As you all know by now, Packers starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and will be out this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
When Matt LaFleur was asked if he thought Jordan Love was ready to start on Sunday, coach responded, “Well, we’ll find out, right?”.
Which is a fair response when you consider the last time Jordan Love started a meaningful game (preseason excluded) was back on December 20, 2019 for Utah State.
From a pure football perspective, there is a silver lining to all of this occurring. The Packers have a comfortable lead in the NFC North (already having more wins than the rest of the division combined), but they also get a chance to evaluate Love’s future with the team in a real game, without the reasoning being a major injury that causes Rodgers to miss significant time jeopardizing the present “all-in” season at hand.
Packers have had a plan for Jordan Love in place since draft day
When the Packers traded up in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft to select Jordan Love at pick 26, the writing was on the wall. This was to be a succession plan similar to the one previously laid out that helped transition the Packers from Brett Favre as their quarterback, into the Aaron Rodgers era.
The plan has always been to develop and evaluate Jordan Love with the intention of having him replace Aaron Rodgers in 2022, if you don’t believe me – just follow the money. Thus, giving the franchise two full years to determine if the high-upside prospect was worth the financial commitment that follows said decision (fifth-year option).
The Packers are well aware that the most cost-effective formula of winning comes with having a quarterback on a rookie deal, thus allowing you to spend freely at other positions.
Packers evaluation opportunities have been few and far in-between
Thus far, the Packers’ opportunities to evaluate the high-upside Utah State product have been scarce.
Due to COVID-19, the 2020 season was anything but normal. Love didn’t get the luxury of rookie camp, mini-camp or even a regular training camp for that matter. Teams were regulated to shorter practice lengths, leaving even less snaps to be allocated to the rookie first-round pick. It was essentially a red-shirt season because of circumstances outside of everyone’s control.
Thankfully, his sophomore campaign brought Love a full off-season of development. He was able to get a significant amount of reps due to Rodgers’ absence, and the team’s decision to not bring back Tim Boyle.
Jordan Love was able to start two preseason games for the Packers against the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills (missing one due to an injury). This, of course, was critical for his individual development, and a welcomed site for the front office that had been starved of opportunities to truly evaluate the young quarterback.
Love completed 24 of 35 passes for 271 yards, one touchdown and one interception in two games – registering a (89.1) passer rating.
What if Jordan Love does in 2021 what Aaron Rodgers did in 2007?
It’s hard not to view Jordan Love’s opportunity against Kansas City as at least somewhat similar to Aaron Rodgers’ opportunity that presented itself against Dallas back in 2007.
I understand that Rodgers’ first real playing time was as a result of an in-game injury to Brett Favre, but the point is the same. Rodgers was thrust into action, and nearly led the Packers to victory, but showed significant promise as the quarterback of the future and instilled confidence in the front office. Rodgers would then go on to take over as starter in 2008 and the rest is history.
As we know, history has a way of repeating itself. It’s hard not to at least acknowledge that this is an important audition for Love that could play a role in the off-season decision making. Should Love come out and play well/show promise like Rodgers did, the Packers will assuredly feel better about Love as the long-term future of the quarterback position – almost regardless of what Rodgers’ intentions are beyond this season.
At the worst, this opportunity for Jordan Love gives him more in-game experience, and the Packers a long look at their potential heir apparent. The outcome of this game is less important than the product, because his individual performance could have a significant long-term impact on this franchise.