Aaron Rodgers is not the newly-retired (from football) host of Jeopardy! He is not a member of the Denver Broncos or the Las Vegas Raiders. He isn’t sitting out the National Football League season as part of his impasse with the Green Bay Packers management.
It is mid-September and, with all other possible outcomes evaporated for the “beautiful mystery” – Rodgers’ words when asked to crystal ball his future at the end of last season – it’s time to play. As we now know, Rodgers and the Packers played last Sunday, and did so exceptionally poorly.
“It’s humiliating and humbling at the same time,” head coach Matt LaFleur said, following a 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
“We played bad – I played bad,” Rodgers offered.
Bad was an understatement, so what to make of it all? To answer that question requires a bunch of guesswork, because there is too little information to give either of the most polarized options any credibility. Was Sunday a precursor to a dumpster fire of a campaign, with Rodgers regressing and the Packers’ chemistry non-existent on the back of all the recent turmoil?
Or was it a mere blip on the road to a genuine attempt at a Super Bowl championship, perhaps even a welcome kick in the pants to get the team fired up and a reminder of the importance of togetherness?
We honestly don’t know and won’t know for a little while. The solution is probably found somewhere in between. However, if there is any credence to be put in early indicators, there is a lot of work to be done.
“The (Packers) didn’t show up because (Rodgers) didn’t show up,” FS1’s Skip Bayless said on “Undisputed.” “It was clear from the first snap of the game he was not there, he looked checked out to me.”
The matter of Rodgers’ commitment to the cause was always going to be a discussion point, given his discontent with the organization ever since his successor Jordan Love was drafted.
LaFleur, Rodgers and team officials all insisted it would be business as usual once things ultimately got resolved and the QB returned to the fold. Maybe it will be. But what happened over the weekend wasn’t expected.
On Sunday, the Packers didn’t come up against the most talented team in the NFL, nor in the NFC, nor in the NFC South. But they did come up against a group of players in the New Orleans Saints that were full of spirit and drive and motivation, who understood each other as a group and wanted to win as a collective.
Some days a team just doesn’t have it and Green Bay didn’t have much of anything at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, where the game was relocated because of the effects of Hurricane Ida on the bayou. For certain, they had nothing in common with a team that went 13-3 last year.
“The Packers looked like they were coming off a 4-12 season, not back-to-back NFC Championship games,” wrote Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Passion can’t overcome the most vital disadvantages in pro football, like if your players aren’t good enough or your coach can’t decipher opposition schemes, but you need to be a serious competitor no matter how accomplished your locker room looks.
The Packers need to find some, and quickly. They have an all-time great quarterback, some strong receiving options that he wanted, some star power on both sides of the ball and all that incumbent history.
Right now, they also have a giant question mark hanging above them and it surrounds how much they want it, how much the uncertainty regarding Rodgers has thrown them off kilter, and whether they can address those issues with the requisite haste.
The chance to put it right comes next, amid the familiar confines of Lambeau Field against the Detroit Lions this weekend. FOX Bet has the Packers at an overwhelming 10.5-point favorite, and any result other than a resounding victory would truly set the alarm bells ringing.
“It kind of caught me by surprise, I am not used to losing like this,” Packers running back Aaron Jones said. “We need to get back to work.”
The season has only just begun but Green Bay, and Rodgers, are already on the clock.
Here’s what others have said …
Skip Bayless, Undisputed: “It was clear from the first snap of the game Aaron Rodgers was not there, he looked checked out to me. How do you go from running away with the MVP to that?”
Emmanuel Acho, Speak For Yourself: “Aaron Rodgers, the reason the Packers looked as bad as they did, is because you looked as bad as you did.”
Carson Palmer, Former NFL Quarterback: “Aaron looked uncomfortable… He looked like he had cement boots on at times. Something was holding him back and holding him down.”