Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst are hoping some ego-stroking will temper the sting of the Packers’ 2020 NFL Draft thinking for eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
While NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports the team was “adamant” about drafting Utah State’s Jordan Love, both the Packers head coach and general manager are insisting 36-year-old Rodgers is their guy — at least for now.
“Aaron is a pro, and he’s the leader of our football team, and I anticipate that for a really long time,” LaFleur said Saturday after the draft concluded. “I have so much respect for him not only as a player but the person, and some of the stuff that nobody sees. So I can’t tell you how much I like working with him.”
“We have one of the best to ever lace them up, and we’re shooting for championships for as long as he’s here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while,” Gutekunst said on Saturday.
Rapoport explained that trading up and drafting 21-year-old Love with the No. 26 pick was a calculated decision, not a matter of “opportunity,” as Gutekunst had implied earlier.
“They were adamant about getting a quarterback. It wasn’t just like, ‘oh, Love fell them’ — no,” he said. “This was the Packers just making sure that whatever happened, they got their guy.”
LaFleur added that the team plans to take things “week to week,” but hopes to let his veteran signal-caller play “until he decides he doesn’t want to play anymore.”
It is all setting up for a passing of the torch similar to the one Rodgers was involved in with Brett Favre in 2005.
“The reason that back when we moved from Brett to Aaron was because of what Aaron had done his first three years here, and that’s got to happen with Jordan,” Gutekunst said. “Jordan’s got to learn, he’s got a lot to go. I’m not going to lie, we took him in the first round, if we didn’t like him a lot, we wouldn’t have done that. But again, the importance of that position to our franchise is just something to me that can’t be overlooked.”
Rodgers was drafted in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played behind Favre for three seasons before squeezing him out of the starting role in 2008, which eventually led to a messy divorce between Favre and the Packers.
“The reason the organization in its entirety has confidence in this is because they’ve seen it before. This is the same thing that happened to Aaron Rodgers,” Rapoport said on Sunday. “[Love is] clearly a developmental quarterback. The skills are there. Everybody unanimously loved how he threw the football, loved the athleticism, loved the potential. He’s just not really going to able to play for a year or two. That’s why he’s so perfect for Green Bay.”
Rodgers has spent all of his 15 NFL seasons with the Packers. He is under contract through 2023, but the team has a potential out after the 2021 season. He carries a dead cap hit of $51.15 million this year, which drops to $31.56 million in 2021, $17.2 million in 2022, and $2.85 million in 2023 according to Spotrac.
“Aaron is by far the best quarterback I’ve ever been around,” LaFleur said. “He is the one that leads us out there. I know he’s going to be a great mentor and I’m excited to get back to work with all these guys.”
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