GREEN BAY, Wis. – On June 7, during the Green Bay Packers’ mandatory minicamp, Aaron Rodgers said the final snap of his NFL career “definitely” would be with the team that drafted him in 2005.
On Jan. 17, during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers opened the door to a different reality.
“If they want to go younger and think Jordan (Love is) ready to go, then that might be the way they want to go,” Rodgers said on Tuesday. “And if that’s the case and I still want to play, then there’s only one option, right, and that’s to play somewhere else. If it’s not and they are like, ‘No, no, no, we still want you to play,’ and this and that, then it’d have to be the right situation with the roster that looks like we can win it all, because there’s no point in coming back if you don’t think you can win it all.”
The 39-year-old Rodgers, as he’s said in the past, isn’t interested in being part of a rebuild. Also as he’s said in the past, what matters to Rodgers at this point in his career is winning a second Super Bowl ring.
So, the ball appears to be squarely in the Packers’ court. And it boils down to one of three things.
One, does general manager Brian Gutekunst and team leadership think this version of the Packers has run its course after an 8-9 season? That would mean the team deciding to turn the page at quarterback and handing the reins to Love, the 2020 first-round pick who probably has no interest in being a four-year backup.
Two, does Gutekunst think the roster only needs some tweaks? That would mean going with some younger players but with Rodgers as the centerpiece.
Three, does Gutekunst consider this season a blip on the radar? That would mean bringing bring back as many key players as possible under the constraints of the salary cap.
In other words, what’s the plan? Rebuild, revamp or reload? And how does Rodgers believe he fits under whatever the plan?
“I don’t think you should shut down any opportunity,” Rodgers said. “Like I said during the season, that’s got to be both sides actually wanting to work together moving forward, and I think there’s more conversations to be had. I think no player wants to be part of any type of rebuild. I said that years ago. Reloads are a lot of fun because you feel like you’re close, you’re only a couple guys away.”
After the first losing season since 2018, is the team only a “couple guys away.” Rodgers thought so after the loss to Detroit. A healthy offensive line and the growth of receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs could mean an offensive renaissance after a season full of struggles.
The presence of some of his favorite players – receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Marcedes Lewis, for instance – will factor in his decision because he thinks they are part of the winning equation.
“This game is about relationships,” Rodgers continued. “It’s about the players you play with and count on even if they don’t maybe show up huge in the stat book. A guy like Marcedes Lewis, he’s an important cog in the wheel of the locker room and the momentum of the team. That’s a guy I want to finish my career with. If I’m playing, I want that guy next to me.
"I want the Randall Cobbs of the world – if he wants to keep playing – in my locker room. Guys you can win it. Allen Lazard, Bobby Tonyan, David Bakhtiari. There’s a lot of interesting names that we’ll see if there’s desire to re-sign certain guys that are glue guys in the locker room.”
Rodgers, of course, still needs to decide his own future. He and the team talked as part of the annual exit interviews last week and will continue to do so throughout the offseason. After a “few weeks of TLC,” will Rodgers be prepared to sign up Year 19? Running parallel to that question is Gutekunst’s vision for fixing a team that missed the playoffs after going 39-10 the last three seasons.
If Rodgers is ready to play and sees the potential to contend for a championship, he’ll be back. And if Rodgers is ready to play but doesn’t see a team that’s ready to contend?
“Listen, I came back and really wanted to finish my career in Green Bay,” Rodgers said. “In 2019, we were feeling each other out on offense and our defense played pretty damn good and a lot of people said I was washed, couldn’t really play anymore, wasn’t the same, and then I won two MVPs in a row without really doing anything different.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of the same sentiment this year. I have a lot of comments about a lot of that that I’d like to keep to myself or I’ll share off air just because out of respect for the whole process. But do I still think I can play? Of course. Can I play at a high level? Yeah. The highest. I think I can win MVP again in the right situation. Right situation, is that Green Bay or is that somewhere else? I’m not sure.”