If you want to know why the Green Bay Packers said little to nothing as Aaron Rodgers passive-aggressively , , , , intimated he might and refused to get vaccinated for COVID-19 – which put him in NFL protocol crosshairs – all you needed to do was tune into Sunday’s 13-7 loss to Kansas City.
The game also explains why Rodgers felt emboldened enough to act that way.
The Packers have no chance but to bend their knee to Rodgers. It’s either that or take a step back from Super Bowl contention.
And Rodgers knows it because while Sunday was the public’s — second-year quarterback Jordan Love — Rodgers has had a front-row seat for a year and a half to scout him.
Here’s guessing Love’s performance in K.C. wasn’t a surprise to No. 12, who was forced to miss the game after testing positive for COVID.
“Aaron talked to me before and said, ‘Just go out there and ball out,’” said Love, who finished 19 of 34 for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception. “He was excited to watch me.”
No doubt he was.
Perhaps Love will develop into a quality NFL quarterback. There's no need to classify him as a forever bust after just one start.
That said, he isn’t very good right now and he showed little Sunday to suggest he is close to being a viable starter, let alone one on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Love didn’t deliver much of a stat line, but his play was even less inspiring. While he avoided a ton of crushing mistakes, and showed plenty of resilience, he also made few plays of note.
“Really disappointed,” Love said. “Obviously you never know when the opportunity is going to come ... not being able to go win that game. ...I wasn’t able to execute. It’s very disappointing.”
There was one good second-half drive, but other than that, the offense stalled. The Packers were shut out until 5:00 remaining in the fourth, when the game was mostly decided. In the first half, he looked completely overwhelmed, especially when facing a blitz. It wasn’t until late in the second quarter that he ever threw a pass longer than 10 yards.
Just about every part of his game was shaky.
Considering he had 18 months to learn the Packers' offense and all week to prepare as the starter with Rodgers out with COVID, it was fair to expect better.
“Offensively when you score seven points, that just isn’t going to get it done,” said head coach Matt LaFleur, who heaped praise on Love afterward and placed blame for the loss on himself for not having a better game plan to help a young quarterback.
Also not a help: special teams. Still, the Chiefs' offense was a mess and the defense, per LaFleur, delivered a “championship-level performance.”
LaFleur admirably tried to spare his QB from criticism, even refusing to conclude that quarterback play was a difference. “Oh, who knows, guys,” LaFleur said.
Eh, most Packers fans know. If Rodgers is the quarterback, Green Bay almost certainly wins and moves to 8-1. Instead it is 7-2 and hoping Rodgers is back against Seattle next week.
One loss won’t crush the Packers — the NFC North is terrible — but if Love can’t beat a Kansas City team playing this poorly, then a deep playoff run seems almost impossible. And in Green Bay, it’s Super Bowl or bust. The roster is too good for it to be anything less.
That means Rodgers’ position is further strengthened. The entire concept that Green Bay traded a fourth-round draft pick to move up and select Love 26th overall in 2020, rather than adding a player who can get on the field the past season and a half and perhaps push the Packers to a title, seems even more baffling.
Rodgers opposed the move the moment it was made, starting 18 months of drama. Now that the world, let alone the Packers, have seen that the Utah State product still isn’t ready, Rodgers looks even smarter.
Why waste a first-round pick and start a feud with your franchise quarterback for a guy who still isn’t ready?
The Packers' only chance at winning much this year — or next — is with Aaron Rodgers as their starter. No matter what he does, what he says, or what vaccine he doesn’t get, the team has no other option but to try to placate him.
If you thought things were interesting before …