GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur said he wants Aaron Rodgers back at quarterback for next season. “We would love for him to be a Packer and be a Packer to the day he decides to retire,” LaFleur said during his season-ending Zoom call on Monday.
LaFleur isn’t speaking only for himself. He said general manager Brian Gutekunst, team president Mark Murphy and vice president Russ Ball are in lockstep on that thinking. “We’re all on the same page there. There’s no debate,” LaFleur said. Considering what transpired last year, the Beautiful Mystery Tour 2.0 was sure to begin anew at some point.
It’s just starting three weeks earlier than LaFleur believed. Having gone 13-4 to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs – meaning playoff games in front of full houses at Lambeau Field and in inhospitable weather – and with a number of key players back in the lineup, LaFleur and his players believed this would be the year the team would get beyond the NFC Championship Game and back to the Super Bowl.
Instead, with a shocking 13-10 loss against the San Francisco 49ers, his team took a step back and failed to even reach the conference title game. LaFleur held an extensive exit interview with Rodgers on Monday. “I think we’re all a little numb to the situation right now,” LaFleur said. “What we talked about I’m definitely going to keep between him and myself.
But we’re hopeful he’ll be back next year, obviously. This guy has done so much for such a long period of time for this organization, for this city, for this team. And so, I want to be respectful of his process. Whatever he needs to go through to make the best decision for himself.”
A part of Rodgers’ decision will be his supporting cast. The Packers are $50 million over next year’s salary cap, a figure that doesn’t include free-agent receiver Davante Adams. Rodgers after the game said he didn’t want to play for a rebuilding team. “There’s no plan for a rebuild,” LaFleur said.
If that’s the case, then it would seem the team is fully invested in convincing Rodgers that this is the place to play, even after a third consecutive playoff disappointment. Saturday’s result was especially crushing given everything in the team’s favor. Whether it was accuracy or decision-making, Rodgers by his own admission did not play well against the 49ers.
After the game, he regretted turning down some checkdowns and wished he would have attacked the 49ers’ zone with some hole shots. Late in the third quarter, Rodgers hit Davante Adams for a gain of 25 to set up a field goal. A better throw, he lamented, might have given Adams a chance to take the ball closer to the goal line.
And on the final drive, on the third-and-11 bomb to Adams, Lazard was running wide open on a crossing route at the 45. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2010, Rodgers is 7-9 in playoff games. Not all of those losses are his fault, obviously, but each playoff failure is another ding on his resume.
By the end of Sunday night, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo might have reached more Super Bowls in the last three seasons than Rodgers in his career. LaFleur deflected blame from Rodgers, who seems destined to win his fourth MVP.
LaFleur almost never criticizes players in public, anyway, but there would be no point in ruffling any feathers if the goal is to stick with Rodgers rather than turning the page to Jordan Love. Did Rodgers play well? No, he did not. But Love didn’t even come close to that level of play in losses against Kansas City and Detroit.
“He was under an intense amount of pressure, and that’s hard to play that position when you’ve got pressure in your lap the whole game,” LaFleur said. “I thought there were a lot of things he did great. I really did. Unfortunately, we all hold him to such a high, high standard – just like he holds himself to that high standard.
But, ultimately, like we’ve said many times, the quarterback will get too much blame when it doesn’t go right and a lot of times too much credit. This is a team game and I think that the game we played the other night is the epitome of it takes all three phases.”