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Here’s Why Rodgers-Broncos Could Be More Than Speculation

You know Nathaniel Hackett will at least test the waters on luring Aaron Rodgers to the Denver Broncos. Based on a 2020 quote, Rodgers could be very interested.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers is undecided about his future. The Green Bay Packers have a huge salary-cap problem. The Denver Broncos just hired Rodgers’ offensive coordinator to be head coach and might want his quarterbacks coach to run the offense.

Those three sentences don’t mean Rodgers is going to push general manager Brian Gutekunst to trade him to Denver. But it’s at least a possibility worth considering after the Packers just fell short in the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

While Rodgers’ favorite receiver, Davante Adams, is headed toward free agency, the Broncos signed receivers Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick to extensions this season and have Jerry Jeudy for at least two more seasons on his rookie deal. While Green Bay’s defense was strong this season, surprise stars De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas are headed toward free agency, as well. Denver’s defense finished third in points allowed and should return mostly intact.

It’s true; Green Bay won 39 games the past three seasons compared to 19 for the Broncos. However, given the specter of key personnel losses, one team’s window of championship opportunity could be closing while another team’s window could be opening.

If only there were a quarterback who knew Nathaniel Hackett’s offense. If only there were a quarterback who guided the Packers to No. 1 in the NFL in scoring in 2020 and No. 10 in 2021 to help a team that has finished 22nd or worse in scoring the past six seasons.

It's still striking that the Broncos, with the ninth pick of last year’s draft, could have selected Justin Fields or Mac Jones to lift what was otherwise a solid team but instead drafted a cornerback. It’s noteworthy that, with the pick of the coaching candidates, they interviewed two members of Green Bay’s staff and hired Hackett. It’s interesting they could be targeting the other, quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy, or offensive line coach Adam Stenavich for offensive coordinator.

Maybe there’s neither smoke nor fire here. But you’ve got to figure, when Hackett picks up the phone and gets the congratulatory phone call from Rodgers, Hackett has to make a pitch, right? Or, at least with a wink and a nod, mention he could use a quarterback.

Hackett sees sunshine on a cloudy day. The glass is never half-empty. Or even three-quarters empty. When starter after starter went down with injuries, Hackett enthusiastically said he loved the challenge and the opportunity for other players to step up. He’s an energetic, enthusiastic and persuasive man.

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You can practically hear his sales pitch.

With an excellent defense, a solid offensive line, an electric rookie running back and a quality stable of players to catch passes, Rodgers would push the Broncos from mediocre to very good. And what about joining Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and the Raiders’ Derek Carr to create a super-division of superb quarterbacks? Sure, the path to the division title wouldn’t be so easy as in the NFC North, but what about the challenge?

Oh, and with more than $30 million of cap space, the Broncos would have the ability to bring Adams along for the ride. An offense with Adams and some combination of Jeudy, Sutton and Patrick at receiver, Noah Fant at tight end and Javonte Williams (and perhaps Melvin Gordon, who will be a free agent) at running back could be as dominant as the record-setting Packers offense of 2011, which was so good that Randall Cobb was seventh in receptions. Even without Adams, that’s got the makings of a high-quality offense.

There is precedent that Rodgers no doubt knows. In 2012, the Broncos added former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. They went from No. 25 in scoring in 2011 to No. 2 in 2012, No. 1 in 2013 and No. 2 in 2014. The Broncos lost the Super Bowl in 2013 but won it in 2015. And, of course, Tom Brady went from a sliding Patriots team in 2019 to Super Bowl champion with Tampa Bay in 2020.

Ultimately, how will Rodgers weigh the potential of the 2022 Packers vs. the potential of the 2022 Broncos? How will he balance his legacy as a one-team-only quarterback with the opportunity to make Mile High magic?

Perhaps this quote from 2020, days before the Packers were set to host the Jacksonville Jaguars – Hackett’s previous coordinating position – is worth noting. Asked about Hackett, Rodgers said:

“There’s nobody in the building that brings me more joy or is more fun to be around than Nathaniel Hackett. I just knew Hack and I were going to bond. He’s become such a close confidant and friend besides a fantastic coach. I just really, really can’t express enough how important he is to our team in so many ways. He’s incredible in front of the room. He brings a lot of great energy that’s really important to meetings that can sometimes without the energy he infuses maybe get long at times. Never feels that way with him in front of the room.

“Hack has been a really important part of our culture change and a part of our success on offense. I love him. Hope he doesn’t go anywhere. Unless I do.”

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