Aaron Rodgers needs to “get away and think about these things” before making a decision about playing in 2023

Aaron Rodgers needs to “get away and think about these things” before making a decision about playing in 2023

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin – As a four-time league MVP and Super Bowl champion, Aaron Rodgers’ place in NFL history is indelibly written in stone.

But when it comes to his future and whether he will return to the Packers for a 19th season or play elsewhere, the writing isn’t so clear.

We’ve reached the point in the season where the football games are over and the speculation game with Rodgers and the Packers has begun. Does he want to come back? Do the Packers want him back?

This is the third year in a row that the parties will enter the off-season under a cloud of uncertainty. The last two games came after home losses in the playoffs, with the Packers just one win away from reaching the Super Bowl, and this year after a 20-16 play-in loss to the Lions on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

As Rodgers left the field, one arm wrapped around veteran receiver and close friend Randall Cobb, it seemed inevitable that the end might be upon us. But trying to interpret Rodgers’ body language comes with a caveat: PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Rodger’s love of games extends beyond the soccer field to the media space. He can be reserved and shy around reporters and seems to relish the opportunity to keep them in the dark. But be aware: Rodgers is as precise with his words as he is with the football. He thinks before he speaks and understands exactly how the weight of his words will land.

Does he already know what he wants to do? Maybe, but he said Sunday night’s emotions were too raw to contemplate. His ability to still make any shot is undeniable – the deep pass to Romeo Doubs down the right touchline was so beautiful it defied description, even though Doubs couldn’t catch it – but Rodgers knows there are factors that go beyond the physical and need to be addressed.

For example: Does he have the feeling that he still has to prove himself? Does he want to prepare for another season? Is it time for a different voice to lead the team? Does the franchise think it’s time for former first-round pick Jordan Love to take over?

“I have to go and think about these things,” he said in his post-match press conference. “This is real to me. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved in this league, but I’m also a realist and I understand where we are as a team. We’re a young team and there might be some variety with some of the older guys. It might be time to step down. But I could take some time and say, ‘Damn, no. I need to get back out there and do another run.'”

The real question for Rodgers and the Packers to ask is whether they’re as close to being legitimate contenders as they say they are. The two have made a habit of stacking wins under coach Matt LeFleur, amassing 47 wins over his four seasons, but they haven’t managed to win the most important games.

The Packers have twice lost in the Conference Finals after 13 wins this season despite playing at home. And last season, after another 13-win season, they lost at home in the playoff opener.

On Sunday, they faced a Detroit franchise that had lost 27 of their last 30 games at Lambeau Field, but the Packers were unable to use home field to their advantage. They lost a fumble, threw an interception, missed the end zone in a goal-to-go situation, and were just one of two in the red zone.

Rodgers finished 17 of 27 for 205 yards. It was the first time in his early career that he ended a season without posting a single 300-yard game. Think about it for a minute. The man who has thrown almost 60,000 yards, who has one of the sweetest throwing results imaginable, while failing to reach a threshold that seems almost below him.

Maybe he missed Davante Adams. And maybe he didn’t trust his young recipients. Perhaps he was psychologically struggling with the reality that for all his size, he couldn’t be the rising tide that raised the game of those around him. That can be humiliating for someone his stature.

He says they are “a few players” away from being credible competitors. I’m not sure. Postseason numbers don’t lie. And if they’re not as close as they think it is, maybe it’s time to move on?

“To assume it’s a foregone conclusion (that the Packers want him back) would probably be a bit selfish, so I’m going to be a realist here and understand that there are a lot of different parts,” Rodgers said. “I was aware of the possibility that if we got to a point (this season) where we weren’t there, they could leave young. I am also aware of this possibility (for the future).”

Rodgers is guaranteed $60 million for the 2023 season. He has leverage in all discussions that take place. He knows that, the Packers know that. What neither of them knows is if their 18-year marriage will continue beyond this year.

Rodgers said his decision will not be influenced by the money he owes from playing. “Money is energy. I’ve gotten a lot out of it and I’m very grateful to this organization, the generational wealth they’ve offered me,” he said. “Hopefully they feel like I deserve a lot of it. But yeah, sure, I could definitely walk away from that.”

When asked if he would play for another team, he neither opened nor closed the door. “I don’t like saying never,” he said, seemingly implying it wasn’t a high probability.

If Sunday turns out to be his last game, history will tell that his last pass was an interception by Lions rookie safety Kerby Joseph, who became the first player to have three picks against Rodgers in a single season after he had intercepted him twice in the previous meeting. But will it be his last pass?

One game ends, another begins.

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