Listen, I don’t try to live my life as a contrarian. That’s not true — I kind of do. I’ve spent a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I’ve heard a lot of the sports world’s most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it’s best to take a look at the other side.
In this space, I articulate positions that are the opposite of what most people think — unpopular opinions, if you will — and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Below, I explain why an all-timer QB would do well NOT to leave the team with which he’s won tons of games:
“[There are] a lot of guys’ futures that are uncertain, myself included.”
Those were the words of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after a second consecutive loss in the NFC Championship Game — which ruined his first career chance to claim the conference title at Lambeau — and they were about as subtle as the metal folding chair Seth Rollins swung on Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose when he broke up The Shield.
That led everyone to start asking: Was Rodgers seeking his own breakup with the only NFL team he’s ever played for? Six months after he voiced apparent displeasure with the Packers’ decision to trade up in the 2020 NFL Draft to select his eventual replacement, was he trying to orchestrate his own exit from Green Bay? Maybe force a trade?
Would the Packers tire of Rodgers’ passive-aggressive comments and be tempted to move him? After all, if the Lions are expected to receive multiple first-rounders in exchange for the great Matthew Stafford, what could Green Bay command for the quarterback who is poised to win the 2020 NFL MVP Award? Four first-round picks? An ownership percentage in their trading partner?
Well, Rodgers threw a ton of cold water on all that breathless speculation with an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday, saying, “I don’t think that there’s any reason why I wouldn’t be back.” To which I say, Aaron, thanks for backing me up on the following unpopular opinion:
Aaron Rodgers should be playing for the Packers in 2021.
Now, you might be asking what makes this opinion unpopular. Well, I’m from Schaumburg, Illinois. I’m a Bears fan. Me and my friends would be thrilled to see Rodgers get traded to some place like Pittsburgh, so he could make somebody else’s life miserable. Speaking of potential new homes for Rodgers, there are about 30 teams that will be similarly disappointed to see Rodgers stay where he is. We also have to be sensitive to those who revel in chaos (and/or are in need of podcast topics for the offseason). Not to mention those kids who have spent so much time photo-shopping Rodgers into, say, a New England Patriots uniform. Won’t anybody think of them?
I would love to sit here and create a 1,000-word hot take about how the Packers would actually be better off taking this opportunity to trade Rodgers for all of those picks, but that would all be (expletive). Rodgers is playing the best football of his life, and there’s no reason the 37-year-old won’t follow in the footsteps of Drew Brees and Tom Brady and play well into his 40s.
The Packers surely know just how spoiled they’ve been at quarterback over the past three decades, with Rodgers taking over for Brett Favre. They’re not going to want to start the post-Rodgers era — when, without a locked-in superstar QB, there’s a chance they could become one of the many teams that need everything to go right to have a chance at a Super Bowl — any sooner than they have to. As Packers CEO Mark Murphy said Monday: “There’s no way in heck Aaron is not gonna be on the Packers. He’s going to be the MVP of the league, might have had his best year ever, he’s our unquestioned leader, and we’re not idiots.”
They simply can’t trade Rodgers. I mean, if the Texans offered Deshaun Watson straight up, sure, make that move. I would probably fill my pockets with 20 pounds of nickels and walk into Lake Michigan, but setting that aside … Acquiring extra picks with which to theoretically then acquire more talent is always great. But of the players the Packers drafted in 2020, only running back A.J. Dillon and linebacker Kamal Martin played significant time on Sunday.
Which brings me to my next point: When the Packers make their plans for 2021, they should maybe act like they want to win this year.
Jordan Love might end up being a Pro Bowl quarterback someday, and it’s not bad to plan for the future. But don’t tell me that a talent like Tee Higgins or Laviska Shenault Jr., two receivers who would have been available to the Packers last April, wouldn’t have helped the Packers on Sunday. In fact, based on Rodgers’ success in 2020, I would even think about trading Love if it could help you in 2021. And the team shouldn’t stop there.
The Packers might have noticed what Brady was working with on the opposite sideline of Sundays’ game. When Brady arrived in Tampa last offseason, the team could have stuck with its existing talent base of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Ronald Jones and the Walmart version of Gronk, Cameron Brate. Instead, the Bucs went the extra mile and got the actual Rob Gronkowski. They also added Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette and drafted Tristan Wirfs. They were trying to win. They were like that parent who, instead of just giving their kid the Millennium Falcon for Christmas, also got them the Death Star. And an AT-AT. And jawas with real cloth robes. I mean, I know I was spoiled for just getting the Falcon, but I couldn’t help but be a little jealous of that kid.
So maybe the Packers should try to be like that parent and take it up a notch. Here’s a crazy idea: Maybe they should draft a receiver in the first round. Maybe even go after one in the free-agent market.
You know, there is a high-profile guy in their own division who is set to become a free agent this season. Somebody who could help them out. You all know who I’m talking about: Kenny Golladay. (Seriously. I’m a Bears fan. I’m not going to be so cool as to recommend that OTHER receiver. Yes, that particular QB-WR combo would be deadly. But I’m not breathing that into existence.)
And as for Rodgers, it was good to hear him cool his jets (even if he still did a little hedging on Tuesday, talking about a lack of “absolutes”). I know kicking a field goal on what turned out to be the Packers’ final possession on Sunday was brutal. Like, inexcusable — like when the producers of Friends ran out of ideas and made Joey and Rachel a couple. That was terrible. But just as he wouldn’t want Matt LaFleur to call him out publicly for not trying to run the ball in himself on third down, maybe he should give his coach a break. Maybe he didn’t play enough Madden growing up.
As much fun as it might be to speculate about a new home for Rodgers, is there any situation out there that would give him more immediate chances at a second ring than Green Bay? Losing two NFC title games in a row stings, but it doesn’t take much glass-half-full thinking to find the bright side of repeatedly getting within a game of the Super Bowl — or of sticking with the team that tied the Chiefs for the NFL’s best regular-season winning percentage (.813) over the past two seasons. Rodgers’ chemistry with Davante Adams is better than ever, and he’s found his groove in LaFleur’s offense. If the Packers get serious about adding help and maybe sweeten Rodgers’ contract a little, it’s hard to imagine a more appealing place for Rodgers to play in 2021.
The point is, the best position for Rodgers and the team is to keep moving forward. As unpopular as that would be for me.
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