As NFL trade deadline looms, 'exposed' Packers are in a no-win situation with Aaron Rodgers

As we all suspected, facing a loaded Buffalo Bills team on the road was not the best thing for the Green Bay Packers. But Aaron Rodgers was right about everything else he said last week: Nobody gave the Packers a chance, and they ultimately got exposed 27-17 on Sunday night.

In a game that never felt in reach for Green Bay, there’s not really a win anywhere to be found for Rodgers. Not on the field. Not mentally. And not even in silver linings about utilizing the running game, which seems to be out of necessity rather than balance. For Green Bay, finding the cracks in the roster — and with Rodgers specifically — should be seen as nothing but a net negative.

Maybe that’s what the quarterback had in mind all along.

Oct 30, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) changes the play at the line against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Rodgers changes the play at the line against the Buffalo Bills. (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)

Let’s rewind for a moment and consider whether Rodgers might have been serving up one of his “you figure it out” word salads after last week’s 23-21 loss to the Washington Commanders. NFL fans are familiar with some of these guessing games, where Rodgers says something into a microphone and the rest of the world eventually learns that it had more layers than face value.

“My future is a beautiful mystery,” eventually translated into “pay me or trade me.”

“Yeah, I’ve been immunized,” was decoded as, well, we don’t need to get into that again.

Let’s ponder last week, when Rodgers said: “I’m not worried about this squad. In fact, this might be the best thing for us this week. You know, nobody’s going to give us a chance going to Buffalo on 'Sunday Night Football,' a chance to get exposed. Shoot, it might be the best thing for us.”

What if that moment wasn’t a flippant or defiant statement about people doubting the Packers? What if Rodgers was being literal? What if Rodgers was actually saying, “I keep telling the coaches and front office what’s wrong. Maybe if we go into Buffalo and get exposed, they will see this team isn’t good enough as it’s currently constructed and being schemed.”

Reflecting on Sunday’s seemingly inevitable loss to the Bills, it doesn’t feel like a stretch that Rodgers was being more pointed than defiant when he talked about the game being the “best thing” for the Packers. Because no legitimate Super Bowl contender is losing to the Commanders this season. Green Bay did. Rodgers was likely just doing the math. If people couldn’t catch up to it, perhaps the Bills would help with the learning curve.

So maybe we ended up seeing the “best thing” that Rodgers was talking about on Sunday night. Even the most optimistic Packers fan had to recognize that Buffalo is on another plateau in the league right now. It's a level that seems like a stretch for Green Bay to achieve with this roster and Rodgers playing less-than-perfect football. Davante Adams isn’t walking back through that door and it’s showing, especially at the quarterback spot.

We can blame the struggles on that. We can blame it on coaching or discipline. We can even blame it on Rodgers or a combination of everything, but in the end it’s a simple reality. This is a franchise in regression when compared to the past few years. And you could see it in a game that was dominated by the Bills, even when the defense suddenly went to sleep in the second half. The talent and execution divide was significant and obvious. And as has been the case for most of the season, it can be seen all over the place on the Packers' roster. This is a 3-5 team not because it hasn’t caught a few breaks. It’s a 3-5 team, losers of four straight, because it’s infected with mediocrity. And that very much includes Rodgers.

All of which brings us to the sticky spot Green Bay is suddenly in. The trade deadline is Tuesday. This doesn’t look like a team that is going to suddenly get itself turned around by adding a player or two. With all due respect to Allen Lazard and Romeo Doubs, another receiver like Brandin Cooks would be great. Then again, so would a run-stopping defensive tackle, an edge rusher, some offensive tackle depth and a tight end that opposing teams have to worry about.

We could go on, but that list should showcase the problem. This isn’t a one player fix. And this isn’t a front office prone to making even one trade deadline addition, let alone multiple. Even if it was, there is a strong argument that making a handful of deadline additions wouldn’t improve Green Bay to the point of being a Super Bowl contending team. That means the Packers would basically be burning trade assets for nothing.

The Packers have gotten an important measure of what they are. And right now, the simplest answer is not enough. They’re 3 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Vikings for the division lead and possibly looking at a season where they’re more likely to finish somewhere around .500 than to push for a playoff spot. Burning the team's future for what it is right now is putting a coat of paint over rust.

Everyone knows what is below that paint job. It’s not good and it’s not going away in 2022. Knowing that might not be the best thing for Rodgers. But he was right, it’s the best thing for the organization in a season that is looking more lost with each passing week.