The Packers’ priorities are all over the place.
After a highly controversial 2020 NFL Draft, head coach Matt LaFleur says that the team needs to focus on becoming more explosive on offense, a goal they’ve done little to reach this offseason.
“One area we really need to improve on is creating more explosive plays,” LaFleur said, per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. “We were pretty efficient, but were 23rd in explosive plays. That starts with play calling (and) maybe take a few more chances to help generate those plays down the field.”
The Packers’ draft was especially dubious if that is indeed LaFleur’s intention. Not only did general manager Brian Gutekunst pass on the chance to draft a weapon in the first round for quarterback Aaron Rodgers from what was widely considered to be a stacked wide receiver class, they also traded up to draft a player who could redshirt for two seasons: QB Jordan Love.
Love, 21, was a polarizing, small-school prospect whom many expected to transfer to a Power 5 program instead of declaring for the draft. After a strong redshirt sophomore season, the Utah State gunslinger threw for 3,402 yards, 20 touchdowns and a whopping 17 interceptions in 2019.
The Packers expect Rodgers — who was blindsided by the shocking pick — to mentor Love and help him develop into a franchise quarterback. Unlike most first-round quarterbacks drafted recently, the former Aggie is expected to assume an understudy role due to the timing of Rodgers’ contract. The 36-year-old signal-caller is entering Year 3 of a four-year, $134 million contract extension he signed in 2018 which carries a dead cap hit of $51.15 million in 2020 and $31.56 million in 2021, according to Over The Cap.
It’s not like they did much to help either in the interim. Cutting veteran TE Jimmy Graham saved some cash, but it wasn’t exactly put to good use — free agency signings Devin Funchess and Marcedes Lewis don’t exactly move the meter when it comes to offseason splashes. Even in a limited market for offensive playmakers, the Packers seemed to settle for minor pieces.
Outside of stud pass-catcher Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones, who tied for the NFL lead with 19 touchdowns in his third season, the explosive plays LaFleur is looking to run might be hard to come by.
Green Bay instead brought a potentially combustible situation upon themselves.
“[Rodgers and I] talk four times a week whenever we get those opportunities to meet in those individual meetings, and I feel really good about where we’re at,” LaFleur said. “We both understand that this is a business.
“When that whole thing went down it was just one of those situations where there were a couple of guys targets that had just previously been picked and Jordan was the next guy on the board.”
But the situation in Green Bay feels more like a powder keg than a fledgling mentor-student relationship. While some have drawn parallels to the Rodgers-Brett Favre dynamic from the 2005 NFL Draft which also didn’t end well, the current status is arguably less tenable. Rodgers was a projected top pick who fell into their laps, while the Packers swung for the fences for Love, and the veteran has a history of vocalizing discourse with personnel.
“We have got to try to show [Love] as many good examples of what it looks like because the challenge is he’s going out on his own and working those different techniques and fundamentals but you’re not there to be able to correct him or show him the right way,” LaFleur said. “So we’ve got to present as much to him so he can get that good visual so that he can go out there and replicate that.”