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Aaron Rodgers' Absence Will Actually Help Green Bay Packers

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystJune 9, 2021

Green Bay Packers' Jordan Love runs a drill during an NFL football minicamp Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

As expected, Aaron Rodgers didn't report to the Green Bay Packers' mandatory minicamp and is officially a holdout. 

"It is what it is, man," head coach Matt LaFleur said when media asked about the quarterback's absence. 

Eventually, one side will cave during this standoff. Whether it'll be the organization or the face of the franchise has yet to be determined. 

Meanwhile, Rodgers' decision could actually prove to be beneficial for the Packers in the short and long term. With the reigning league MVP off the field, Jordan Love is now front and center as Green Bay's quarterback, and the time he'll receive with the first-team offense will be vital to his development. 

"Every rep he takes is so valuable, and he can learn from the good and the bad," LaFleur told reporters

Current expectations have the second-year signal-caller taking the majority of first-team repetitions until Rodgers returns or Love officially takes over the offense if Green Bay seriously considers and pulls the trigger on a potential trade, which seems highly unlikely. 

Love entered an unfortunate situation he had no control over whatsoever. The young man experienced the thrill of being a first-round pick only to have the selection destroyed by nearly every outlet because of what the Packers didn't do for the quarterback already on the roster. 

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The pick, thus Love's inclusion to the team, was consistently brought up as a sore spot as the relationship between one of the game's very best and the Packers front office deteriorated. 

To Rodgers' credit, he never blamed Love and helped the rookie signal-caller throughout the 2020 campaign. He explained himself during an interview with Kenny Mayne on ESPN's SportsCenter (h/t Rob Demovsky): 

"With my situation, look, it's never been about the draft pick, picking Jordan [Love]. I love Jordan. He's a great kid. A lot of fun to work together. I love the coaching staff, love my teammates, love the fan base in Green Bay. Incredible 16 years. It's just kind of about a philosophy and maybe forgetting that it is about the people that make the thing go. It's about character, it's about culture, it's about doing things the right way."

The explanation is important because it takes the pressure off of Love now and places it directly on the supposed culprit, general manager Brian Gutekunst, in this ongoing melodrama. 

Eventually, Love must shoulder the responsibility of replacing Rodgers while trying to build upon 29 consecutive seasons (and counting) of continued excellence by Packers quarterbacks.

Morry Gash/Associated Press

In most cases with today's quarterback prospects, they're prepared for the professional ranks. From years of being nurtured through passing camps and private quarterback tutors during high school to becoming starters early in the collegiate careers, the transition to the highest level isn't as daunting as it once was. The transition is still incredibly difficult, but recent rookies like Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert showed how high draft picks can succeed earlier in their careers. 

The flip side also exists. Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson took some time before they became full-time starters. By Year 2, both became league MVPs. 

Love's development falls somewhere between those two points. He clearly needed time to learn and grow after being last year's 26th overall pick, but success isn't guaranteed. 

Scouts were torn on the Utah State product with a lot of, "Yeah, but..." predraft descriptions. 

"He's physically gifted but he's not accurate. He is a good athlete," an AFC scout told The Athletic's Bob McGinn. "I don't like his mechanics. I don't like his decision-making. He has a strong arm."

An NFC scout said, "He has the most physical upside of any of these guys. The great ones make it look easy. He makes it look easy. He's an effortless thrower. He played with nobody around him. This year he was just out there winging it trying to make plays to win games. Did he develop some bad habits? Yeah, of course, he did."

Branddon Wade/Associated Press

Basically, Love looked like a slam-dunk first-round quarterback as a sophomore but struggled during his junior campaign due to turnover at a smaller program. The Packers took a chance on his potential. Now, the coaching staff has an opportunity to develop those natural tools and make him more comfortable working within the offense, hence why first-team reps are so important. 

Rodgers took the majority of practice snaps last season, as he should have. He has been the starter. The Packers aren't a team building toward the future. Besides, he's counted among the best two or three quarterbacks in football. 

As a result, Love didn't get the attention he likely needed to show significant growth. Mental reps and a theoretical understanding of the playbook only go so far. 

Love will show significant development through repetition and actual on-field experience, which already became evident during organized team activities.

"I think it's just about being able to make the proper decisions, and understand it's timing and accuracy. And all those things have definitely been better up to this point," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett told reporters last week. "It's just about coaching and understanding the concepts, different protections and the run game—there's so much for him to be able to learn that it's been great having him here and having the opportunity to help him out."

The fact last year's rookies didn't have an offseason with their teams and only experienced an abbreviated training camp can't be forgotten, either. Love was further behind the curve than most. He continues to work his way through the process. Now, the plays and verbiage aren't stumbling blocks. He has a feel for the scheme and those around him. Those relationships will only grow in time.

Green Bay's staff has stressed improvement on Love's footwork during this period. The quarterback must marry his feet with his upper body to properly throw in rhythm.

"The main goal for me right now is that he just progresses properly, that he plays with his eyes and his feet," quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy said. "If his eyes and his feet tell him to move in his progression, I want him to move in his progression. If the defense is taking something away, we need to progress."

An understanding of responsibilities is fundamental. Whereas, a growing comfort level becomes vital to success. Love's understanding of his pre- and post-snap reads while knowing to go with the ball when things do break down should come with time.

Morry Gash/Associated Press

While Love works his way on points of emphasis, he'll experience his share of ups and downs. For example, ESPN's Rob Demovsky noted that the quarterback "struggled with accuracy" during the Packers' first minicamp session. That's OK. How Love improves on a daily, weekly and monthly basis is far more important.

In the meantime, Love grows more accustomed to his receivers. He'll gain confidence in what he's seeing and what should be called. He'll learn from missteps along the way.

Conversely, the wide receivers will learn what type of routes Love throws best, where they need to be and his velocity and ball placement. Up front, the offensive line will get used to the quarterback's calls, his cadence and angles on his specific drops.

Ultimately, Rodgers should be back and Love should be relegated to the bench. But what the 22-year-old learns now in Rodgers' stead will translate once he's handed the keys to the franchise and becomes the Packers' starting quarterback. Maybe Love even hits the ground running much like his mentor and predecessor once did.  

         

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.

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