Aaron Rodgers' Concussion Is Rock Bottom for the 2018 Green Bay Packers

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 31, 2018

CORRECTS TO REMOVE SCORE- Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers is taken to the locker room to be evaluated during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

Responding to the Green Bay Packers' announcement on Twitter that quarterback Aaron Rodgers had been ruled out for the remainder of Sunday's meaningless game against the Detroit Lions because of a concussion, one Packers fan aptly stated that said news represents a "fitting end to this dumpster fire of a season."

That's bang-on, but Sunday's train-wreck 31-0 home loss to the rival Detroit Lions was also a microcosm of that dumpster fire. It was a final 2018 reminder that the Packers don't deserve the highest-rated qualified passer in NFL history. 

The Packers have for years shown a lack of appreciation for Rodgers. There's that stale offense, built on isolation routes, which puts far too much pressure on the quarterback and his receivers to win one-on-one or even one-on-two matchups. There's the team's general unwillingness to support the quarterback by pursuing star-caliber weapons. And now, there's their decision to start an already-unhealthy Rodgers in inconsequential late-season games. 

Rodgers undoubtedly wanted to start last week against the New York Jets and this week against the Lions, noting prior to the Jets game that doing so is "about leadership."

"How can I stand here and say these games don't matter," he said at the time, per The Athletic's Josh Tolentino, "that's not the way I lead. I'm super competitive."

And that's noble. It's what athletes are supposed to say. 

But that's why athletes aren't supposed to make these decisions. That's why they have coaches and why those coaches have bosses as well. Those coaches and bosses have a duty to put emotion aside and overrule their star players in situations like these. They're supposed to realize that, indeed, in the grand scheme, these games don't matter, even if Rodgers won't admit that publicly. 

The Packers are far too reckless with the most expensive and valuable personnel investment in the franchise's history. 

The clock is ticking on Rodgers' career, and Green Bay's competitive window is closing. The team owes Rodgers $155 million over the next half-decade, regardless of whether he's healthy. He could just as easily have suffered a torn ACL or Achilles, which would have jeopardized his chances of playing in games that will matter come September 2019. Head injuries can, of course, be just as costly on the field, and they can be significantly more dire off of it. 

At this point in his career, like many invaluable, aging star quarterbacks, Rodgers barely plays at all in preseason games. So why in the world would he be allowed to take the field against a rival with nothing to lose in a trivial December game, especially with top weapons Davante Adams and Aaron Jones inactive and the Green Bay offensive line in poor shape?

Throw in that Rodgers was already hampered by an injured left knee, and Green Bay's decision to let the 35-year-old start was quite simply an act of negligence. 

Sure, this is the entertainment business. You're paying Rodgers top dollar to play football, and many of those in attendance Sunday essentially own the publicly controlled Packers franchise. But a sampling of Packers fan sentiment on Twitter right now indicates those minority owners probably would have voted against Rodgers playing in the season finale. Regardless of the fact Green Bay was always better off losing this game than winning it, resting Rodgers would have been in the best long-term interest of the organization and its supporters. 

That's essentially what the Carolina Panthers figured when they decided to shut down franchise quarterback Cam Newton for the final two weeks of the season. Newton was dealing with a shoulder injury, and in a smart act of self-preservation, the team sat the 2015 MVP even though it was still mathematically alive in Week 16. 

Nobody would have blamed the mathematically eliminated Packers for doing the same with Rodgers, but it sometimes feels as though this team goes out of its way to zig when it should obviously zag. 

That might also apply to the current head coaching search, in which interim head coach and longtime Mike McCarthy lieutenant Joe Philbin appears to be a strong candidate. And although Philbin would almost certainly run an offense similar to the one that sunk McCarthy, Rodgers seemingly endorsed the failed former Miami Dolphins head coach last week.

They've also been linked by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport to Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, but that would also seem like an odd direction considering Fitzgerald's lack of NFL experience, which could make for a tough transition for both Fitzgerald and Rodgers. There's also no telling how his offense would translate to the pros. 

But the overarching point is that Green Bay's recent track record with key decisions doesn't inspire confidence that the organization will make the right hire come January. 

The dumpster fire won't necessarily stop raging merely because 2018 is over. This feels like rock bottom, but the lingering effects of Sunday's disaster could make 2019 a hell of a lot worse, especially if the Packers don't begin to make smarter decisions across the board. 

      

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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