There’s nothing worse than being caught in the middle of something you didn’t have anything to do with. And most times, you don’t even know how you got there in the first place.
This is what Jordan Love’s life has been like since April 23, 2020 — when the Packers traded up four spots to take the Utah State quarterback with the 26th overall pick in last year’s draft. Just hours before the 2021 draft started on Thursday, all the talk and speculation was focused on who the 49ers would take at No. 3, since it had become clear that Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson were going 1-2 to the Jaguars and Jets.
And then this happened.
This is where Love comes in, as Rodgers’ anger at the Packers started when they chose his successor instead of getting him more offensive help — the Packers haven’t used a first-round pick on a receiver since 2002 — while also letting the reigning MVP know that his days were numbered. Green Bay messed up, Rodgers is rightfully pissed off, and Love is stuck in the middle having never played a single NFL down — and that includes the preseason.
“As we’ve stated since the season ended, we are committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond. Aaron has been a vital part of our success and we look forward to competing for another championship with him leading our team,” Packers GM Brian Gutekunst wrote in a statement.
When you go back and look at the mock drafts — which is always hilarious — it reminds you just how wild it was for the Packers to move up and take Love. Sports Illustrated had Love going to the Jaguars — a place in need of a quarterback — at No. 20, with Green Bay selecting wide receiver Tee Higgins out of Clemson at No. 30. And over at NFL.com, Love wasn’t even on the first-round board, as they thought linebacker Kenneth Murray was going to be a Packer.
While drafting has always been a crapshoot, it doesn’t negate just how badly the Packers have handled this. When you’ve been a game away from the Super Bowl the last two seasons and have the MVP as your quarterback, you don’t go out and draft his successor instead of ignoring his pleas for offensive help — even if he is 37. Because when you do something that dumb, you realize that the 28-8 record you’ve accumulated in that time could be all for nothing when the best player in franchise history might be hosting Jeopardy! instead of showing up to minicamp.
“I can’t fathom [him] not being in Green Bay,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said Saturday after the draft, as Rodgers wasn’t traded and is still on the roster. “That’s where my mind’s at. I don’t only love the player, but I love the person. I love working with him on a daily basis; I think we all do — from the players in that locker room to the coaching staff. Again, I don’t even want to let my mind go there.
“I’ll always remain hopeful and optimistic, and certainly, we’ll always welcome him back with open arms,” he added. “He knows exactly how not only myself but our staff and our players feel about him. Like I said before, I just can’t imagine him not being in a Green Bay Packer uniform.”
Denial can make a person not believe what’s standing right in front of them, as Rodgers let off a clear warning shot in his NFC Championship postgame comments in January.
“I’ve talked to Jordan, and I told him, you know, there’s a lot of noise out there,” said LaFleur about the very noise that the Packers created. “You can’t focus on that. You’ve got to focus on yourself. And I know you guys think it’s cliché, but he’s got to be the best version of him, and he’s got to do everything in his power to make sure he knows the expectations, the standards which we’ve developed at that position. I know he’s working hard.”
The Packers put Jordan Love in a terrible predicament and told him to “focus on himself,” as if he doesn’t have a choice. And while Green Bay is in scramble mode trying to do everything to appease Aaron Rodgers — after the fact — their heir apparent is somewhere watching this play out, as he has a front-row seat to how Green Bay treats their old — and new — first-round quarterbacks. You know it’s bad when your last name is Love, and you still can’t get any of it.