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Turn for the worse

For the second season in a row, the Packers dominated the conversation in the National Football League draft for all the wrong causes. Even as they made the right decision in taking cornerback Eric Stokes with the 29th overall pick, it came a year too late for most quarters — and certainly for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The reigning league Most Valuable Player, notorious for keeping grudges, was obviously still smarting from their ill-advised move to trade up in the 2020 draft in order to latch on to Jordan Love, his evident replacement under center.

Hindsight makes for perfect vision, but it’s clear to all and sundry that, had the Packers chosen to shore up their defense — as they had in the previous nine drafts — last year, they would have been in much better position to take the measure of the Buccaneers in the National Football Conference Championship. Instead, for reasons known only to them even now, they made Love, an iffy proposition at best, their target. What’s worse, they didn’t even bother to give Rodgers, their franchise cornerstone and still the most talented QB in the league, a heads-up.

Not that the advance notice would have mattered to the prickly Rodgers, who had hitherto indicated that he planned to play well into his forties. In any case, the Packers’ bold step sent the wrong message off the field and, just as egregiously, handicapped them on it. In other words, they managed to screw up their immediate future, as the loss to the Buccaneers showed, AND the medium term, as their supposed leader is proving. He no longer wants to wear their jersey, he says, and it seems nothing they do from here on can make him change his mind. Their fate was sealed the moment they made Love their future.

The irony is that the grand design might not even take hold. Love was the third-string QB last year, and he’s supposed to be the backup this season. If Rodgers somehow gets to stay, the transition to him as the lead may well not happen at all. There’s simply no way he will be better than the starter he’s supposed to succeed in the three years he remains guaranteed to be with the Packers. And if the divorce does push through, he will be too raw to take the reins with confidence. Which is too bad, really, because nothing is his fault. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of general manager Brian Gutekunst, who could have avoided the land mines had prudence taken hold.

Not that Rodgers will automatically be better off leaving. For all the dysfunction, the Packers are built to contend; he has more than enough weapons around him to go deep in the playoffs. At this point, however, he appears dead set against returning to the fold. Only time will tell if he’s bent on seeing his revolt through, but, no matter what happens, one thing’s clear: things will get worse — perhaps much, much worse — before they get better.

 

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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