Bears celebrate Aaron Rodgers trade, but no guarantee rivalry with Packers will shift

Regardless, the Bears and Packers both feel like they rid themselves of a problem Monday.

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A photo of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing a pass against the Bears in 2018.

Rodgers went 25-5 against the Bears, including an NFC Championship Game victory on his way to winning a Super Bowl, and scorched them for 7,209 yards, 64 touchdown passes and a 107.3 passer rating.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Aaron Rodgers’ run with the Packers is finished, and while it’s unclear whether that’s a good thing for him or them, it ends a miserable era for the Bears.

The self-proclaimed owner of the Bears — or, at least, their fans — is finally headed to the Jets after the teams agreed to a trade Monday and stopped the seemingly endless drama Rodgers has been fueling for far too long. The last couple months of will-they-or-won’t-they with the Jets was merely the tail end of a saga he started years ago by floating the notion that he wanted out.

He’d clearly had enough of the Packers, but ultimately they’d had enough of him, too.

The Bears finally get their chance to exhale. They knew this day would come eventually, depending on how long Rodgers could last and how much the Packers could tolerate his antics, and now it’s here.

Not only is he done propelling the Packers to the top of the NFC North, which they won eight times in his 15 seasons as their starter, but the Bears don’t even have to see him this season unless somehow there’s a Bears-Jets Super Bowl. It’ll be their first season avoiding Rodgers since 2007.

The Bears celebrated the trade by tweeting out a video of a bear waving goodbye, but that could come back to bite them.

Nobody — neither the Bears nor the Packers — knows whether this is a good thing. Perhaps the Bears have been spared the misery of a late-career resurgence that could last another five seasons, but maybe Rodgers is declining at the same rate most quarterbacks do and the emergence of Jordan Love to replace him will bring its own set of problems for the Bears.

The Packers certainly believe they’re right, and more often than not, they are. The Bears were probably thrilled to wave goodbye to Brett Favre in 2009, too, but his exit gave way to an even more dominant successor in Rodgers.

The immediate upside for the Bears is that the Packers didn’t get an overwhelming haul for a 39-year-old quarterback coming off his worst season.

They’ll move up from No. 15 to 13 in the draft Thursday, and they’re swapping a fifth-round pick for the Jets’ second-rounder this year. They also get an additional sixth-rounder from the Jets this year, and they’ll get the Jets’ 2024 first-round pick if Rodgers plays at least 65% of the snaps this season, ESPN reported.

Coming off an 8-9 record and launching a relative unknown at quarterback, that’s not enough to fix the Packers in one season. The NFC North has never felt so wide open now that Rodgers no longer owns it. He had a .708 winning percentage in the division.

Speaking of ownership, Rodgers walks away as the greatest figure in the history of the Bears-Packers rivalry. He dominated the series so thoroughly that the Bears couldn’t come up with a rebuttal when he screamed, “All my [expletive] life, I own you,” at fans during a 2021 game at Soldier Field.

He went 25-5 against the Bears, including an NFC Championship Game victory on his way to winning a Super Bowl, and scorched them for 7,209 yards, 64 touchdown passes and a 107.3 passer rating. Even last season, when he was crumbling, he swept the Bears by a total of 26 points.

He followed Favre, who went 23-13 against the Bears before the Packers dealt him to the Jets in 2008 to clear the way for the Rodgers era.

Now, the Packers turn to Love with the hope of avoiding any interruption, but there hasn’t been sufficient evidence that he can match or exceed Rodgers. Then again, there wasn’t any suggesting Rodgers would outdo Favre, either.

Love has made one start since the Packers drafted him 26th overall out of Utah State in 2020.

No matter how Rodgers left, whether to another team far away or retirement, his exit is good news for the Bears. He’s in the conversation for greatest quarterback of all time. Regardless of who replaces him, it seems impossible that things could be any worse for the Bears than they’ve been the last 15 seasons.

It couldn’t possibly, could it?

The next mystery to unpack is whether Rodgers has anything left. Tom Brady’s incredible post-40 career skewed expectations for Rodgers and anyone else in his age group. Not long ago, it would’ve been unsurprising to see a quarterback sputtering in his late 30s. It used to be normal.

Favre rallied for one more great season after the Packers dumped him at 38. Drew Brees had a noodle arm in his late 30s but dinked and dunked effectively until he was 41. It was mostly the same story for Peyton Manning in his sendoff season with the Broncos at 39.

Manning won a Super Bowl that season. Favre and Brees took fleeting swings at MVPs and playoff runs. None went on to dominate like Brady did into his mid-40s. It’ll take more than magic crystals and ayahuasca for Rodgers to beat the odds.

Regardless, the Bears and Packers both feel like they rid themselves of a problem Monday. But only one of them will be right.

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