D.A.: The Packers Have Created An Aaron Rodgers Problem


"With the 26th pick of the first round, the Packers select Jordan Love and a migraine headache." 

Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur made a bold move, perhaps the boldest of the 2020 NFL Draft. They are banking on a project quarterback, traded up to get him, and set a blaze that will not stop raging until a very dramatic end. For a franchise with so many decorated players, they are seemingly pushing out one of the greatest of all. History wafts over the franchise like the scent of beer-soaked brats. The NFL's 100 team had Packers throughout. Don Hutson at WR, Forrest Gregg on the offensive line, Reggie White on defense. Two coaches, Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi, were honored on the sideline. The most popular Packer ever, Brett Favre, was also listed among the immortals. 

Favre was in the middle of the team's most dramatic soap opera, but for more than a decade it's been in the rearview. Now, he and his one-time antagonist are front and center again. When the Packers took Love, it immediately took us back in a time machine to April ’05. That year Green Bay had Favre under center, with three more Pro Bowl seasons in his arm. But the hot shot QB from Cal with the cannon and chip on his shoulder was too good a deal to pass up, so at No. 24 they made Aaron Rodgers a Packer. He had been touted as the possible top pick in the draft, but he slid after the Niners took Alex Smith. A stunning 22 picks would go by without another QB being taken. 

The relationship between Favre and Rodgers was infamously frosty. Favre believed he had more good years of football left (he did). He kept Rodgers at arm's length. Rodgers believed by being picked in the first round it should finally be his turn (it was). Favre played well enough to keep the job for three more seasons, and every day of that stretch was uncomfortable. The NFL's small-town team forced fans and media to pick sides. Was Favre being unfairly treated? Or was he overstaying his welcome? 

We are back to this drama, yet it was all so avoidable. Favre and Rodgers have mended fences as common experiences have grown a bond. Favre's legacy is cemented; he’s a member of the All-Century team. Rodgers now sees what his predecessor dealt with as a lion in winter surrounded by a crazed fan base expecting nothing less than the trophy bearing their coach's name. Green Bay proudly calls itself Titletown USA, yet there hasn't been one of those in a decade. The natives are restless

Favre and Rodgers spoke recently. Brett relayed this in a radio interview. He says Rodgers was "surprised" by the Love pick. He also says "a bridge has been burned" by the Packers front office. And he surmises that Rodgers will end his career in a different uniform. These are hardly guesses. These are culled from a conversation within the last week with Rodgers himself. NFL analyst Solomon Wilcots told me the Love pick seems "personal." So why would the Packers incite this type of reaction from one of the greatest players in franchise history? 

Sure, looking out for the long-term health of the roster is important. But so is taking advantage of your current opportunity. Love is a project, a player from a Mountain West school who took a notable dip last season in efficiency and production. One analyst told me Love's floor is lower than any other college quarterback. There are Jordan Loves in every draft. This is the next Josh Allen, Drew Lock, DeShone Kizer, and Paxton Lynch. These are players with raw skill from smaller schools or need plenty of polishing. They are rarely a reason to trade up in the draft since they come with so many questions. Had this been Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa (despite the injury), it would be far more understandable. But Love presents plenty of questions and a long-grooming timeline. 

It also removed an opportunity to make the team better right now. Green Bay may not have been a freight train last year, but they were resourceful and balanced enough to win 13 games. This is as many or more wins than all but one Super Bowl champion in the last 12 years. That includes the 10-6 Packers team that won it all in '10. So the idea that Green Bay "wasn't as close as their record indicated" is ridiculous. Far worse teams have won the Super Bowl in recent NFL history. Adding a Pro Bowl-caliber player to a team that could use help at OL, WR and defense could easily help push them into a Super Bowl. 

The move also begins the never-ending speculation about the mental state of Rodgers, and the relationship of the two parties. Rodgers is only 36 with likely two more years of championship-level play in Green Bay. For the next 20 months, the scrutiny will be white hot. Every grimace, shrug and sideline scowl will become fodder for this madness. Every press conference quip will be dissected by the vultures. Love will be thrown into a media blender. Rodgers and LaFleur will be pitted against one another. Can you win a Super Bowl that way? 

If Green Bay was convinced Rodgers needed to be replaced, they should have waited until next year. Allow one more season with first-round draft help for Rodgers to chase a ring. If there was a sense of slippage after '20, then draft your QB project next April. The idea that Love is a one-in-a-million prospect is ludicrous. Finding Rodgers’ successor next year would've cut the two-year soap opera in half, and assisted in a title hunt for another season. But instead, the Packers front office lit a fuse that won't stop burning for awhile. If Love turns into a bust? If they are exposed in the playoffs at a position other than QB? If they push a future Hall of Famer out the door? They did it all to themselves. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 6:00AM-10:00AM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.