For Bears, Aaron Rodgers’ playoff exit only matters if it hastens his departure
For all he has done — Rodgers is headed for his fourth MVP award and has been voted to 10 Pro Bowls — he has as many Super Bowl starts as Rex Grossman.
Bears fans celebrated the Packers’ playoff loss Saturday night as though their hometown team had actually won the game. That joy continued into Sunday: New-to-Twitter Dick Butkus joked about quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the Wiener’s Circle offered free all-you-can-eat french fries topped, of course, with cheese.
When your favorite team hasn’t won a playoff game in 11 years, schadenfreude qualifies as the most fun you can have this time of year. The Packers’ surprise 13-10 loss to the 49ers at Lambeau Field — secured by old friend Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal — only matters, though, if it hastens Rodgers’ departure from Green Bay.
It sounded Saturday night like it might.
That’s a dramatic turn from the rest of the Packers’ once-magical season. They boasted the NFC’s best record at 13-4 and earned a first-round playoff bye. Rodgers, by any measurement, is the league MVP.
The fact that the Packers lost Saturday — and the way it happened — could trigger a series of events that makes the NFC North decidedly less miserable for the Bears.
Rodgers, forever grumpy that the Packers drafted quarterback Jordan Love in the first round rather than giving him help on offense, might look at the team — and the fact it is headed for salary-cap hell next season — and decide to go elsewhere. He might eye the league’s worst special-teams unit and wonder if general manager Brian Gutekunst lacks the ability to build a well-rounded team.
The frustration he felt a year ago may only multiply. For all he has done — Rodgers is headed for his fourth MVP award and has been voted to 10 Pro Bowls — he has as many Super Bowl starts as Rex Grossman.
Rodgers was asked Saturday night whether the way the season ended would influence how he looked at the future.
“Of course, it does,” he said. “But you know there are a lot of decisions to be made, a lot of players whose futures are up in the air. It definitely will be interesting to see which way some of those decisions go. But I’ll have conversations with Brian in the next week or so and get a little bit more clarity. And I’ll think about my own future and how much longer I want to keep doing this.”
Davante Adams, the best wide receiver on the planet, becomes a free agent in March. Rodgers has a year left on his deal and likely would need a contract extension to stay. One small problem: The Packers are slated to be $40 million over the salary cap in 2022.
“I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing,” he said. “So a lot of decisions in the next couple of months.”
For Rodgers — and for the Packers. And, potentially, the rest of the NFL.
Days before losing in the NFC title game last year, Rodgers referred to his future as a “beautiful mystery.” It quickly descended into farce, though. He skipped mandatory minicamp in June. A month later, with the franchise wondering if he planned to attend training camp, he played a nationally televised golf match alongside Bryson DeChambeau against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. He auditioned to host “Jeopardy!”
In August, he said he was “immunized” against the coronavirus. In November, he tested positive, revealing to the world what the team already knew — he was unvaccinated. He said he was “in the crosshairs of the woke mob” and that he conferred with comic Joe Rogan about how to handle the virus. Later that month, after saying he had “COVID toe,” he held his foot up to reporters in a Zoom news conference to show it was a fracture.
As recently as Thursday, he told ESPN that the “fake White House set saying that this is the pandemic of the unvaccinated, that’s not helping the conversation.”
If Rodgers decides he wants to play elsewhere, he’ll take that baggage with him.
Bears fans would happily help him pack.