Aaron Rodgers Boulevard, Titletown, USA
Football is full of tough choices. Do you use a first round pick to win now under your franchise quarterback? Or, do you get your team ready for when your veteran quarterback departs by bringing in a first round college pick? It is a stark choice.
The Green Bay Packers rolled the dice and drafted Jordan Love from Utah State in the 2020 NFL Draft, indicating the clock is ticking in the Aaron Rodgers era, arguably their greatest quarterback ever. Time will tell.
To the world outside Lambeau Field, the Packers trading up for Love appeared a sensational move. But inside the Packers personnel department, and chiefly in conversations between general manager and head coach, they’ve discussed the idea for a while.
As I wrote in my draft preview last week, the Packers were on record as being very interested in Love and committed to bringing in a quarterback. It is a courageous pick for the long term health of the franchise, because, as with any quarterback pick, it will take years to gauge the success.
Other clues were evident that Green Bay was going to make a move.
On the eve of the draft, Bob McGinn, impeccably sourced former Packers reporter, argued Rodgers still had the fundamentals - arm strength, physical health, brain - but his increasing conservatism in the passing game and decision-making were holding him back.
The draft showed that Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, and general manager, Brian Gutekunst feel the same. They hope their move to bring a rookie in will serve to fire up Rodgers with a bit of competition for his final seasons.
The Scheme Fit
The team that was built around Aaron Rodgers is changing fast. The Packers also drafted a running back and tight end early on in the draft, which speaks to an offensive system change. LaFleur is moving forward with more of a Shanahan scheme, away from former head coach Mike McCarthy’s old offense. And I’m fine with that.
LaFleur came through the Shanahan coaching system and the success the Rams and 49ers have had running the ball and passing on play action, is not lost on him. Each made the Super Bowl in 2018 and 2019.
Gutekunst is placing his faith in LaFleur’s system. The philosophy with this offense is that you won’t need wide receivers, because the passing will all come off play action and the run game. This means taking the ball out of Rodgers hands.
Echoes of the Past
Fifteen years ago this week, the Packers made a similar call by drafting Aaron Rodgers in the first round to back up another Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Farve. Love has a great arm but as Rodgers did, he will benefit from sitting and learning to improve his decision making and mechanics.
This pick is a smart call that establishes a future beyond Rodgers and resets the course of the franchise. Of course, questions abound as to how comfortable Rodgers is helping the guy behind him.
Going into the 2020 draft, the Packers needs were well documented. With the praise for drafting Love must come a degree of criticism for failing to bring in a quality wide receiver. Even the other Shanahan schemes in the NFL drafted receivers in the first and second round, in what was regarded as a great receiver class. This could really hurt the Packers.
The front office and fans will be determined that this does not turn into a Shakespearean tragedy like Brett Farve’s acrimonious departure in 2008. No one wants a repeat of that.
The title of this blog post is a nod to Packers legends being immortalized by having a street in Green Bay named after them. Mike Holmgren has one. So too do Vince Lombardi and Reggie White. Rodgers will one day. We’re waiting for him to show us Aaron Rodgers Boulevard won’t be opening anytime soon.