Green Bay Packers: I Don't Agree with It, But I Do Respect Aaron Rodgers' Desire to Play
When I saw Aaron Rodgers exit the game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday with a rib injury I, like a lot of fans, assumed the Jordan Love era was about to begin in Green Bay, even if it was just for the remainder of the season. I was majorly surprised when Rodgers announced he intended to start this weekend's game against the Chicago Bears and Coach Matt LaFleur confirmed that was the plan.
While I still think it's a bad idea and Green Bay should force the face of the franchise to sit one out and get healthy over next weeks' bye week, from both the ribs and a thumb injury, I have to admit Rodgers' desire to play is inspiring.
There are plenty of NFL players who make "business decisions" regarding their bodies, whether it's not throwing themselves into a scrum of players or not putting up a fight when the team doctor tells them they need to take a week or two off. Rodgers is not only doing the exact opposite, but he is also choosing to do it when he really has nothing to lose by taking the time off.
Mathematically, the 4-8 Packers are still technically in the playoff hunt. However, realistically, the odds of them getting to post season aren't very good. The team likely would need to win its final 5 games, including a road game against the 8-3 Miami Dolphins and a home game against the 9-2 Minnesota Vikings, plus get a lot of help. This means Rodgers likely would be putting his already beaten-up body on the line for 20 more quarters only to watch the playoffs from home.
And while Jordan Love has shown potential in his limited amount of playing time, it's hard to think Rodgers' starting job is even remotely on the line if the younger quarterback finishes out the season and plays well. Rodgers recently signed extension guarantees him $59.465 million next season. The Packers can't cut him and likely would have a limited trade market for a 39-year-old quarterback coming off one of his worst seasons statistically. The most likely scenario, unless he retires, is they keep him as the starter one more year just because that's too much money to keep him on the bench. That gives him every reason in the world (or at least 59.465 million reasons) to want to be healthy next season.
There are, naturally, naysayers out there who are criticizing Rodgers' decision because they feel he is holding back Love's development. While that may be true, it's also not his job, it's LaFleur's job (as is telling Rodgers to sit if he feels the quarterback's injuries are affecting his play).
On a related note, the criticism about him hurting the team by having such a large salary cap hit also isn't fair. I'm not saying it isn't true too, I'm just saying I wouldn't turn down $59.465 million in guaranteed money either, even if it means I'm being paid to lead a team that doesn't have enough talent to win as a result. The decision to offer that kind of money (and fault for the impact it causes) falls squarely on General Manager Brian Gutekunst, not Rodgers.
Ultimately, I do still hope Rodgers realizes the futility of his efforts and makes a business decision to get healthy. However, if he is going to gut out the pain and try to help this team to win, then I am going to respect both the decision and the man who is making it.