When general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur traded up to draft quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the NFL Draft, they sent a message to 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers that his playing days in Green Bay were probably limited.
But one Packers beat writer, who has covered the team for almost four decades. has an eyebrow-raising theory that something more perhaps malicious is brewing behind-the-scenes.
“Public niceties aside, my sense is LaFleur, fresh from a terrific 13-3 baptismal season, simply had enough of [Aaron] Rodgers’ act and wanted to change the narrative,” Bob McGinn of The Athletic wrote in an analysis of the team’s draft on Tuesday. “With a first-round talent on the roster, the Packers would gain leverage with their imperial quarterback and his passive-aggressive style.”
The article implies that Gutekunst and LaFleur intend to show their eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback that he isn’t untouchable and that having competition on the roster would temper any outbursts from Rodgers.
According to the article, Rodgers’ “passive-aggressive style” has caused issues in the past and was likely a contributing factor to Mike McCarthy’s firing a year ago.
“If the Packers do indeed want to become a running team next season, they surely wouldn’t want Rodgers rocking the boat and becoming even more difficult to coach,” McGinn said.
Though Rodgers has not outwardly had serious issues with his coach or GM, Gutekunst’s controversial draft probably did not curry any favors his signal-caller. In addition to swinging for the fences for 21-year-old Love, the Packers failed to add any weapons for Rodgers in what was widely considered to be a stacked receiver class.
“The Packers’ infatuation with Love didn’t mesh with what his value seemed to be around the league,” McGinn wrote.
“If I were Aaron Rodgers, I would be really mad,” NBC’s Chris Collinsworth said on NBC Sports’ “Lunch Talk Live” on Monday. “Instead of getting additional help at wide receiver, at offensive line… they go out and draft for the future.”
The Packers’ best-case scenario is for Rodgers to play out his contract until 2022 when the team has an out, during which time he can cultivate Love from a fledgling raw talent to a franchise quarterback.
A less rosy scenario — and one is strikingly familiar to past events — is that Rodgers cannot face the “ghost of Christmas future,” and he becomes uncooperative. Rodgers played behind Brett Favre after he was drafted in 2005, but Favre never really mentored his junior and the ordeal resulted in an ugly fallout with the team.
Some have speculated that Rodgers could demand a trade if the situation became untenable, but any trade — at least within the first two years of Love’s time in Green Bay — seems unlikely with the structure of his contract. He carries a 2020 dead cap hit of $51.15 million, which drops to $31.56 million in 2021, then $17.2 million in 2022 and $2.85 million in 2023, according to Over The Cap.
“It’ll work for the general manager and the coach only if Love can play,” McGinn added. “If he can’t, and at best the Packers might have a 50-50 shot of success with their bold stroke, Gutekunst and LaFleur ultimately might be gone. It’s just the way it works with franchise-turning decisions and first-round quarterbacks.”
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