The Green Bay Packers were faced with a choice at some point last offseason, about the time "darkness retreat" hit our consciousness. Either continue with a four-time NFL MVP quarterback or turn the page to a quarterback with one NFL start and 17 interceptions in his final college season at Utah State.
Much like the Packers' then-controversial decision to turn to Rodgers over Brett Favre in 2008 and never look back, Green Bay made the call to trade Rodgers and give Love the starting job. Even if the relationship between the player and team was fraying and it seemed like it was time for both sides to try something new, it was still a jarring call to make. When you voluntarily move on from a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, jobs and legacies are on the line afterward.
The Packers chose an absolute unknown at quarterback over an icon. But after Love was incredible in the playoff win at the Dallas Cowboys, it not only looks like the right move but also one that could help the Packers remain contenders for the next decade.
Why the Packers traded Aaron Rodgers
The Rodgers-to-Love shift was clumsy at times. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst indicated to reporters in late March that Rodgers' refusal to answer calls from the team pushed him to start looking into a trade.
As part of the team's postseason conversations about the 2023 season and beyond, the Packers wanted to talk to Rodgers, but that didn't happen.
"As you go through that process, you kind of get an idea of where you're going to move to as a team, how you're going to go forward," Gutekunst said, via Matt Schneidman of The Athletic. "I was really looking forward to the conversations with Aaron to see how he fit into that. Those never transpired. There became a time we kind of had to make some decisions. We went through his representatives to try to kind of try to talk to him about what [direction] we were going with our team, at that point they informed us he'd like to be traded to the Jets."
Rodgers said that when he went into his darkness retreat, the message from the Packers was that they wanted him back, but "something changed."
No matter how it all went down, the Packers made the decision to move on from a quarterback some believe is the best of all time. At the very least, he's one of the best, one of two men to ever win more than three MVP awards (Peyton Manning has the record with five). Love was entirely unproven.
It was a big gamble, though an understandable one with Rodgers aging and the Packers unable to get over the hump to another Super Bowl with him. Almost a year later, it looks like a move that has set the Packers up for another era of top quarterback play. The rest of the NFC North has to be confounded that Green Bay might've found yet another star at QB.
Jordan Love proves the Packers right
Love struggled to start the season. The Packers were 2-5 when Gutekunst commented that the next 10 games would be "very important" for Love — a clear sign the Packers weren't sure about the future. Then Love took off.
Love has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 21-1 in Green Bay's past nine games, including a playoff win at the Dallas Cowboys. Love would have had a perfect 158.3 passer rating against Dallas, but he went back in the game after Dallas cut Green Bay's lead to 16 points and threw an incompletion. He settled for a 157.2 rating.
Of course, one great nine-game stretch doesn't mean a quarterback is an established star. Love will have to prove it again next season. But as of now, he looks the part. The Packers, with Love and an exciting group of young pass-catchers, seem rejuvenated going into the future. And they don't need to watch "The Pat McAfee Show" every Tuesday to see which controversy their quarterback will start.
Nobody can say what the Packers would've been this season with Rodgers. Maybe they would have been even better. It's not like Rodgers was going to tear his Achilles no matter what team he was playing for. He got unlucky when that happened on the first drive of the Jets' season.
But the Packers wouldn't take anything back now. They have a 25-year-old who looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the second half of the season, rather than a much more expensive 40-year-old who was seemingly wearing out his welcome. Transitions between eras are rarely this seamless, except in Green Bay.
What the Packers did isn't necessarily a blueprint for every other team with a great, aging quarterback. You're not always going to be able to land a talent such as Love and let him develop. This much is also true: Not many teams would have the guts to move on from a legend at just the right time, like the Packers did. They got it right.