When the news broke on Monday that finally confirmed that Aaron Rodgers will indeed be suiting up for the Green Bay Packers, many outlets heralded the news by declaring it “The Last Dance” for Rodgers as a Packer. Initial reading of the terms of the quarterback’s situation, a voiding of the final year of his contract in 2023 and a “review” of the circumstances after this year, indicate a separation may be coming next year.
It might seem obvious, but not so fast. A lot can change in the course of a year and indeed in a single football season. There are a few things that could occur that would change this “last dance” narrative, and none are outside the realm of possibility.
Here are just a few.
Jordan Love is bad
This is still the great unknown of this entire saga. Love lost all of his rookie offseason thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the preseason. Love was then inactive for every single regular season and playoff game, giving him a true redshirt rookie year.
This year has been much more normal in terms of practices and, with Rodgers staying away from Green Bay until now, Love has been getting all of the starter reps. This has undoubtedly helped his development, but how much so is not yet known.
That is why the 2021 preseason will be must-see-TV for Packers fans. Love’s performance in the preseason could set the path of the franchise in 2022 and beyond. The games may not count in the standings but for Love, they will very much matter.
If he plays well, it makes a potential trade of Rodgers in the spring much more palatable.
If he’s terrible, that could strengthen the Packers’ resolve in keeping Rodgers next offseason. It doesn’t mean the Packers would have to start over in terms of the future at QB but it would definitely give the team pause about handing the reins over to Love after 2021, especially if Blake Bortles somehow usurps him as the primary backup. That would be disastrous for the Packers.
The third scenario for Love is if his performance lands somewhere in between. In that case, everything goes back to square one and future plans would likely hinge on Rodgers’ concerns about how the franchise is run.
Speaking of those concerns, what happens if the Packers and Rodgers can actually solve them? That leads us to the next point.
The “mechanisms” to address Rodgers’ concerns work
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported yesterday that part of the deal that brought Rodgers back to Green Bay included putting “mechanisms” in place to address the quarterback’s concerns about how the team is being run.
We don’t know what those are and what exactly Rodgers’ issues were (though much of the narrative this year has been that the team releasing some of his favorites like Jake Kumerow and Jordy Nelson clearly was an issue for him). But the fact the Packers are willing to at least do some self-scouting at the management level shows that the problems are correctable.
Will they actually work it out? That is to be determined. That said, there should be optimism that the Packers and Rodgers are at least trying to work things out.
What could these mechanisms look like? Perhaps Rodgers will be given more say over the offensive roster or perhaps be allowed to recruit certain players to Green Bay, ala Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. It is really hard to guess the cure without knowing the symptoms, but it’s possible a solution is reached and Rodgers is happy, or at least content, again.
Rodgers wins his fourth MVP
Trading the reigning NFL MVP is usually unconscionable but it’s a situation Green Bay could find themselves in should Rodgers put on an encore or near-encore performance of 2020.
Which is precisely why another Rodgers MVP combined with a middling-to-poor Love debut sets the stage for an 18th season for Rodgers as a Packer. While trading a four-time MVP would net Green Bay a very healthy return, they’d be rolling the dice on Love taking a big leap going into his third season.
The Packers made a similar gamble going with Rodgers entering his fourth season when he took over for Brett Favre and it paid off tremendously. Are they willing to try their luck again, knowing they are risking several steps back in results while Love settles in?
The odds say no as teams have rarely hit on three consecutive elite quarterbacks, which is why another MVP season by Rodgers might give him a chance to win his fifth as a Packer in 2022.
Conclusion: “The Last Dance” declarations are a bit premature
It’s easy to read the deal Rodgers and the Packers struck and think 2021 is the final year in Green Bay for the three-time MVP. It very well could be and that’s the conclusion many are drawing.
That being said, it’s far from written and stone and there is clearly a path that could see Rodgers as a Packer in 2022 and perhaps beyond despite 2023 being voided from his contract. A combination of a struggling Love, a rebuilt trust in the organization, and another strong season from Rodgers could very well set the stage for perhaps a happy ending to this story after all.
It might not be “the last dance” or even “the penultimate dance” after all.
Maybe instead it’s the second honeymoon that salvages the marriage.