The Green Bay Packers were 4-1 entering the NFC North showdown in Minnesota against the Vikings. With the way the rest of the NFC is, or was playing at that moment, the Packers appeared to be taking control of the NFC as they got healthier. And then one play changed everything.
When Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, the football world was stunned. The anger vented by many Packers fans in the following moments was understandable. Rodgers himself had expressed his frustration regarding the matter. Every “expert” on the planet was quick to pronounce the Packers season as “over” which could be true, depending on how Brett Hundley plays. The general consensus right now is that this is the worst thing in the world that has ever happened to the Packers. However, now that the dust has settled, our in-house analyst T.J. Bryce doesn’t see it that way. The following is his take on the Packers’ future.
Pain. Anger. Rage. Resentment. Frustration. Sadness. Sorrow. Depression. These are some of the many emotions that were flying around in the moments following the devastating diagnosis that Aaron Rodgers had a broken collarbone, and would in all likelihood miss the rest of the season. As my emotions began to settle down in the coming days, I was able to fully process what had happened. Then I examined the full scope of the situation, and it hit me, this is not going to be the worst thing to happen to the Packers in the long haul. In fact, in its own unique way, it may be a good thing.
At this point, let me clear up some possible confusion. How can Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone not be the worst thing to happen to the Packers? And for that matter, how can it be a good thing?
Aaron Rodgers has said he would like to play until he is 40, just like Peyton Manning did, just like Tom Brady has. I have always questioned that. Playing until you are 40 is more about your style of play than it is about your skill to begin with. Both Brady and Manning have been able to do this because of their style of play. Neither one of them relied on natural athletic ability like Rodgers does to be successful. Neither one of them has taken the pounding that Rodgers has. In fact, Peyton Manning was the master of the “self sack,” meaning that if he realized a sack was inevitable, he would take a slide and once he does the play is over, he can’t be touched, rather than take an unnecessary hit. In comparison, Rodgers could have six pass rushers coming at him and he would still be thinking “How can in the world can I get out of this and still make a play?”
For 10 years we have raved about Aaron Rodgers’ skill set, and his great ability to make miraculous escapes and still make plays. His ability to combine incredible arm strength with lethal precision. How well he takes care of the football, despite putting up absurd numbers. At the same time, for as great as this is, it also comes with a price, and this style of play exposes him to many a potential injury. Let’s face it, because after all, it’s pretty much a fact, Aaron Rodgers is not exactly the most durable quarterback ever. This is now his third major injury, his second broken collarbone, he has had two concussions, and has a history of hamstring issues. Oh yeah, he is going to be 34-years-old in December and is not getting any younger.
What am I getting at? It is time for the Packers to face reality. As I stated before, I have never believed for a moment Rodgers would play until he is 40. All of these injuries have probably taken a year off of his career. This latest collarbone injury, because of its severity and the fact that it is on his throwing shoulder, probably took another year off of his career. So where does that leave us? I say he’s got just three to four years left on his career. The math lines up perfectly.
It’s time for the Packers to pick Aaron Rodgers successor. We’ve been down this road before with this franchise. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. We all remember the Favre retirement debacle and it still gives fans headaches to this day, just thinking about it. But that was then, and this is now. To be honest, I think we have all learned from that experience. This time around, it should be far more formal, more civilized, and much more peaceful for everybody involved. Also, think about this. Like a shining light from the sky, the Packers now get to pick Aaron Rodgers successor, with the deepest quarterback draft class in history at their disposal.
You thought the 1983 NFL draft was loaded with quarterbacks. You thought the 1998 draft was loaded as well. We haven’t seen anything like this, ever. Depending on which draft board you look at, there could are as many as 14 (count them,) quarterbacks worthy of being selected in the first two rounds. Who are these top draft picks? Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Lamar Jackson, Luke Falk, Baker Mayfield, Jake Browning, Ryan Finley, Jarrett Stidham, Quinton Flowers, J.T. Barrett, Riley Ferguson, and Clayton Thorson. That many QB’s up for grabs is absurd. This could change, depending on who declares himself eligible for the draft, and who doesn’t. It also comes down to which players continue to impress and who the scouts like/don’t like, but right now, this is how the next draft class looks. If the Packers contend with Hundley, okay. But I don’t see that happening. So, this is going to allow them to be in a high enough position to begin the draft that they can make sure they get the guy they want to replace Rodgers. The Packers are also expected to receive four compensation selections for the 2018 draft, and they also could trade Randall Cobb for a pair of draft choices. That would give them 13 selections at the start of the draft, which means if they wanted to go up to get the guy they want, they could do so with ease. They are not getting Sam Darnold from USC. He will go first overall. But every other quarterback is on the table. So which ones could fit?
Josh Rosen/UCLA– He is the second quarterback on most boards. He has great mechanics and a big arm. However, he is not a scrambler by any means. Think Joe Flacco here, with a much better attitude.
Lamar Jackson/Louisville- He may be the most electrifying player in college football, and Jackson has skills that most great quarterbacks dream of. A superb athlete to begin with, Jackson has an arm like few others, with the ability to make throws that nobody else can. However, there are serious questions about his size, and whether or not he is nothing more than the next Michael Vick, which in this era, may not translate to the NFL. He is considered a long-range prospect, which is in the Packers favor, and he could play while he develops.
Baker Mayfield/Oklahoma- This is a tough scrappy competitor who also happens to have some skill. Mayfield can do some of everything. His biggest knock is size and lack of arm strength.
Luke Falk/Washington State- A tall lengthy pocket passer much in the mold of the Manning brothers, Falk has put up big numbers at Washington State. With time, he should translate well to the NFL.
Josh Allen/Wyoming- Allen has everything one could want in a quarterback. Size, big arm, athletic ability. Some have even said he is Aaron Rodgers with three more inches and 10 more pounds. However, if you look at his current play level, he is considered to be a long-range prospect, much like Jackson, but unlike Jackson, sitting or playing could determine the difference between success or failure. (This is the guy I want the Packers to choose.)
Whether the Packers choose one of the quarterbacks listed above, or someone else such as Clayton Thorson, Mason Rudolph, Jake Browning, Riley Ferguson, or somebody else, or even if they decide to wait until the 2019 draft, they need to be careful as they select Rodger’s successor. They need to make sure they don’t go out of their way to go hunting for the next Aaron Rodgers, potentially missing out on a great quarterback in his own right, just because he doesn’t look or play like Aaron Rodgers. When they drafted Aaron Rodgers, they didn’t go hunting for the next Brett Favre. They went hunting for the guy that fit what they wanted for their next quarterback. For as great as Rodgers’s arm is, Rodgers is a mixture of arm strength, precision, and once athletic ability, but it’s not Brett Favre’s arm. Favre’s arm was once in a lifetime special. We will never see an arm that strong again in our lifetimes. What I am getting at is that Aaron Rodgers was a different quarterback than Brett Favre. Doesn’t mean Favre wasn’t special. Just means they are different. Perhaps their next quarterback is a classic, oversized, strong-armed drop back pocket passer, nothing like Aaron Rodgers.
Whoever they decided to get, they need to get him now, or in 2019 at the latest. They have a golden opportunity to follow the same protocol they followed from Favre to Rodgers. Get a guy, sit him down for three years, develop him properly, and then much like Rodgers, give a well seasoned player the keys to the car. When they gave Rodgers the keys to the car in his fourth season, he was nothing like the quarterback that put the Packers hat on the day he was drafted. They completely overhauled his mechanics. He was bigger, he was stronger, he added arm strength, his accuracy was much better, and his football I.Q. was finally up to speed. Because he was able to sit for three years, without worrying about having to play on Sundays, he was able to work on these things, which is why he is the great quarterback he is today.
When the Packers let go of Favre, they let go of a man who apparently had one more run left in him. But in the process, they traded one more year of Favre, of what looks to be 14 years of the greatness of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers may have to let Rodgers go one year before he is truly finished, but I would rather they let go of Rodgers one year too early, than bang their heads against the wall for the next 15 years because they let the young guy go to keep the old guy and hang onto the past.