As a four-time league MVP and Super Bowl champion, Aaron Rodgers’ place in NFL history is set in stone.
But when it comes to his future, and whether he’ll return to the Packers for a season 19 or play elsewhere, the writing isn’t so clear.
We’ve reached that point in Green Bay where the soccer games are over and the speculation game has begun. Does Rodgers want him back? Do the Packers want him back?
This marks the third straight year that the sides will enter the offseason under a cloud of uncertainty. The previous two times came after playoff losses at home. This time, it follows a 20-16 playoff loss to the Lions on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
As Rodgers walked off the field, with an arm around the veteran receiver and close friend Randall Cobb , it seemed inevitable that the end might be upon us. But trying to interpret Rodgers’ body language comes with a warning label: PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Rodgers’ love of gaming extends beyond the football field and into the press room. He may be cautious and shy about reporters, seemingly enjoying the opportunity to keep them guessing. But know this: Rodgers is as precise with his words as he is with the ball. Think before you speak, fully understanding how the weight of your words will fall.
Do you already know what you want to do? Perhaps, but he said emotions were too raw Sunday night to think about it. His ability to make every throw is indisputable: the deep pass to Romeo Doubs down the right wing was so beautiful that it defied description, although Doubs could not catch it, Rodgers knows that there are factors beyond physique that need to be addressed.
Does Rodgers feel he has more to prove to himself? Does he want to go through the grind of preparing for another season? Is it time for another voice to lead the team? Does the franchise feel that former first-round pick Jordan Love, is ready to take over?
“I need to step away and contemplate those things,” he said in his postgame press conference. “That’s real for me. I take a lot of pride in what I’ve accomplished in this league, but I’m also realistic and understand where we are as a team. We’re a young team and there might be some change with some of the older guys. It might be time to step away. But I could take some time and say, ‘Hell, no. I need to go back and make another run.’ ”
The real question Rodgers and the Packers must ask themselves is whether they are as close to being legitimate contenders as they say they are. The Pack has made a habit of racking up wins under coach Matt LaFleur, totaling 47 in his four seasons, but they have been unable to win the most important games. Green Bay has lost twice in the NFC Championship Game after a 13-win season. And last season, after another 13-win campaign, the Packers lost at home in their first playoff game.
On Sunday, they faced a Detroit franchise that had lost 27 of its last 30 games at Lambeau Field, but the Packers couldn’t use the home field to their advantage. They lost a fumble, threw an interception and couldn’t get into the end zone in a scoring situation for the final score.
Rodgers completed 17 of 27 for 205 yards. It was the first time in his career as a starter that he finished a season without recording a single 300-yard game. Think about that for a minute. The man who has thrown for nearly 60,000 yards, who has one of the sweetest handoffs you can imagine, failing to reach a threshold that almost seems beneath him.
Maybe he missed Davante Adams. And maybe he didn’t trust his young receivers. Maybe he struggled psychologically with the reality that, for all his greatness, he couldn’t be the rising tide that lifted the game of those around him. That may be a lesson in humility for someone of his stature.
He says they are a “couple of players” away from being credible contenders. I’m not so sure. And if they’re not as close as they think they are, could it be time to move on?
“To assume it’s a foregone conclusion (that the Packers want him back) would probably be a little selfish, so I’ll be realistic here and understand there are a lot of different sides to this,” Rodgers said. “I was aware of the possibility that they were young if we had gotten to a point (this season) where we were out of it. I’m also aware of that possibility (in the future).”
Rodgers is guaranteed $60 million through the 2023 season. He has leverage in any discussion that takes place. He knows it. The Packers know it. What none of them know is whether their marriage will continue into the ’19 season.
Rodgers said his decision will not be influenced by the money he is owed if he plays.
“Money is energy. I’ve earned a tremendous amount and I’m very grateful to this organization, the generational wealth they’ve offered me,” he said. “I hope they feel like I earned a lot. But, yeah, sure, I could definitely walk away from that.”
Asked about playing for another team, he neither opened the door nor closed it.
“I don’t like to say never,” he said, seemingly hinting that it wasn’t a high probability.
If Sunday turns out to be his final game, history will show that his last pass was an interception by Lions rookie deep Kerby Joseph , who became the first player to have three interceptions against Rodgers in a single season, having intercepted him twice in his previous. meeting. But will it be his final pass?
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