One day after Green Bay Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin refused to commit to playing his team’s best player in week 16, said player put speculation to rest. On Wednesday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers put any speculation to rest, making it clear to the media that he will suit up against the New York Jets on Sunday.
In fact, Rodgers appears to be facing these final two weeks as a point of pride as well as taking it as an opportunity to lead by example in the locker room:
Aaron Rodgers on why he's playing this week: "I think it’s a lot about leadership. If I want to be listened to and followed and looked up to, how could I stand here and say that these games that don’t matter for playoffs, I’m going to cash it in? That’s just not the way I lead."— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) December 19, 2018
Interestingly, these will be the first games Rodgers has played with the Packers out of playoff contention since his first season as a starter in 2008. Green Bay made the postseason every year from 2009 to 2016, then Rodgers was placed on injured reserve after the Packers were eliminated by the Carolina Panthers in week 15 last season.
Rodgers was also asked about the ability to get more snaps with the Packers’ young receivers, and acknowledged that “there’s definitely some value there.” Considering that a lack of chemistry with newcomers like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, J’Mon Moore, and Jake Kumerow have seemingly been a major part of Rodgers’ struggles this year, it does make some sense to allow him to get competitive repetitions with those players in the final two weeks.
The arguments against Rodgers playing largely come down to his health. He has dealt with a knee injury since week one, and he appeared to tweak his groin during Sunday’s loss in Chicago as well. Two more games means another 120 snaps or so, each of which has the opportunity to result in an even more serious injury.
In addition, Rodgers will likely be playing out the string in an offense that is quite different to what he will be running in 2019. Joe Philbin does not seem to be a legitimate candidate for the permanent head coaching job, meaning that a newcomer will likely institute a fairly different offensive scheme. In that context, perhaps the chemistry argument falls apart a bit, since the players will all need to learn an entirely new playbook.
Regardless, it seems that despite sportsbooks moving the point spread from Packers -3 to Packers +1 early this week, Rodgers will still be in uniform and under center on Sunday.