The radio station where I announce spring football (including Fennimore at Brodhead/Juda tonight at 6:40 Central time) reposted this piece of speculation/argument from four days ago:
This, I must say, is why I don’t listen to sports radio, and I don’t often read sports radio social media. One of the great scourges of our day is the so-called “hot take,” where some mouth comes up with an outrageous opinion for the sole reason of generating clicks, irrespective of whether he believes what he asserts, whether it is based on any facts or logic, or whether it makes any sense. (See Bayliss, Skip.)
(Crap like this, by the way, is one reason I am not dissatisfied that my career didn’t advance to bigger markets. If “hot takes” are required to get paid, I’m not interested.)
First: The assertion that the Packers “hate” Rodgers might be the most idiotic thing you read today. The assertion that Rodgers wants out of Green Bay is certainly not based on anything Rodgers has said publicly. People who feel the need to read between the lines of Rodgers’ public statements to confirm their own stupid theories need to get a life. (Do Smith and Rodgers even know each other?)
Rodgers was only being honest when he said recently that his NFL future might not be entirely up to him. That is not a synonym for “Get me the hell out of Green Bay.”
One reason this speculation comes up is that Rodgers’ contract was not restructured to provide more salary cap space for the Packers before next week’s NFL draft. The contract Rodgers signed in 2018 includes a salary cap jump from $21.6 million in 2020 (based on, well, read it for yourself) to $37.2 million this coming season. Rodgers becomes a free agent in 2024, which is the year Rodgers turns 40.
One effect of having your quarterback take up a lot of your salary cap ($182.5 million this coming season) is it forces you to go with younger (and therefore lower-paid) players elsewhere. Pittsburgh has been notorious for developing players and then having them leave in free agency, recently due to Ben Roethlisberger’s contract. That in turn puts pressure on your scouts to find great young players, and your coaches to develop them.
Another reason is the parallels people think they see with the end of Brett Favre’s Packers career. The Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005, but Rodgers didn’t become the starter until Favre left after the 2007 season. Baseball executive Branch Rickey was fond of saying it’s better to let a player leave a year too early than a year too late. That, however, assumes you have an adequate replacement on hand, and the Packers do not have that with Jordan Love. The other thing, of course, is that the only person who was with the Packers when Favre left and now is president Mark Murphy, who certainly would be consulted on a Rodgers decision, but is not the guy making that decision.
Smith speculates that the Packers will trade Rodgers to San Francisco (the team that famously spurned him in 2005) for the 49ers’ first-round pick, the third in the draft (acquired from Miami), which the Packers then would use on Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. One list (and remember what opinions are like) has Fields as the third rated quarterback in the draft, and one of four quarterbacks likely to get drafted in the first round.
If I were the Packers, though, I’m not sure I would be that interested in Fields. Ohio State has been a college football powerhouse for too long, but not because of its quarterbacks. Who, you ask, is the most successful Buckeye quarterback in NFL history? It’s, believe it or don’t, Mike Tomczak.
College quarterbacks must be analyzed as NFL prospects by the skills that pass on to the NFL, not necessarily based on how they played in college against inferior teams. Fields apparently has great arm strength, but “strength” and “accuracy” aren’t the same thing. Fields also apparently is a great athlete, but Cam Newton shows that being a great athlete doesn’t make you even a good NFL quarterback. Does Fields (or anyone else) have the ability to find a third receiver on a play with defensive linemen and linebackers all over his face? I suspect, given how good O!S!U! has been, that you might be able to count the number of times he’s had to do that with two hands in his entire career.
And for the Packers to make this trade (whether or not they would then draft Fields, or frankly any other QB) would require you to believe that the Packers are willing to go backwards from 13–3, which they certainly would with someone not named Rodgers as their quarterback. (There may be rookie quarterbacks who start this year, but that doesn’t mean any of them should.)
There is no sign that the Bears (who is their quarterback now?), Vikings (still paying Kirk Cousins the rest of his $84 million) or Lions (who couldn’t win with Matthew Stafford, the quarterback with great stats except for his win–loss record) are going to be substantially better next season. So at least on paper the Packers remain the team to beat in the NFC North, which means they’re still a Super Bowl contender, unless they no longer have a Super Bowl-level quarterback.
If I were the 49ers, I’m not sure I’d be interested in making that trade either. The 49ers were 6–10 last season and finished in last place in the NFC West. The 49ers would have to believe they are one player away from being a Super Bowl contender, and that one player — who, in Rodgers’ case, would be an injury-prone player (remember that Rodgers lost three seasons due to injury) at an age where you don’t get less injury-prone — is worth giving up a draft pick that could be used on someone who could be a 10-year contributor. (Say, Justin Fields.)
This fantasy is also the fault of Tom Brady, who went to Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl. So maybe every team without an NFL-caliber QB (note that “NFL-caliber QB” and “NFL QB” are not synonyms either) now thinks they’re the right QB from being a winner. The list of teams who thought that and found out otherwise is quite long.
This is not to say that Rodgers will be the Packers’ QB indefinitely, or to the end of his contract. But those predicting, or wishing, the end of Rodgers’ Packers career should remember what happened when Favre left — 6–10, followed by humiliating losses to their former quarterback. The Packers have been unbelievably lucky to have two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. What are the odds of a third?