Aaron Rodgers Looks To Prove Doubters Wrong in 2020

Aaron Rodgers

For the first time in a decade, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers finds himself in a position he’s all too familiar with from the early portion of his career: people are doubting him. There are plenty of reasons as to why, but it’s still somewhat shocking, all the same.

After all, Rodgers took his franchise to an NFC Championship appearance with a 13-3 record in 2019, and even though the Packers ultimately fell one game short of the Super Bowl, it’s impossible to consider rookie head coach Matt LaFleur‘s first season anything other than a smashing success.

So with all of that in mind, how can Aaron Rodgers, a former Super Bowl champion, two-time league MVP and surefire future Hall of Famer, be the subject of so much scrutiny as 2020 approaches?

Aaron Rodgers Will Be Motivated in 2020

For starters, there is a growing perception that the former Super Bowl MVP, now 36-years-old, showed signs of noticeable decline a season ago. In fact, many will argue that he hasn’t been the same player since his injury-riddled 2017 season, in which a broken collarbone held him to only seven starts, his fewest since taking over as the team’s top signal caller in 2008.

Certainly, Rodgers hasn’t lit up score sheets over his last two seasons, with touchdown percentages of 4.6% or less in each campaign. In his entire career as a starter he’d never been beneath 5.2% prior to 2018. Furthermore, his completion percentage has reached career-lows during this time frame as well.

However, reports of his decline still appear to be largely overblown. Last season, he threw for 4,002 yards, tossed 26 touchdowns against four picks, completed 62% of his passes and led his team to 14 wins (including the post-season). If Rodgers isn’t the same Hall of Fame caliber player we’ve become accustomed to seeing, he’s still a fantastic quarterback, and one his team can clearly win with.

But it appears that the Packers don’t plan on doing so for much longer.

A Succession Plan

The 2020 NFL Draft was believed to include one of the deepest wide receiver groups in history, an opinion that was validated by the fact that a staggering 37 wideouts were selected over the course of the event, with 13 of them coming off the board in the first two rounds.

Heading into round one, it seemed possible, if not likely that the Packers would be looking to draft a talented receiver to upgrade Rodgers’ supporting cast and provide a boost to the passing game. Indeed, the franchise did seek to boost said passing game, but in a way very few might have expected. Slated to select 30th in the opening round, the franchise moved up four slots to number 26 overall. With six receivers already off the board, it stood to reason that team brass might target the position aggressively.

They didn’t.

In the draft’s most shocking move, the Packers selected Utah State quarterback Jordan Love to be Rodgers’ successor, essentially putting their franchise player on the clock. As if that weren’t bad enough, they also failed to draft a single wideout from this historic class, and actually passed on a number of excellent receivers in round two in favor of adding a third running back (A.J. Dillon), to a backfield that already included breakout star Aaron Jones and the reliable Jamaal Williams.

A Change in Perception

So what do all these moves tell us? For starters, it’s clear that Aaron Rodgers no longer remains in the team’s long-term plans. It’s also pretty apparent the Packers want to build a dominant rushing attack and have devoted most of their resources to doing so, in spite of the fact that Rodgers has essentially begged for a second receiver to complement Davante Adams.

As a result, Rodgers has seemingly gone from being seen as one of the faces of the league to a declining quarterback whose own team is trying to get rid of him, and that’s simply not a fair assessment.

Reports out of training camp have suggested that Love has struggled a bit. That’s no surprise considering the abbreviated nature of the off-season and the fact that Love has always been seen as a high-upside prospect, albeit something of a project. While very recent news items suggest that he’s starting to show some improvement, it’s clearly going to be a process.

Few quarterbacks possess the skill set Love does and he can absolutely become a great quarterback in time, but this is still Rodgers’ team and reports indicate that the veteran is looking fantastic in camp. Furthermore, and to his own credit, Rodgers, who is often somewhat unfairly attacked for being passive-aggressive, has said all the right things about the Love pick and has seemingly embraced his role in helping the talented youngster hone his skills.

Something To Prove

Rodgers has repeatedly stated that his goal is to play into his 40’s which, given his injury history, might be a little harder to accomplish than it was for Tom Brady. Having said that, it’s usually unwise to doubt Rodgers’ resolve. The fact is, it’s clear that he still has plenty of good football ahead of him, and whether that football is played in Green Bay or elsewhere, the two-time All-Pro seems likely to silence some of his more vocal credits in the months to come.

It’s too soon to project whether the Packers will make another deep post-season run, but many have expressed doubt at this possibility. It’s also to soon to assess Rodgers’ chances of reaching his statistical ceiling once more, and that might be difficult to accomplish with the franchise’s increased emphasis on the ground game. What is certain is that Rodgers can still perform at a high level and as long as that’s the case, the Green Bay Packers will remain a contending team. In 2020, the world will see a motivated Rodgers and a motivated Rodgers can downright scary for 31 other NFL franchises.

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