GREEN BAY, Wis.– There’s one thing that will make Aaron Rodgers’ decision about whether to return to the Green Bay Packers next season much easier. “I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing,” Rodgers said. Absent that, the 38-year-old quarterback believes he has a difficult decision to make about his football future.
He just didn’t think he would have to start contemplating it so soon. But when the San Francisco 49ers upset the top-seeded Packers in the NFC divisional playoff round Saturday, it meant the hourglass flipped for Rodgers, who took his share of the blame for the offensive ineptitude in the 13-10 loss at Lambeau Field.
“I’m still super competitive, still know I can play at a high level, so it’s going to be a tough decision,” Rodgers said during a 17-minute session with reporters after the game. “I have a lot of things to weigh in the coming weeks.
But man, just so much gratitude for this city and this organization and such a long, long career here that I’m proud of and really thankful for all the men and women that work here, the men I’ve gotten to cross paths with, coaches and players over the years.”
The Packers made one thing clear: They’re not ready to move on from Rodgers, who is the favorite to win his fourth NFL MVP and his second in a row. “Certainly we want him back here,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur after he failed to reach the Super Bowl with the No. 1-seeded team for the second straight year. “I think we’d be crazy not to want him back here. He’s going to be the two-time MVP.
This guy does so much for our football team, not only what you guys see on Sunday’s or every game day, but what he does in that locker room, how he leads. I know what he puts into this thing, and certainly I’m extremely disappointed in that we couldn’t get over the hump for not only him, but for everybody in that locker room.”
Rodgers failed to throw a touchdown pass in a playoff game for the first time since the 2010 NFC Championship Game and lost to the 49ers for the fourth time in the postseason. His Total QBR of 19.3 was the worst of his playoff career.
After an opening-drive touchdown, the Packers managed just three points on their final nine drives. It was the first time they went that many possessions without a touchdown since their season-opening 38-3 loss to the Saints.
“I didn’t have a great night tonight,” said Rodgers, who was 20-of-29 for 286 yards and was sacked a season-high five times. “They did a good job of kind of getting me off the spot, and a better job of taking away some of the quick game we got going last time we played them.
I missed a couple reads. I probably should have taken a couple hole-shot chances a couple times. Obviously, if I hit Allen [Lazard] on that deep in on the last drive, that probably gets us out to about midfield and then we’re a couple first downs away from being in field goal range. “So definitely disappointed by some of the decisions I had tonight. I definitely take my fair share of blame tonight.”
He admitted that the way this season ended could factor into his decision. So will the plan that general manager Brian Gutekunst has for this team moving forward. He said his relationship with Gutekunst has improved significantly since they met last offseason to discuss the issues that nearly prevented Rodgers from returning for the 2021 season.
“There’s a lot of players whose futures are up in the air, so definitely will be interesting to see which way some of those decisions will go,” Rodgers said. “But I’ll have the conversations with Brian in the next week or so and get a little bit more clarity and think about my own future and how much longer I want to keep doing this.”
After saying last month that he did not plan to drag out his decision, he offered a more specific timeline Saturday: No later than the start of free agency on March 16. Rodgers didn’t decide to return to the Packers this season until right before training camp opened in July. Rodgers’ three options are to return to the Packers, ask for a trade or retire.
A return would almost certainly require a contract extension because the team would need to reduce his $46.1 million salary-cap charge for 2022. Even that wouldn’t guarantee that the Packers could re-sign receiver Davante Adams, who is a free agent.
The Packers are currently $44.8 million over their projected salary cap for the 2022 season, which brings into question whether they will even be able to field as strong of a Super Bowl contender as they’ve had in LaFleur’s first three seasons.
“That’s a fair question — definitely one I’ve thought about,” Rodgers said. “But there are a lot of decisions to be made and key players … So many guys’ contracts are up or on the brink or salary-cap stuff, so lot of decisions to be made. I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing, so a lot of decisions in the next couple months.”