Quarterback is where it all begins and ends in the NFL. If you don’t have at least a very good one, you’re almost certainly not making a deep playoff run, to say nothing of winning the Super Bowl.
Of course, the Green Bay Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history back for another go in 2022, further delaying any transition plans that might involve his young backup. Aaron Rodgers’ decision to sign a long-term extension with the Packers following another 13-win season and another MVP for his trophy case illuminate the improved relationship between him and the organization, but they also underscore questions about what the team will do with its other first-round quarterback, who continues to wait in the wings for an opportunity.
Today we kick off our breakdown of the Packers’ 90-man roster as it stands before training camp by looking at the trio of signal-callers under contract with the team as of early July.
How acquired: 2005 NFL Draft (round 1, #24 overall)
NFL experience: 18th year
2021 stats: 16 starts, 531 attempts, 366 completions (68.9 completion %), 4,115 yards, 37 TDs, 7 INTs, 111.9 passer rating, 2021 NFL MVP
The big question about Aaron Rodgers after 2018 was whether he was washed up and could handle working with a new head coach. After a solid but unspectacular (by his standards) 2019, it was whether Matt LaFleur’s offensive system was carrying him.
An MVP season in 2020 turned the narrative, but last offseason was all about whether Rodgers would force his way out of Green Bay. Now locked back in for 2022 following a second straight MVP, the question is whether he can maintain his elite production without his favorite receiver, Davante Adams.
Rodgers’ new contract structure, meanwhile, effectively assures that he will be in Green Bay until he decides he is done with football, and he seems happy with that. When that will be remains to be seen, but consecutive MVP seasons while leading the NFL in touchdown rate, interception rate, passer rating, and QBR suggest that he has plenty of exceptional football left in him.
How acquired: 2020 NFL Draft (round 1, #26 overall)
NFL experience: 3rd year
2021 stats: 6 games, 1 start; 62 attempts, 36 completions (58.1 completion %), 411 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 68.5 passer rating
The Packers’ heir apparent for two years now, Love enters year three as a still-unknown commodity. In addition to mop-up duty in a week one blowout loss and a week 17 blowout win, Love saw significant playing time in two games last fall: his first start against the Kansas City Chiefs, while Rodgers was out with COVID-19, and in week 18 against the Lions when the Packers had the NFC’s top seed locked up.
The Chiefs game showed Love for what he was: a young, raw quarterback making his first start. Kansas City blitzed him all game long and although he escaped with only one sack, he struggled to a 19-of-34 passing line for 190 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. In the finale, Love was 10-for-17 for 134 yards, getting credit for Josiah Deguara’s big screen pass-turned touchdown before throwing two picks after the two-minute warning while trying to mount a comeback.
Love’s rookie season was effectively a waste, however, with no spring practices and no preseason reps. Having a full offseason this year should be a major benefit for a young man who is not yet 24 years old and is about four months younger than the first quarterback drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft, Kenny Pickett.
How acquired: Street free agent signing, 2022
NFL experience: First year
2021 stats: None (spent season on Seahawks, Broncos, Packers, & Jaguars practice squads)
The definition of a journeyman, Etling started his college career at Purdue before transferring to LSU and starting there in 2016 and 2017. He would start his NFL career with the New England Patriots, spending his rookie year on their practice squad before ending up on the Atlanta Falcons’ squad in 2019. Out of football for most of 2020, He spent last offseason with the Seattle Seahawks and was in Minnesota for the Vikings’ 2021 training camp, but then bounced around to four teams’ practice squads last fall before signing a futures contract with the Packers in January.
Etling was Green Bay’s fourth quarterback at the time, behind last year’s QB3 Kurt Benkert. However, the Packers waived Benkert a few weeks ago after spring practices concluded, leaving Etling as the number 3 heading towards camp.
A solid athlete, Etling spent some time at wide receiver during his time with the Patriots and was able to rush for positive yardage in both of this two years at LSU — notable because sacks count as rushing yards in college football. Etling’s final college season was a successful, productive one, however, as he threw for nearly 2,500 yards with 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He may have a chance to crack the 53 with a good preseason performance, but may just as easily end up as a practice squad QB3 yet again.