LaFleur can leave his thoughts on Rodgers at that. But the Packers now have to hope (pray?) Love grows from a development quarterback to something much, much better.
There’s confidence within the organization he can do that. But there is no certainty.
That’s what Green Bay is trading away in Rodgers: The certainty their quarterback is very good.
“At the same time we’re excited about Jordan and how he’s been able to progress as a quarterback,” LaFleur insisted. “How he’s matured as a man. And, you know, it’s going to be different world for him, obviously. And we’re all going to have to temper our expectations for him.
“It’s different when you’re going into a game versus when you’re starting a game. But it’s going to be a process. It’s going to be exciting for him and for us.”