Well, folks, if history keeps repeating itself the way it did in Green Bay Thursday night, Aaron Rodgers will be looking to stick it to Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst as the Vikings starting quarterback in 2024.
What a seismic first-round shocker. A team that went 13-3 and advanced to the NFC Championship game just three months ago looked years down the road and selected a quarterback of the future while ignoring the biggest need of their Hall of Fame-bound quarterback of the present.
The Dolphins were on the clock with the 26th pick of the NFL’s first all-virtual draft Thursday night. The Packers presumably were four picks away and sifting through available receivers to make the most of the twilight years of a still-great quarterback who will turn 37 during the 2020 season.
Five receivers had been taken in the first 25 picks. So maybe the Packers would go another route to help Rodgers help the Packers take the next step in Year 2 under coach Matt LeFleur.
Then it was announced the Packers had traded up with Miami. They would indeed be selecting an offensive skill position player in the first round for the first time since they took Rodgers 24th overall in 2005.
Only this new face won’t be helping Rodgers. He’ll be replacing Rodgers. Not this year and maybe not next year or the year after.
But the heir apparent has been identified as Jordan Love. The Utah State quarterback with the big arm, the prototypical size, the mobility, the shaky 17-interception junior season that followed the 32-touchdown sophomore season in 2018. And the kid with an upside the Packers believe will give them another decade and a half of QB stability beyond the 28 years, and counting, they’re currently enjoying.
Somewhere, Brett Favre had to be chuckling at the irony. Somewhere else, Rodgers, who sat behind Favre for three seasons, had to be fuming. Sort of like Brett was doing back in 2005 when he was 35 years old and begging then-rookie GM Ted Thompson for help on the heels of a 10-6 season that ended with Randy Moss pretending to moon Lambeau Field during the Vikings’ wild card upset.
Who knows how this will turn out over the long haul. Maybe the Packers just picked the guy that will give them three straight Hall of Famers at the position.
But in the short-term, the Vikings got a lot more out of that pick than the Packers did. In the short term, the Packers helped a Vikings team trying to play catchup after losing the NFC North by three games last season.
The Packers not only picked a quarterback who, barring injury, won’t help them this season. They also gave up a fourth-round pick to move up four spots to do so.
Meanwhile, the Vikings got two players who should start immediately in LSU receiver Justin Jefferson and TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney. And they traded down for Gladney, adding picks in the fourth and fifth rounds to give them 12 more picks to use Friday and Saturday.
This draft observer was curious to know what was going through the heads of Vikings GM Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer – two guys heading into the last year of their contracts — when the Packers looked to the distant future with their first pick.
Spielman dodged the question entirely, saying he’ll never comment on another team’s pick.
Zimmer had some fun with the question from the ranch in Kentucky, even though he wasn’t fond of answering questions via Zoom at 12:30 a.m.
“I think Rodgers should retire,” Zimmer cracked. “That’ll be the next headline.”
Or he’ll be playing for the Vikings in four years, a la Favre when he led the Vikings to 12 wins – including two magical games against Rodgers and the Packers – and the NFC Championship game at New Orleans.
“I’m not going to say that,” he laughed. “I don’t know what was going on in their minds. We just worry about us. We’re trying to get guys to beat them.”
Gutekunst had told reporters before the draft that he wouldn’t hesitate in drafting a quarterback if the right situation presented itself. But this still was the biggest surprise of the first round. Even bigger than selecting Rodgers in 2005 because Rodgers was considered a possible No. 1 overall pick while Love is considered more of a reach in the first round.
“This worked out pretty well for them when they had Brett Favre and they went out and got Aaron Rodgers,” Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner said during the draft telecast. “A lot of people compared [Love] to a Patrick Mahomes with that kind of upside, athleticism, the ability to make some of those special throws that Green Bay has seen for a number of years.
“It’s about preparing for the future. But I am surprised because I know Aaron Rodgers is saying, ‘Get me some more weapons. I want to win more before I retire.’”