It was bound to happen sooner or later. Everyone has to pay the piper and the Green Bay Packers are no exception. After a four-year window of trying its darndest to hoist a fifth Lombardi Trophy, trading Rasul Douglas at Tuesday’s NFL Trade Deadline has officially put the final nail in the coffin of the current Super Bowl window.
The window started closing in the immediate aftermath of another playoff loss at Lambeau to the 49ers in January 2022. The team was way over the cap once again, in a league still hamstrung by a major loss in revenue due to COVID restrictions limiting ticket sales over the past two seasons. Green Bay had a quarterback who was about to win the second of his back-to-back MVP awards and a wide receiver who was very vocal in wanting to play for the Raiders. But, once again, Green Bay kicked the can down the road just a bit further. They made a trade to send Davante Adams to Las Vegas and restructured a deal with the returning Aaron Rodgers. The team drafted three young wide receivers, and all seemed well at 1265 Lombardi Ave.
Packers’ Quick Fall From Grace
As we all know now, the 2022-23 season was a disaster for Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers played banged up for most of the year. The young receiving corps struggled to get on the same page with their four-time MVP QB, when they were healthy. And, despite all of this, the Green Bay Packers were a Week 18 win away from being back in the postseason. Despite a late-season push, Packers fans had seen enough of the legendary tenure of Aaron Rodgers, and the front office seemed to agree. Ultimately, dealing Rodgers to his preferred destination, the New York Jets. The Packers were handing over the keys to the franchise to Jordan Love.
Some had high hopes for the fourth-year QB who was about to enter his first season as starter for the illustrious Green Bay Packers. All he would have to do is mirror Rodgers’ 2023 season, a massive step back from the back-to-back MVP-winning years, and this young, hungry team would be back contending for the NFC North. Seven games in, however, things have went nearly as bad as possible. The team continues to look worse and worse, and at only 2-5 on the season, the Packers made a trade with the Bills to send Rasul Douglas and a fifth-round pick to Buffalo in exchange for the Bills’ third-round pick; a move that essentially punts the 2023 season and looks ahead to the 2024 and 2025 seasons.
Green Bay Packers’ Win-Now Window Slammed Shut
So, where did it all go wrong? Is it Jordan Love simply not being the guy? Some would argue that. All offseason, we heard from teammates and some members of the media that Love was excelling. Coaches told the folks to pump the brakes a bit. Points have come at a premium this season. It’s hard to win when you’re hardly scoring in the first half and only putting up less than 20 points. In fact, the Packers have only scored more than 21 points in a game twice all year — Weeks 1 and 2. But, I don’t think this is solely on Jordan Love. The offensive line play has been abysmal and it doesn’t appear the young wide receivers are fully understanding the playbook.
For most of the Aaron Rodgers era, the Green Bay Packers have struggled defensively, wasting the prime of 12. However, contrary to popular belief, the defense has been at least adequate throughout most of this season. Yes, Joe Barry needed to be gone yesterday. Yet, somehow, this isn’t the most problematic area of the franchise.
Many fingers have pointed towards head coach, Matt LaFleur, and for good reason. Play calling seems often uninspired, specifically in the first half, and both sides have been incredibly undisciplined all season. Receivers have been in the wrong spot at the wrong time. The offense can’t even run a basic screen despite a constant attempt to do so. Here’s the thing, though. Coaching, especially at the pro level, only goes so far. Matt LaFleur isn’t the one running the wrong routes or killing a drive with a holding penalty. The guy can only do so much with the youngest roster in the NFL. This scheme can and has worked here in years past. The 49ers, Rams, Dolphins and Bengals all fall under the Shanahan coaching tree and are arguably thriving. I firmly believe LaFleur’s job is safe, for now.
Is the Packers’ Front Office to Blame?
That leaves just one area left—Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the front office. This one is a bit complicated. On one hand, Green Bay seemingly did all it could to be “all-in” during this championship window. They brought in guys, like Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Rasul Douglas and Adrian Amos, among many others. Green Bay had the MVP quarterback playing some incredible ball, and Davante Adams looked like a surefire Hall of Famer.
Still, Gute was hedging bets in a lot of areas. Instead of drafting immediate impact players, projects were drafted, such as Jordan Love, Eric Stokes, and even AJ Dillon can be put in this category. All being picked for the inevitable day that Aaron Rodgers would leave and the new regime could fully embrace the Matt LaFleur scheme. The team said all the right things: “It’s a reload not a rebuild,” and they were still trying to win now. Yet, here we are 2-5 after four straight losses.
So, where do we go from here? Some on social media believe it’s time to completely clean house. Fire Gutekunst, fire Barry, fire LaFleur, cut Jordan Love, and the list goes on. Gute’s draft shortcomings definitely warrant some conversation. LaFleur is unable to keep this team accountable with the seemingly constant penalties that kill drives for the offense and extend them for the defense. Love struggles to do much of anything (in the first half). And honestly, Joe Barry is indefensible. But, the rest, there’s hope, if not for the only reason that typically these types of changes come across the board. I personally don’t think Matt LaFleur deserves to lose his job for struggling with the youngest roster in the NFL. Gute may get one more year to see this rebuild through.
As for Jordan Love, I guess that’s still to be determined. Maybe with some help from the offensive line, we will see more improvement. Or, it may be time to draft a guy and have a competition next summer.
What is certain, the immediate Super Bowl window is closed. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. The rebuild is on. Buckle up, Packer fans, a lot of you made this bed, wanting the team to move on from guys like Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers, who dared to voice displeasure with the status quo. Now, it’s time to lie in it. We cannot continue to accept complacency and mediocrity going forward.