The Green Bay Packers can’t wait to see how Jordan Love performs

Mike McCarthy knew.

It was November 29, 2007, and McCarthy’s Green Bay Packers were coming off a 37-27 loss in Dallas in a matchup of two 10-1 teams. Brett Favre was injured early in that game, Aaron Rodgers came in in relief and performed extremely well.

As McCarthy boarded a plane that night to return to the NFL’s smallest city, he knew that whenever Favre decided to hang it up, the Packers would be fine with Rodgers.

“It was clear we weren’t changing,” McCarthy said at the NFL Combine last month. “We didn’t back down on the game plan and Aaron came in there and played extremely well that night.

“And I just remember on the plane ride home, (general manager) Ted (Thompson) and I talking about his performance. That’s when we knew he was ready. So it was a moment for us.

“But the reality is that you see it every day in practice. “The way Aaron was coached, ask our defensive players from ’06 and ’07 and they’ll tell you they all knew he had a chance to be a great player.”

Today, the Packers feel exactly the same way about Jordan Love.

And that’s why Rodgers will be in a Jets uniform once Green Bay and New York agree on trade compensation.

Love just completed his third year as the backup in Green Bay, the same year Rodgers sat behind Favre. And the Packers believe in Love today the same way they believed in Rodgers in 2008.

The odds of Eros developing into a Hall of Fame level quarterback like Rodgers did are astronomical. But Green Bay believes Love can become a top player in the league and wants to find out firsthand what its 2020 first-round draft pick can do.

“Well, he has to play. I think I’ve talked about this before. He absolutely has to play,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said of Love. “I think this is the next step in his development. I think he’s ready for it.

“Not every quarterback comes into this league ready to go out there and play. I think it needed some time, but in the last year and a half, we’ve seen that this is the next step in his evolution. He has to come out and play.”

Love certainly wasn’t ready to play when he arrived in Green Bay.

Love threw 20 touchdowns but 17 interceptions during the 2019 season at Utah State, then declared early for the draft. Love had six multi-interception games and had three picks returned for touchdowns during his final collegiate season.

Some blamed the talent surrounding Love and the coaching change for his struggles at Utah State. But Love’s decision in 2019 was abysmal, and he was cited for possession of marijuana in a case that was later dismissed.

“The biggest difference for me was obviously the turnovers, they went up,” Love said before the 2020 draft. “I was trying to do too much and push the ball down, thinking I could make shots in tight windows. There were situations where I could have checked the ball, but I was trying to make that play.”

Love’s rookie season in Green Bay was largely lost due to COVID-19. There was no offseason, no preseason games, and he spent the entire year as Green Bay’s No. 3 quarterback behind Rodgers and Tim Boyle.

Love made one start in 2021 — a 13-7 loss at Kansas City — when Rodgers was sidelined by COVID. And Love finished that year completing 36 of 62 passes for 411 yards with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 68.7 passer rating.

But Love took a major leap before and during his third season — at the same point that Rodgers took a huge leap.

Rodgers skipped most of Green Bay’s 2022 offseason program, giving Love plenty of opportunities to work with the No. 1 offense. Love looked like a different player during those practices — as well as when his number was called during the regular season.

During a 40–33 loss at Philadelphia on November 27, Rodgers left the game with a rib injury early in the fourth quarter. Enter Love, who went 6 of 9 for 113 yards, had a 146.8 rating and led the Packers to 10 points on his two drives.

Love’s breakout performance came nearly 15 years to the day Rodgers showed the Packers he could be their heir apparent to Favre.

“I’m not shocked to be honest with you that he went out there, played well and showed great poise,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Love. “We see it on a daily basis in practice. People may not necessarily agree with this, but I see it every day. I think he’s a guy that just kept getting better and better every day in practice. He does a great job against our defense and gives them looks and gives them really tough looks.”

Love played in four games in 2022 and finished the year 14-of-21 for 195 yards, one TD, no interceptions and a 112.2 quarterback rating.

It took a while, but this was the type of player Gutekunst envisioned when he traded up four spots in the 2020 draft to get Love.

Love’s physical attributes and arm strength made teams need a quarterback before that draft.

Agapi displayed fantastic arm talent, could throw from multiple arm slots, had good touch on deep balls and extremely large hands (10-1/2 inches). Love’s ability to shuffle was impressive and his confidence was sky high.

On the other hand, Love seemed to lack anticipation and was slow on his reads at Utah State. Love had a long finish and often looked receivers down.

But Love’s natural gifts and flashes excited many teams – including Green Bay.

And after three years of watching and waiting, the Packers believe he’s ready.

“I’m not trying to look just because we did something in the past that guarantees we should do something in the future,” Gutekunst said. “I think for me it’s about doing what’s best for the Green Bay Packers right now and then moving forward.

“Obviously my job is to look out and have some vision for the future, not just today, but at the same time I think you can’t control some of the circumstances and the variables. You just have to make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time, so I’m excited to see Jordan grow and play, and I certainly expect him to be here, but again, the variables and things that will come, I cannot predict it.”

The Packers predict, however, that Love is the answer.

If they didn’t feel that way, they would never be willing to part with a four-time MVP and Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

Now, Green Bay will cross its fingers and hope its move to Love has similar results to its move to Rodgers 15 years ago.

“I think any time players progress, it affects all the decisions you make,” Gutekunst said of Love. “We got him for a reason in 2020, he was progressing well and it was nice to see him make the jump he did last year. Again, it’s a lot different than going out week in, week out, facing the challenges when teams plan games for you.

“We were talking earlier about the time it takes for a quarterback to go from playing well to winning in this league, and he’s going to have to go through those things like any other quarterback. He’s made some really good jumps and there’s more out there for him, but I think the things that are out there for him, he’s going to look to play to do that.”

And now Love finally has that chance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *