I keep coming back to the Packers using their first-round draft pick on a quarterback. I keep coming back to that not just because of the turmoil, bad feelings and drama that almost certainly will flow from the decision, but because . . . OK, fine, 99 percent because of that.
There’s a reason local TV news directors use footage of massive factory fires, no matter if the blaze is 1,000 miles away. Infernos are mesmerizing. And so is the Packers’ decision to draft Utah State’s Jordan Love when they have Aaron Rodgers, a future Hall of Fame quarterback with a lot of football left in him.
If the purpose was to burn Rodgers’ toast, mission accomplished, right? It’s hard to picture the 36-year-old quarterback applauding a move that will do nothing to help the 2020 team. Or the 2021 team. Or the . . .
The Packers could have used a receiver, and the experts say that this draft was loaded with quality at that position. They could have used an offensive lineman. They could have used anybody but a quarterback.
They took a quarterback with the 26th overall pick.
We have yet to hear from Rodgers on the matter. Love said the veteran called to congratulate him, which was nice. I would submit that it’s possible to be gracious and furious at the same time, though you might want to stretch first. This is going to cause tension in Green Bay, and we here in Chicago, dealing with lower-level but loooooooong-running quarterback issues, will be watching with fascination.
In bad news for the Bears, the Love selection figures to turn Rodgers into competitive madman for the 2020 season. He’ll want to prove, over and over, that Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst is an imbecile.
As bizarre as Gutekunst’s decision seemed to be, the Packers obviously think they have history on their side. They chose Rodgers with the 24th overall pick in the 2005 draft, even though they had Brett Favre, one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. That caused a stir but nothing like Green Bay’s decision three years later to tell Favre, coming off an NFC Championship Game appearance, that he could return in 2008 — as Rodgers’ backup. Rodgers hadn’t started an NFL game at that point.
It led to the kind of uproar, debate and calling for heads that puts air in the lungs of sports fans. Everybody involved in the QB switch — team president Mark Murphy, general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy — was deemed an idiot. I know I deemed the trio that in print.
We know how it ended — very well for the Packers and Rodgers, who won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season, and bittersweetly for Favre, who made it to the NFC title game with the Vikings in the 2009 season and faded away a year later.
It doesn’t always play out so smoothly.
In the 1992 draft, the Broncos, who were coming off an AFC Championship Game loss and had a 31-year-old quarterback named John Elway, used the 25th overall pick to take UCLA quarterback Tommy Maddox. I was covering the Broncos that year for the late Rocky Mountain News, and my jaw dropped in unison with the jaws of all the other stunned scribes.
My recollection is that no one was able to get in touch with Elway for several days, possibly because he was busy decorating a basement torture room for coach Dan Reeves and general manager John Beake. Maddox ended up going 0-4 in place of an injured Elway in 1992 and being traded two years later for a fourth-round pick. Elway ended up playing seven seasons after the Maddox selection and winning two Super Bowls.
Sometimes you can outthink yourself. And sometimes you can’t outthink a mollusk.
Rodgers is five years older than Elway was when the Broncos chose Maddox, but he’s playing at a high level. It’s true that his skills could deteriorate quickly. He could get injured.
But still. It’s a strange decision for a team that went to the NFC title game last season. And it’s a strange way to treat someone who hasn’t been surrounded by a ton of great players over the years. If Rodgers had had more talent in the huddle, he’d own more than one Super Bowl ring. It has to be beyond galling for him.
It’s why the next two or three years will be so intriguing. So many “ifs.’’ If the Packers fall short because of a lack of offensive firepower, how can Rodgers not lash out at the controversial decision the team made in this draft? If Love ends up being a star, will Gutekunst ever have to pay for a beer and brat in Green Bay?
And if the Bears find a franchise quarterback . . . OK, let’s not get carried away here.