Packers: Grading Jordan Love’s first NFL start vs. Chiefs

Green Bay Packers, Jordan Love - Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers, Jordan Love - Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

Former first-round pick Jordan Love made his first NFL start for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, and to put it simply, it didn’t go the way anyone had hoped.

Ultimately, the Packers would end their seven-game winning streak with an ugly 13-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Fans should have first known the Packers were in trouble when we saw where Love’s mother was seated (about 15 feet from the moon), but I digress.

In Green Bay, the measure of quarterback success has been set by Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers – two of the best to ever play the position. And by those standards, 23-year-old Jordan Love faced a near impossible task from the start – he was never going to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing was the fact that everything outside of Love’s control (aside from the defense) went wrong. His offensive line didn’t do him any favors, Matt LaFleur didn’t make the necessary adjustments to combat the pressure, and special teams were absolutely horrific.

Now, to the heir apparent, Jordan Love – who finished with a final stat line of: 19-34 passing, 190 yards, (one touchdown/one interception) and a 69.5 passer rating. Not great, but not terrible.

A Jordan Love-led offense was able to out-gain Kansas City in total yards, passing yards, and yards per play. That’s not to say the offense looked great, because it didn’t, just pointing out a fact.

What stood out the most, however, was Love’s inability to overcome the Chiefs’ pass rush.

In short, Kansas City brought various blitz packages all night long – because it worked. Love just wasn’t playing fast enough to beat the blitz. But to place the blame solely on the quarterback would be unfair, because the offensive line play was atrocious much of the night (pass protection in particular).

Matt LaFleur took a lot of the blame for Love’s performance against Kansas City’s blitz. “If you call long developing plays, and you can’t protect, you can’t throw from your back,” LaFleur said postgame. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, it’s always good to see your head coach have his player’s back come post-game.

The Packers’ run game had been effective all night (4.8 YPC) on 25 attempts, so the decision to play Love out of the shotgun was a bit puzzling. Love played 10 snaps out of shotgun, and 13 under center. It’s fair to wonder if more opportunities under center could have given Love some easier throws out of play-action sets, but it doesn’t pay to think much about “what-if’s”.

Truth of the matter is, most quarterbacks would have struggled under those circumstances. Even the best of the best. So, to evaluate a young quarterback based on his inability to handle constant pressure wouldn’t be fair, because most quarterbacks are terrible under pressure. The only way you can truly evaluate a quarterback’s performance would be evaluating what they accomplished from a clean pocket – which Love performed admirably from.

Love had some happy feet under pressure, and was a bit bouncy when waiting for plays to develop, which led to some inaccuracy early. His inaccuracy was one of the bigger knocks on the Utah State product when he declared, so it’s certainly something to monitor moving forward.

However, when he set his feet and threw coming out of his drop, he delivered a good ball, on time, and to the right read. A lot of the issue appeared to be trusting what he saw and not overthinking it.

Love utilized his athleticism multiple times to avoid sacks and keep plays alive, which was encouraging. In a perfect world you’d love to see your quarterback beat the pass rush with his arm, but being able to run when necessary is a good Plan B. His overall feel of the pass rush was hit or miss throughout the night, but he kept his eyes up and remained calm regardless.

The team’s top offensive weapon, Davante Adams, and Love had no real on-field chemistry on Sunday. Which makes perfect sense considering they’ve hardly ever played or practiced together in the last two years.

In 2020, there were no OTAs, preseason, or almost any ability for third-string quarterbacks to receive practice reps due to Covid-19 regulations. In 2021, Adams was not present for OTAs, didn’t play in the preseason, doesn’t practice with the twos in-season, and wasn’t available to practice with Love for this week’s game until Friday. Ultimately, it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances that led to the two having little time to practice together.

One of the most positive takeaways from the game was Love’s even demeanor throughout the entirety of the game. Despite myriad reasons to be frustrated, Love always appeared calm and unfazed. He continued to keep his eyes on the play, scanning the field despite the constant pass rush. This may be a small observation, but it’s worth noting that the young quarterback showed poise and proved the moment wasn’t too big for him.

Don’t forget, 12 didn’t light the league on fire from day one

There was a point in time where Packers fans had a similar opinion of Aaron Rodgers as he sat behind Hall-of-Fame quarterback Brett Favre. And it’s worth mentioning that Rodgers took time to grow into the superstar he is today.

Back in 2008, Rodgers posted a stat line of: 18-22 passing, 178 yards, (one touchdown/zero interceptions), and a 115.5 passer rating in his first career start.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Packers went just 6-10 in Rodgers’ first season as a starter – which was his fourth year in the NFL.

The point I’m trying to make is simply to have patience. Things take time, and players learn from their mistakes. Love deserves our support and to be granted the same kind of patience and grace that Rodgers was awarded. Also, as a fan of the Packers – why wouldn’t you want to see your team’s quarterback succeed?

Conclusion on Jordan Love’s first NFL start

No matter which way you slice it, Love’s performance on Sunday wasn’t good enough. Many on-field factors worked against him (special teams, game-plan, interior offensive line play), but he wasn’t able to overcome them in the end. Love’s accuracy was poor, and his footwork was choppy at times (I’ll cut him some slack because he was under constant duress), and despite all that the Packers still had a chance to win this game.

There were moments where Love looked awful, and there were moments where he looked like an NFL starting quarterback. Most young quarterbacks in the NFL simply aren’t very good – they take time to grow and develop. Love appeared to make the correct reads and throw to who he was supposed to, he just didn’t always deliver a good enough ball.

If this is the only extended look the Packers get at Love this season, I don’t think we got a chance to see what he is truly capable of. By the time he was able to get into a rhythm and set his feet to make throws, it was too late.

This was undoubtedly a great learning experience for the young quarterback, and one that he’s going to grow from. Love started the game off rough, but showed composure and got better as the game wore on.

I know people are going to say Love isn’t ready to be a starter just yet, but I would disagree. Most of the things Love needs to work to improve on are things that can only be sorted out on the field in a game situation. There is no shortage of god-given talent in the Utah State product, he’s just waiting on his opportunity to take the reins, whenever that may be.

The best advice I could give you would be don’t dismiss Love based on one game, and don’t put too much value into what you saw on Sunday either. If you were somehow able to draw a definitive conclusion on what Love is going to be based on just one NFL start, then you already had your mind made up before the game took place.

Grade: C-

Packers mid-season superlatives. dark. Next