The Green Bay Packers unsurprisingly have an Aaron Rodgers problem.
The Packers are all but dead after Sunday night’s road loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The 4-8 Packers have to win out and get a ton of help in order to even have a shot at sniffing the postseason.
That’s obviously bad news on its own, but the quarterback situation got even more complicated Sunday night. Rodgers left the game in the third quarter with a ribs injury. At that point in the game, it wasn’t really a big deal. The Packers were losing and the Philly steamroller was running them over en route to 363 rushing yards.
Rodgers’ premature exit opened the door for backup Jordan Love. The 2020 first-round pick, channeling 2007 Rodgers in Dallas, impressed in limited action, highlighted by a 63-yard touchdown pass to Christian Watson that probably had some Green Bay fans more than ready to pass the torch to the kid and move on from Rodgers.
Here’s the problem: Rodgers, even with a broken thumb, has a pretty strong grip on said torch.
Despite the playoff long shot — the Packers have a 2% chance of making the playoffs, per ESPN Stats and Info — Rodgers made it clear he intends on playing until that number reaches zero. Depending on how more tests go, things might get awkward Monday.
As long as I check out fine (Monday), I expect to play this weekend,” Rodgers told reporters Sunday night after the game. “As long as I check out OK (Monday). I might not be able to (practice) Wednesday. As long as there’s not any major structural damage, I’ll try to get back out there.”
He eventually added: “As long as we’re mathematically alive, I’d like to be out there.”
At this point in the season, the Packers find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Rodgers runs the organization. It has been that way for a long time. The Packers further endorsed that notion in the offseason, though. A frustrated Rodgers could have held the franchise hostage, and Green Bay blinked in the form of a four-year, $200 million contract extension.
In hindsight, it looks like a horrendous decision. While Rodgers has been hampered by injury and a subpar supporting cast this season, he hasn’t looked like the two-time defending MVP at any point. Even Sunday night before the injury, the Packers offense looked at times the best it had all season, at least until Rodgers threw an interception late in the first half.
The extension puts the Packers in a potentially horrible cap situation. If they trade or release Rodgers, they’ll have an unenviable dead cap situation. Rodgers knows this, of course. He could potentially retire, but that would require him walking away from $59 million next season alone.
The decision to commit that much money and cap space to Rodgers was a tacit yet crystal-clear admission he was their only hope. If Rodgers wants to play through a cracked rib in a meaningless game next week, who exactly has the power to tell him no?
The Packers would almost be better off in the short term if the scans Monday did reveal some sort of structural damage that allowed them to shut him down for the season. Short of that, though, it’s the Rodgers show until he says otherwise.
Granted, that could be one more week. A ninth loss should be the final straw, but that sentence alone is sad enough as it is.
It’s in the Packers’ best long-term interests to see what they have in Love. It might be just as important to show the rest of the league what they have in the QB. If Rodgers is committed to playing for at least one more season in Green Bay, the writing is on the wall for Love. At the very least, the Packers could reinforce their diminished talent pool by trading Love. An extended run for Love could also be eye-opening — good or bad — as to what the Packers offense looks like with head coach Matt LaFleur calling all the shots and not the obvious give-and-take with Rodgers running the group.
Those sorts of long-term interests, however, are ones the Packers kicked down the road when they re-signed Rodgers for one last championship push.
With every passing week, that looks more and more like the wrong decision. The cruel irony is that it might ultimately cost them Love, the man they drafted to replace Rodgers.