Actions Speak Louder Than Words in Matt LaFleur's Plan for Aaron Rodgers

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 3, 2020

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur talks with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, right, in the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

Last February, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman repeatedly proclaimed that he didn't sign wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to an extension only to trade him. One month later, he proceeded to do exactly that.

In May, the New York Jets had "no intention" of trading star safety Jamal Adams. Two months later, they sent him to the Seattle Seahawks.

Several years ago, team owner Dan Snyder said he would never change the name of Washington's NFL team. He changed his tune this summer, temporarily rebranding to the Washington Football Team while he decides upon a permanent name.

About-faces are par for the course in the NFL. We've become desensitized to them, and owners, general managers and coaches often get away with them because "circumstances change."

That's why Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur's comments regarding the future of quarterback Aaron Rodgers are practically hollow. 

"Right now, most importantly, Aaron's our quarterback, and I see him here for a really long time," LaFleur said this week, per The Athletic's Matt Schneidman. "However long that is, I don't think anybody knows. Nothing's guaranteed in this league. But I feel so lucky to be able to work with him on a daily basis."

Indeed, little is guaranteed in professional football. For example, Rodgers is guaranteed only $17.2 million beyond the 2021 season, according to Spotrac, which enables the Packers to create more than $20 million in salary-cap savings by releasing or trading a player who will be 38 years old by then. 

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Ben Margot/Associated Press

That 2022 offseason presents an obvious, natural transition point from Rodgers to 2020 first-round draft pick Jordan Love, whom the Packers traded up to acquire despite Rodgers' presence atop the quarterback depth chart and significant needs at other positions. 

LaFleur can insist he sees Rodgers in Green Bay for "a really long time"—a vague phrase he's used twice since the draft—and he can tell us Love was the next name on the Packers' draft board. But we all know draft boards are fluid, that a contender trading up in the first round for a backup quarterback is nonsensical unless the organization has grand plans for said player, and that "a really long time" means almost nothing with the qualifier that "nothing's guaranteed."

Back in April, LaFleur was asked to elaborate on what he meant by "a really long time." His response: 

"You know how this league works. I know you guys get tired of me saying this, but it's about getting better each and every day and we're going to take it week to week. In my mind, I think Aaron is by far the best quarterback I've ever been around. I think he's the best ever to play the game. I hope he can play until he decides he doesn't want to play anymore."

He hopes. 

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Any statements less confident or declarative than these would be tremendously controversial. This is the bare minimum from LaFleur, who is saying what he has to say about his current starter because there's no need to stir the pot further. 

Logic suggests Brett Favre is more likely to be right in suggesting that Rodgers "will play somewhere else" before his career is over. The two-time MVP says he still has "a strong desire" to play into his 40s, but that can't happen in Green Bay without the Packers essentially wasting a first-round pick on Love. 

The Packers had to know Rodgers wouldn't be "thrilled" or "elated" with the decision to trade up for Love, but they still sacrificed a first- and a fourth-round pick to do so rather than bolster Rodgers' supporting cast for 2020. 

Regardless of Love's position on Green Bay's draft board, the front office went out of its way and ruffled feathers with a move that didn't help the team in the short term, jeopardized on- and off-field chemistry and likely set a countdown clock for Rodgers' time in Green Bay. 

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Love is an intriguing prospect, but Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller says the 21-year-old Utah State product "could end up being the best quarterback from the class or a journeyman backup." He's pretty far from "sure thing" status and is likely a toss-up at best. 

The Packers could have had other shots at quarterback prospects with similar features and similar potential career trajectories in drafts to come. Instead, they ignored major areas of need ahead of a critical season with Rodgers' window likely closing and mortgaged their future for a wild-card developmental project who is now inevitably viewed as Rodgers' successor. 

Their words are nice, but their actions remain deafening. 

     

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon.