AR12’s stock plunged entering the weekend — but Jordan Love’s performance in a bad Packers loss against the Chiefs can’t be ignored.
Things spiraled pretty quickly for Aaron Rodgers late last week.
After testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, what the quarterback said on Friday regarding misleading his Green Bay Packers and other assorted thoughts he gave to Pat McAfee are well documented. To say the blowback against the reigning MVP and former Super Bowl champion was substantial would be putting it lightly.
And yet, Rodgers still managed to have a case as the biggest winner of the NFL weekend despite spending Sunday on the sidelines.
In his first missed game since 2017, understudy Jordan Love threw for just 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a hapless 13-7 loss to Kansas City in which Green Bay managed just 301 yards of total offense.
“Aaron’s had experience where he can get you out of some situations,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after the loss, taking blame for Love’s 28.7 QBR (out of 100) in his first-ever NFL action after being taken with the 26th pick of the 2020 draft. “I think this falls on me not having a good enough plan to go out there against that pressure, especially with a young quarterback.”
Since 2008, the Packers are 6-12-1 without Rodgers. Green Bay couldn’t take advantage of a subpar effort from Patrick Mahomes, whose 166 yards passing were the absolute fewest of his standout career.
Of course, the QB’s ill-advised decisions do have consequences. The Packers are now 7-2 and could risk losing the NFC’s lone bye in the playoffs with this defeat in a winnable game against the Chiefs. Green Bay may also face penalties and discipline for not enforcing protocols for an unvaccinated player like AR12. Further violations could potentially result in suspension and the Packers losing a draft pick.
Already, the marketplace is responding in kind. Though big-time partner State Farm is ultimately sticking by Rodgers (but also greatly scaled back his TV ad exposure over the weekend), Wisconsin-based medical group Prevea Health opted to dissolve its partnership with him Saturday.
And yet, Aaron Rodgers still holds a tremendous amount of leverage in the big picture despite putting the health of his teammates, coaches, and Packers staffers at risk.
You saw how they played on Sunday without him. You already know how he’ll be a free agent after the 2022 season, the product of a contract restructuring. And you already know that Green Bay couldn’t afford to lose its franchise player for nothing — making a trade next offseason a possibility that cannot be ruled out.
And critically, superstar wide receiver Davante Adams will want some assurances that the Packers will have a franchise quarterback long-term with his own free agency coming after the current season wraps.
“They don’t want to alienate Rodgers, in hopes of him wanting to stay in Green Bay at least one more season,” NBC’s Peter King said. “But they are risking major team fines and discipline if they look the other way on Rodgers and masks.”
It’s really hard to do what Rodgers did on Friday and still have all the leverage on Monday. And if he gets to return next weekend against Seattle and guides the Packers to victory, or if Love struggles again against the Seahawks, the pendulum will swing even further in Rodgers’ favor.
Which is why despite not stepping on the field on Sunday (and getting to R-E-L-A-X in the process), Rodgers actually has an argument in his favor for being one of the NFL’s big winners walking out of Week 9.