With Or Without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers Can Be a Playoff Team Again in 2022

The Green Bay Packers short term future is up in the air right now. The team is waiting for Aaron Rodgers to decide about his future. But regardless of whether the reigning NFL MVP decides to retire, return to Green Bay or demands a trade, the Packers can find a way to be a playoff team again in 2022.

Let’s look at each possibility. Nothing is guaranteed obviously regardless of what Rodgers decides. For example, Rodgers could return to Green Bay and be lost due to injury in the preseason. But here are the most likely paths to contention for the Packers under each scenario:

1. Rodgers Returns to the Packers

If Rodgers decides he wants to play in Green Bay again in 2022, the Packers will still have an elite quarterback. Obviously, Rodgers will need a new deal and once that deal is properly structured, the Packers will clear up cap space for 2022 when Rodgers signs the new extension.

GM Brian Gutekunst would then try to keep as many of the team’s core players as possible under the cap including Rodgers’ favorite target, Davante Adams.

All five projected starters along the offensive line should be returning including a healthy David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. At running back, both Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon are under contract for 2022.

On defense, the duo of Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes gives the Packers two quality starters at cornerback with the hope of re-signing Rasul Douglas. The Packers would also have Kenny Clark back and would try to keep De’Vondre Campbell if possible.

This is the outline of a contending team with elite players on both sides of the football.

2. Rodgers Retires

This may be the most challenging situation for Gutekunst. It is also the least likely of the three possible outcomes.

If Rodgers decides to hang up his cleats, he will most likely wait until July to make that official. That would help the Packers spread out the cap hit they would receive from his retirement over two seasons and again, free up valuable cap space for the coming season.

Gutekunst would then have a decision to make at quarterback. The key is whether Jordan Love is ready to take over as the starter. Love is still on his entry-level contract so if he’s ready, the Packers could save substantial cap space there.

If not, Gutekunst would have to trade for a different starter or sign one in free agency. Unfortunately, there aren’t many great free agent quarterbacks out there as of right now with Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton and Teddy Bridgewater among the more well-known candidates.

A trade would cost the Packers some draft picks or players and would not save them a lot of cap space depending on who they acquire and what they give up to get him. But a quality quarterback could be acquired in a trade and having a player like Russell Wilson under center would again give the Packers a quality starting quarterback and keep the team a contender.

The retirement scenario is the most challenging for Gutekunst and the Packers but there are always ways to make it work. If Love is ready to be even an average NFL starter, the Packers could strengthen their defense and even the offensive weapons around him before next season and still be in the hunt for the playoffs. If not, they could bring in a quality starter and remain a playoff contender because of the talent around him.

3. Rodgers Demands a Trade

If Rodgers demands a trade, this may give the Packers the opportunity to retool without rebuilding. The Packers would likely get multiple first-round picks, a quality player or two and possibly a short-term starting quarterback if Gutekunst feels Love isn’t ready to start in 2022.

If Love is ready to go, the Packers would be gaining multiple high draft picks on rookie contracts which would allow the Packers to replenish their talent pool and lower their cap burden because these players would be on their rookie deals for three or four seasons.

If they feel it’s necessary, they could also draft another quarterback to compete with Love or to take over if Love doesn’t develop into the player the Packers are hoping he can be.

Yes, there would be growing pains as some of these rookies adjust to life in the NFL. Not every first round pick contributes as quickly or as well as Eric Stokes. But the Packers would also have enough money to keep enough veterans to compete for a playoff spot and to move from playoff contenders to serious title contenders in a short amount of time if they draft and develop well.

One advantage the Packers have under any of these outcomes is that the NFC North does not have another elite team right now. A lot can change between now and next season, but it’s possible that 10 or 11 wins could win the NFC North in 2022.

Just getting into the playoffs gives a team a chance to reach the Super Bowl. Packers fans are only too familiar with the fact that being the top seed in the playoffs doesn’t guarantee anything and that a sixth seed, for example, can also reach the NFC Championship Game.

Whichever decision Rodgers makes, Gutekunst and the Packers front office will face major challenges. But the team can still contend for a playoff berth with the right moves and a little luck.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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6 points

Comments (45)

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splitpea1's picture

January 27, 2022 at 02:26 pm

1. No!

2. Double NO!! Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton? Giving up draft picks? Absolutely NOT!

3. Yes!

Competing for a playoff spot without Rodgers should be considered a bonus at this point, though as you said, it's not at all improbable that the Packers would win the division anyway. Whenever you have a chance to unload an aging player and restock the roster with premium draft picks (though no one knows how many), you just have to take it.

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dblbogey's picture

January 27, 2022 at 03:17 pm

I agree, though I just came here hoping to see a "Packers fire Drayton" story.

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splitpea1's picture

January 27, 2022 at 03:27 pm

Yeah, what's the holdup? It's only taken MLF three days the last two times.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 27, 2022 at 09:21 pm

If they get multiple One Picks for Rodgers in a trade, which seems improbable, they Have to Hit on the picks. Preferably a Blue chip. I would try to snag Gardner Minshew to cover for Love if the trade does happen to occur.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 27, 2022 at 12:44 pm

1. I think that he wants to stay if he can.
2. I don’t think that this current team can afford him unless he restructures his contract.
3. Key players will be gone in the coming season.
4. The above points will affect his final decision.

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NickPerry's picture

January 28, 2022 at 07:28 am

Hey PatrickGB... I think you're absolutely right, his current team can't afford him, at least at that number and keep a team around him that can win.

It will come down to one of two things IMO... IF Rodgers was to stay, the Packers would extend him 2, maybe 3 years with a possible voide year or two tacked on. They'd shove almost EVERYTHING in 2022 to 2023 and beyond when the Cap will make a HUGE jump with the new TV Contracts.

OR...They trade him to Denver or my new favorite Indy. Indy has a top three O-Line (when healthy) in the NFL. IMO the best RB in the NFL (move over King Henry). A more than decent defense. $42 million in cap space, just 2 million less than Denver, and a stud WR named Michael Pittman.

As much as I HATE the thought of life after Rodgers, the thought of the drama he brings and another GUT WRENCHING disappointment in playoffs, I'm just READY to turn the page and start new with EXTRA picks/players.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 28, 2022 at 09:52 am

I thought the same thing about Indy. They could even afford Adams. But I don’t know how Rodgers feels about them. Also, the reason that Indy has so much cap space is that they don’t spend much on FA’s. I could also see a trade that included a starting QB from the team we trade with.

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jhtobias's picture

January 27, 2022 at 12:52 pm

Good article. I agree with you of number one campbell can be resigned he made the defense go.

They could almost be like the niners with jordan love at the healm just dont lose the game for us .

As for Rodgers it is like part 8 of a movie sequel we have seen it done it. I of course no that rodgers vs live is a silly debate. All I'm saying is we have gone as far as we can with rodgers

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stockholder's picture

January 27, 2022 at 12:54 pm

1. Yes. 2. Yes because Gutey doesn't need Draft picks. He Signs FAs 3. No. He's ready to retire. It won't be hard to get to the playoffs in this division. At least for the first year. It's after that. We won't get anybody good enough here. Because Rodgers won't be here. Giving up picks hurt Sherman. And it will hurt Gute. Gute refused to fix the DL. If Clark goes down. Their Done. If the Smiths leave, you only have Gary. This team will be a revolving door after next year.

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Coldworld's picture

January 27, 2022 at 01:29 pm

Wasn’t Gary a draft pick? Alexander, Stokes? One Smith is already gone for cap reasons (unofficial but accepted). Admittedly, if option 1 more go. If option 2 probably worse if they can’t get Rodgers to wait till June.

Going to need a lot of draft picks, UDFAs and bargain bin types this year if either of option 1 or 2 proves correct. We’d probably also be cap restricted for the next 2 or 3 years with the back loading required to make 1 work. Rodgers would also have the team in a vice, since retirement would escalate any guarantees or signing bonuses. Not good unless you believe it wins us everything and, with a lesser roster, I don’t. In fact I think it could create such a mess that all the big 3 get kicked out in the aftermath

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Oppy's picture

January 28, 2022 at 05:01 pm

I know Rodgers claims players come here to play with Rodgers, but there's a long list of quality FA's the Packers have attempted to land who didn't end up in Green Bay, WI. You know where those FA's end up? With the team that pays the most.

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ricky's picture

January 27, 2022 at 01:19 pm

Considering his age, his recent play in the playoffs, and his personality, not to mention the possibility of having him for only one or two years, getting multiple firsts or multiple players in a trade seems unlikely. In brief, we, as fans, tend to overvalue our own players. So, expect, at most, a first and a couple of early round picks for AR. If you're going to cite Stafford, the Rams were also unloading a terrible contract onto the Lions.

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Swisch's picture

January 27, 2022 at 07:11 pm

As for me, let's take what we can get for Rodgers, while unloading as much of his contract as possible as soon as possible.
The key is to move on from Rodgers as soon as possible.

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BirdDogUni's picture

January 27, 2022 at 09:54 pm

The Key is to get multiple teams bidding for Rodgers. Broncos, Colts, and Dolphins get into a bidding war, it could get wickedly interesting very fast. There will probably be one or two surprise teams interested too... Panthers? I know Rodgers has to OK any trade, but getting the price as high as possible is the key. Hope Gutey has a wicked Poker Face! ;)

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Alberta_Packer's picture

January 27, 2022 at 01:42 pm

With Rodgers leaving - one way or another - it will be addition by subtraction - salary cap, team harmony, fan anxiety etc. Then the roster re-tooling - draft choices - free agents etc. ln brief, it should be a busy and constructive off-season - with the drama meter readings down way lower than the last. Additionally, the team is in pretty good shape with a nucleus of good, young and developing players. So a good off-season for the FO and we should be cooking with gas again!

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croatpackfan's picture

January 27, 2022 at 01:45 pm

If Aaron Rodgers stays, expect another pain as long as he will playing post season games. So, if I can chose, I'll chose trade, because there will be more draft capital. I do not expect 3 1st rounders, more likely late 1st rounder 2022 draft, second round and maybe 3rd round 2023 draft and probably one or two player. If he will go to Broncos, one of the players can be Teddy Bridgewater who showed that he is good game manager.

If Aaron Rodgers retire lets hope he will be correct to the Packers and restructure his contract in the manner to help franchise. Considering his personality, it is not for sure...

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Guam's picture

January 27, 2022 at 03:04 pm

Option 1 - allows the Packers to remain playoff contenders although I doubt they will be Super Bowl contenders due to a salary cap ravaged roster.

Options 2 and 3 - I will be shocked if the Packers make the playoffs in 2022. Making the playoffs requires at least competent QB play. The Packers went 6-10 in Rodgers first year as a starter (fourth year in the league). I have no idea how Love will turn out, but I am pretty sure he won't be very good next year. It takes a QB at least one year as a starter to learn to play in the NFL. And those draft choices from option 3 will be rookies who will also need to learn about the NFL. I think 2022 will be a tough year for the Packers, but depending on Love and hopefully several draft choices who will be in their second year, I believe 2023 will be much better.

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calabasa's picture

January 27, 2022 at 03:29 pm

If he returns to GB, he should sacrifice salary in order to make the team better. People tend to forget this is what Brady is doing in Tampa Bay. Gute should hold a hard line at 25mil/yr and see what Arod says. My hunch is he won’t be “interested”.

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SanLobo's picture

January 27, 2022 at 08:52 pm

These comparisons to Brady making a “sacrifice” for the team get old. Brady is worth over $200 million. His wife is worth over $450 million. Even with all of Brady’s sacrifices, he will still retire the richest NFL player in history.

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Rossonero's picture

January 27, 2022 at 06:24 pm

Most likely scenarios are #1 (Rodgers returns) or #3 (Rodgers asks for a trade).

He's not going to retire...he already said he still has the competitive fire and is playing at a high level.

Personally I agree with what Aaron Nagler said the other day on Packers Daily - it just feels like its time for him to move on. All things must come to an end. All things must conclude. And if this was the last dance, I'm ok with it. It just feels like things have run their natural course.

Even if Rodgers returns, he knows that that alone could trigger a massive exodus of talent simply because he's too damn expensive. At the same time, he's also said "I don't want to be part of a rebuild."

Define rebuild. In my past experience, there was a saying: "words mean things." Sounds simple right? But words mean different things to different people. How Rodgers defines it and how the front office defines it will be interesting to see.

Bottom line: trade him and sell high. PFWA already named him MVP, and it's likely he'll be named the MVP at the NFL Honors show on Feb. 10th too. Let's get a boatload of shit (picks, players), get his bloated salary off the books and keep this defense intact! Change our identity with Love -- pound the ball with our RB tandem, play defense and clean up the special teams. I know this means Adams might also walk, but if it's a King's Ransom, then Gutekunst should take it.

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jschlue2's picture

January 28, 2022 at 02:38 pm

Actually, on the Pat McAfee show Tuesday he said on thing he needs to evaluate is whether he still has the "competitive fire" or not.

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Rossonero's picture

January 29, 2022 at 08:46 am

Interesting. That's the opposite of what he's said in one of his press conference interviews. Great - now we have a guy who can't make up his mind.

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Coldworld's picture

January 29, 2022 at 10:50 am

He’s trying to position himself to his best advantage. That’s what he does. How hot the fire is often depends on how a player feels about what is around him. By threatening retirement he threatens the Packers with getting nothing if they don’t give him everything he wants or let him go where he wants regardless of price. He’s also putting teams that he might not want to join on notice that he’s got to be won over if they want a chance, that it’s as much his say as that of the Packers, maybe more so.

Rodgers is not Favre, despite the seeming similarities. He’s already playing his game as best he knows how. He wants to play, but on his terms.

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Swisch's picture

January 27, 2022 at 06:51 pm

Thanks, Gil, for reminding us that the world doesn't end for the Packers without Aaron Rodgers.
We have a lot of good players on the Packers aside from Rodgers, and without Rodgers would likely be able to afford to keep more of our own guys, and acquire more guys from other teams.
I think we could very well make the playoffs. There are no guarantees, though, and it could be a rough patch for the Packers without Rodgers.
Then again, there are no guarantees with an aging Rodgers perhaps diminishing in skills or being more susceptible to injury.
***
I for one dread the thought of Rodgers coming back next year.
Enough of his self-absorbed melodrama.
Please, let him leave, and let the Packers move on.
***
That desperation heave to Davante that failed against the 49ers, while Lazard was crossing the field in front of Rodgers wide open but neglected, seems like a symbol of the later years of the Rodgers Era.
Whether this miserable mistake was made out of unwillingness or inability on the part of Rodgers, it was a disaster (and I'm surprised more isn't being made of this massive fail).
As for me, Rodgers can't leave soon enough.
So long Aaron Rodgers. All the best to you.

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Roadrunner23's picture

January 27, 2022 at 11:25 pm

The Packers should be able to win a weak nfc north without Rodgers and get a home playoff game.

So what’s the difference?

If he wants out or his demands are out of line, move on and get what you can while you can

We can lose playoff games just as easily with or without him.

5 points
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Roadrunner23's picture

January 27, 2022 at 11:27 pm

Get you popcorn ready it’s going to be another crazy off-season for the Packers 🍿

1 points
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HarryHodag's picture

January 28, 2022 at 06:57 am

Imagine this roster next fall: no Rodgers or Adams, no Smiths, Campbell, Douglas, Tonyan, MVS, Eq. St. Brown, Patrick, Lancaster and Kelly.

Maybe the playoffs, but I doubt it.

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Coldworld's picture

January 29, 2022 at 10:43 am

Adams and Z make a difference. P may still be around, I want Campbell and Douglas around too, but the best chance of being able to retain them is if Adams snd Rodgers are gone.

Patrick deserves a starting level contract. I doubt it comes from us, due to young depth as well as cost. Kelly may stay if cheap, but he’s not a preferred starter. More likely Turner is gone. Lancaster is not as bad as many think, but he’s depth that should be upgraded. I’d add Lowry to that but they likely will disappoint me. EQ has managed to do nothing again all year. No big loss unless it’s just Rodgers ignoring him. MVS may have become cheaper due to injury and lack of targets. So hardly the end of the world if we have the cap from Rodgers and a pick or two extra.

Now imagine Rodgers without all you named, those I added and a few more replaced by draft, UDFA and bargain FAs and tell me how good life will be. Maybe we win the division because the division is probably still a mess. Not guaranteed though.

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stockholder's picture

January 28, 2022 at 08:34 am

Rodgers makes the the packers money. He's the MVP. And if anybody gives you anything for him. It will be about the money they make. Not the super-bowl. When The packers moved on from Favre. They didn’t care about winning. They went for the future. And Favre's " retirement talk “ was uncertainy for them. He had a addiction problem. A repaired thumb. Rodgers does not.!! The packers Traded for John Hadl. Rodgers is better then John Hadl. If the packers trade Rodgers, the commitment to other players is ended. The disrespect they showed Favre and now Rodgers, will hurt anything management achieved while in office. The players union will be using this against them, when it's bargaining time. I guarantee it. Rodgers will be the poster Boy for the union!! It must be Rodgers who wants out now. His jersey still sells. He’s become a media attraction. Rogers wasn’t Rodgers in the SF game. But the blame can’t go all on him. Rodgers has gotten us to the payoffs. By trading him. It will be an embarrassment the packers may never live down.

-4 points
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Oppy's picture

January 28, 2022 at 05:04 pm

I don't think you understand what the Players union does.

4 points
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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

January 28, 2022 at 12:20 pm

Trade Rodgers for a boat load of picks. Coax Brady out of retirement after he leaves the Bucs.

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jschlue2's picture

January 28, 2022 at 02:49 pm

Regarding the whole trade idea - he said he will make his decision by the time free agency starts, so waiting until June to find out won't happen.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 28, 2022 at 05:30 pm

Waiting until June would be a favor done by AR for the Packers. The decision would come sooner.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 28, 2022 at 05:35 pm

If AR leaves via trade or retirement, I'd suggest that the Packers have a low chance of making the playoffs. I suppose Chicago and particularly Minnesota could implode. I suppose if 7-10 is good enough to win the division, that is a possibility. Not a good one as I don't see GB winning 7 games without AR and Adams. I suppose Gute might hit the jackpot with the draft.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 28, 2022 at 06:59 pm

Cheer up, TGR. We return a really good OL with Jones and Dillon. That’s over half the offense right there.

In the Rodgers trade, we could get Jeudy. In the draft, we could get TE that blocks like Lewis and catches like Tonyan. We’ll bring back Lazard and Amari. Deguara is still here. We’ll be fine.

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BirdDogUni's picture

January 28, 2022 at 09:48 pm

Had a nice long comment for you TGR, then the damn thing logged me out... What's the deal with that? It does it all the time and pisses me off.

Now the damn kitten deleted 3 damn paragraphs sitting on my mouse! %%%

I'll never get this comment posted, so I might as well try tomorrow... ; )

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

January 29, 2022 at 11:12 am

If Rodgers and Adams stay I’d say we have little chance of anything more than that at a cost of a deeper and more protracted hole.

Winning the division while every team is in rebound mode means little to nothing for this team next year if we have Rodgers. Not worth the price and not, with the resulting roster, guaranteed anyway.

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Packman60's picture

January 28, 2022 at 06:20 pm

I don't think Rodgers is being honest. I don't think his relationship with Gutey ia as repaired as he is trying to sell. I think he already knows that he will be requesting a trade to Denver. It's only a matter of time until he makes it known

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BirdDogUni's picture

January 28, 2022 at 08:47 pm

I tend to agree with this...

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BirdDogUni's picture

January 28, 2022 at 08:43 pm

"With Or Without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers Can Be a Playoff Team Again in 2022."

Yes, of course we can.

I'm not going to go out on a limb and say Jordan Love is taking us to the Playoffs, but he's actually more talented than Jimmy G, so it is definitely possible.

Sure Love has a lot of learning to do, but so did Rodgers when he took over. In 2008 we went 6 - 10 in Rodgers first year of starting. If Jordan Love is our starter next year, I predict our record will be better than 6 - 11... ; )

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Coldworld's picture

January 29, 2022 at 11:16 am

If Love had a season like Rodgers did the first year he started then I think most of us would be thrilled for the future whether we won anything or not. I don’t think Love is as ready, to be honest, but that season with Rodgers would be a bust.

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BirdDogUni's picture

January 29, 2022 at 08:45 pm

Well, Love has a whole off season to get ready, so he better get the % to work... ;)

Covid BS didn't do JL any favors, and I don't know who he works out with in the off-season, but if he works hard, there's no reason to think JL can't lead this team.

Especially leaning on a good running game. Jones, Dillon, Hill, and PTJ is a pretty good stable of RBs...

If Gutey can get some decent compensation for AR and if he were to tag and trade DA, we'll be set for the foreseeable future.

Have a decent draft and we could win the north. Maybe not easily, but we could win it!

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barutanseijin's picture

January 29, 2022 at 02:18 am

What does it matter if Rodgers gets the team to the playoffs. He can’t get past the better NFC teams. Love may not win a Super Bowl, but at this point in his career, neither is Aaron Rodgers.

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Qoojo's picture

January 29, 2022 at 10:36 am

I think he is, but he isn't with the Packers because he is so revered. Coaching staff lets AR get away with following his own script. Coaching staff lets him get away with it because it works on the regular season fodder, and saves them from bad plays. Coaching staff gets lazy, then eventually they hit a team with a decent defense in playoffs, and they don't adapt to pressure while AR wants to throw deep.

It just isn't going to work in GB.

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barutanseijin's picture

January 29, 2022 at 03:17 am

Isn’t this what Bob McGinn said about the Packers just before the the Year of Scott Tolzein — or was it the Year of Huntley?

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