Bears fans won’t be sorry to see Aaron Rodgers go, but they should be

There’s a chance Sunday will be the last time Rodgers saunters into Soldier Field as Chicago’s biggest villain since the burglars from “Home Alone.” Unlike Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, however, he usually walks out with what he came to take.

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Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

Aaron Rodgers reacts after a play at Soldier Field last year.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

There’s a chance Sunday will be the last time Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers saunters into Soldier Field as Chicago’s biggest villain since the burglars from ‘‘Home Alone.’’ Unlike Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, however, he usually walks out with what he came to take.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields will have something to say about it in a showdown that belies both teams’ dismal records. But it’s fair to wonder whether Sunday will be the last chapter in Rodgers’ one-sided rivalry with the Bears.

Rodgers has 59.5 million reasons to return to the Packers in 2023 — that’s his guaranteed salary, in dollars — but he has said he’s putting off making a decision about retirement until after the season. That might come soon. Once the 4-8 Packers are eliminated from the playoffs — and they have only a 3.6% chance of making them, according to Football Outsiders — then Rodgers likely will shut down for the season, rest his injured thumb and ribs and ponder his future. Jordan Love would finish the season at quarterback.

For an athlete who hasn’t been shy about pursuing outside interests, from hosting ‘‘Jeopardy!’’ to drinking ayahuasca tea, it’s impossible to rule out Rodgers moving to his next chapter, even with the guaranteed money awaiting him.

Bears fans wouldn’t be sorry to see him go, but it would be a shame.

Sports are better when athletes embody greatness, and Rodgers has done that. He is 24-5 against the Bears as a starter and 11-3 at Soldier Field. When he told Bears fans he owned them last year, he wasn’t wrong.

Sports are better, too, when fans have someone to root against. Rodgers, who grew up watching WGN, knows the Cubs are only elevated by their rivalry with the Cardinals — and vice versa. The Bears, in a strange way, are made more relevant by their duels with Rodgers, even if they end up scraped off the bottom of his cleat.

Rodgers, who turned 39 on Friday, spent the last few seasons outrunning Father Time by a few furlongs. He was the NFL MVP in 2020 and 2021 and has made the Pro Bowl seven times in his 30s.

‘‘Year in and year out, he kind of changed his way,’’ said Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, Rodgers’ former coach, who remains his friend. ‘‘He used to be a heavier guy; now he’s not a heavy guy anymore. Just things like that.

‘‘He’s always been naturally gifted, so the throwing part of it has always been something that he’s always been really good at. That hasn’t changed.’’

This season, however, has shown Rodgers to be mortal. Slowed by injuries, he ranks 13th with a 93.5 passer rating, 19th with a .648 completion percentage and 22nd with 6.8 yards per pass. He has thrown as many interceptions (nine) in 12 games this season as he did in his previous two combined.

He’s not alone. Tom Brady won a Super Bowl in 2020 and finished second in MVP voting last season, but he has been surprisingly average in his age-45 season. Matt Ryan, the third-oldest starter in the NFL, was benched earlier this season by the Colts, only to return.

Matthew Stafford, the sixth-oldest NFL starter, is having the worst season of his career months after leading the Rams to the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson has been one of the NFL’s worst quarterbacks since being traded to the Broncos.

The Packers’ drop-off is just as surprising. Rodgers has been their starter since 2008; their next loss will cement only their third losing season when he hasn’t missed more than half their games to injury.

Father Time is catching up with Rodgers. Perhaps he’ll retire before it gets any closer. Or maybe he’ll do what he has done in so many games against the Bears before: rise from almost certain defeat to torture them even more.

Either way, Bears fans would be wise to take a long look at him Sunday.

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