GREEN BAY, Wis. – As a four-time league MVP and Super Bowl champion, Aaron Rodgers’ place in NFL history is forever set in stone.
But when it comes to his future, and whether he’ll return to the Packers for a 19th season or play elsewhere, the writing isn’t quite so clear.
We’ve reached that point in the season where the football games are over and the speculation game has started with Rodgers and the Packers. Does he want to come back? Do the Packers want him back?
It’s the third year in a row that the games will enter the offseason under a cloud of uncertainty. The previous two times have come after home playoff losses, with the Packers having just one win after reaching the Super Bowl, and this year it comes after a 20-16 loss to the Lions on Sunday night at the Lambeau Field.
As Rodgers walked off the field, one arm wrapped around veteran receiver and close friend Randall Cobb, it seemed inevitable that the end could be upon us. But trying to interpret Rodgers’ body language comes with a caveat: PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Rodgers’ love for games extends beyond the football field and into the media room. He can be wary and shy around reporters, seemingly relishing the opportunity to keep them guessing. But know this: Rodgers is as precise with his words as he is with football. He thinks before he speaks, fully understanding how the weight of his words will land.
Does he already know what he wants to do? Maybe, but he said the emotions were too raw on Sunday night to think about it. His ability to land every throw is indisputable – the deep pass to Romeo Doubs along the right sideline was so fine it defied description, although Doubs failed to catch it – but Rodgers knows that there are factors beyond the physical that need to be taken into account. .
Genre: Does he feel he has something else to prove to himself? Does he want to prepare for another season? Is it time for another voice to lead the team? Does the franchise think it’s time for former first-round pick Jordan Love to take over?
“I have to step away and contemplate these things,” he said in his post-match press conference. “These are real for me. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved in this league, but I’m also realistic and I understand where we are as a team. We’re a young team, and there could be to have been a bit of a change with some of the older guys. It might be time to walk away. But, I might take a little time and say, ‘Damn, no. I gotta get back in there and do another race.'”
The real question Rodgers and the Packers have to ask themselves is whether they’re as close to being legitimate contenders as they say they are. The two made a habit of racking up the wins under coach Matt LeFleur, amassing 47 wins in four seasons, but they failed to win the most important games.
Twice the Packers have lost in the Conference Finals after 13 winning seasons despite playing at home. And last season, after another 13-win season, they lost at home in their playoff opener.
On Sunday, they faced a Detroit franchise that had lost 27 of its last 30 games at Lambeau Field, but the Packers couldn’t use the field to their advantage. They lost a fumble, threw an interception, failed to reach the end zone in a go-go situation, and were just one of two in the red zone.
Rodgers finished 17 of 27 for 205 yards. It was the first time in his starting career that he finished a season without posting a single 300-yard game. Think about it for a minute. The man who threw almost 60,000 yards, who has one of the softest deliveries you can imagine, failing to reach a threshold that seems almost below him.
Maybe he missed Davante Adams. And maybe he didn’t trust his young receivers. Perhaps he struggled psychologically with the reality that, for all his greatness, he couldn’t be the rising tide that lifted the game of those around him. It can be humiliating for someone of his stature.
He says they are “a few players” away from being credible contenders. I’m not so sure. The playoff numbers don’t lie. And if they’re not as close as they think, is it time to move on?
“To assume it’s a foregone conclusion (that the Packers want him back) would probably be slightly selfish, so I’m going to be realistic here and understand there are a lot of different parts to this,” Rodgers said. “I was aware of the possibility of them getting young if we got to a point (this season) where we were out of it. I’m also aware of that possibility (in the future).
Rodgers is guaranteed $60 million for the 2023 season. He has the power in every discussion that takes place. He knows it, the Packers know it. What neither of them know is if their 18-year marriage will continue beyond this year.
Rodgers said his decision will not be influenced by the money owed to him if he plays. “Money is energy. I’ve made a ton of it, and I’m so thankful for this organization, the generational wealth that they’ve given me,” he said. “I hope they feel like I’ve won a lot. But, yes, of course, I could definitely do without it.”
Asked about playing for another team, he neither opened nor closed the door. “I don’t like to say never,” he said, apparently hinting that it wasn’t a high probability.
If Sunday turns out to be his last game, history will show that his last assist was an interception of Lions rookie safety Kerby Joseph, who became the first player to have three picks against Rodgers in a single season, after the having intercepted twice during their previous Meeting. But will this be his last pass?
One game ends, another begins.