Entrenched in a disappointing season, Green Bay is on the outside looking in entering its Week 14 bye with a 5-8 record, and questions about next year, premature or not, are already being asked despite the Packers not being eliminated from playoff contention.
Aaron Rodgers piqued the interest for that conversation following the Packers’ win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, saying he would only return to Green Bay next season if there was a “mutual desire on both sides.”
Naturally, the Packers brass was asked about Rodgers’ comments on Monday and whether or not they’d want the star quarterback to be the Packers starter in 2023.
“Yeah, absolutely. Of course,” Matt LaFleur told reporters without hesitation. “But, you guys know how I feel. I have a hard time looking past the L.A. Rams [in Week 15] right now. And, obviously, this week is going to be great to kind of dig into ourselves and look at the film critically in every phase and try to challenge our guys in different areas that we can improve. But, then the focus will turn to the L.A. Rams. So that’s where my mind is right now. But yeah, absolutely.”
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst was in lockstep with the Packers head coach.
“Surely, yeah, we want all our guys back,” Gutekunst said Monday. “We made a big commitment to him this offseason, so that was important.”
Rodgers, who signed a three-year contract extension worth up to $150.8 million ahead of the 2022 season, hasn’t played the same caliber of football this season that garnered him consecutive Associated Press Most Valuable Player Awards the past two years. A fractured thumb and recent rib injury hasn’t made it easier on the 39-year-old Rodgers, who’s thrown 2,864 passing yards and 22 touchdowns to nine interceptions so far this season.
Gutekunst said he has “no regrets” giving Rodgers that extension despite how this season has gone. However, the added caveat to Green Bay’s immediate future at quarterback circles around Jordan Love, who looked sharp in Week 12 while playing for an injured Rodgers, completing 6 of 9 passes for 113 yards and a TD in that relief appearance.
“I mean, obviously, we’ve seen him for three years in practice and doing the things that he’s doing,” Gutekunst said of Love. “I think there’s a stretch here while Aaron has been banged up where he’s had a lot of reps with the ones, which is great for him. I think it was great for us to see, but it was also really good for him in experience, you know, game planning each week. I think quarterbacks got to get in to play a bunch of games before they learn how to win, but I do think we feel very confident that Jordan can move the ball, score points and do the things we ask of our quarterbacks.”
Love showed tremendous poise in his most recent appearance and the growth he’s shown the Packers midway through Year 3 has made future decision easy for Gutekunst, who on Monday said he’s seen enough of the 24 year old already to make the impending offseason decision on his fifth-year option. Gutekunst also said he believes Love has what it takes to be a starting QB right now.
“I do,” Gutekunst said. “Those guys, you got to go out and do it in real games and all that. I think that’s important, but all young quarterbacks go through a period in time where no matter what individual success, I think takes them a little bit of time to learn how to win in this league, and that’s going to be important for Jordan (Love) whenever he gets his opportunity. That’s a big part of it. I mean, learning within the game is very important for that development.”
NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero on Sunday reported that the potential scenario of shutting Rodgers down if the Packers get eliminated from the playoffs would be a decision between both sides. On Monday, the Packers coach and GM were sure to clear up their side of the story in regard to next year, but Gutekunst isn’t considering this scenario as something that’s making his job harder to operate the club.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I mean, I think again, we are really fortunate to have two really good quarterbacks, and as we move into that time period, we’ll make those decisions as we go. But from the time I walked into this building, whatever comes with having great quarterbacks is worth it.”
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