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Love can eliminate distractions with Rodgers gone

Mike Florio and Chris Simms unpack Matt LaFleur’s comments about how Jordan Love has stepped up since Aaron Rodgers left and outline expectations for the QB this season.

Video Transcript

- It's happy days in Green Bay, sort of, maybe, kind of. With Aaron Rodgers out, now they're hoping that they can go Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love, and only win one more Super Bowl over the next 15 years with another Hall of Fame shortlist best ever quarterback. Here's Matt LaFleur on the question of whether or not Jordan Love is walking abound-- waking around-- excuse me-- or abound the facility with a different sort of mojo now that Aaron Rodgers has left the building.

MATT LAFLEUR: Yeah, I would say so. I think it's been a cool process from the day we drafted him to see them now, just to see how he's matured in every facet of life. I think you guys probably notice it, even when you're in the locker room. So I think he definitely understands that he's the guy in charge, he's going to be the guy in the huddle, and he's got to be an extension of us.

And we're excited for him. We've got a lot of confidence in him. I think he showed it just in the limited action he did last year, and just the ability to step in there, and the moment was not too big for him. You could see that. He was super poised, and that, quite frankly, gave us the confidence that we needed to see from him. You're right, Bill, it is hard to lead when you're not the guy, and he knows he's the guy now.

- Look, all along for the past three years I've said time and again through the dysfunction that has been prevalent in the organization between Aaron Rodgers and the front office, with Matt LaFleur caught in the middle, the only person in this soap opera that I have felt sorry for is Jordan Love because he's the only one who didn't sign up for it.

- Right.

- Knowing, or at least should have known what he was getting into. Matt LaFleur should have known what he was getting into. Everybody else is there voluntarily. Jordan Love got drafted into it by the Green Bay Packers, and I'm sure at times, regardless of what he's said out loud, Chris, I'm sure at times over the past three years he's been asking himself what in the hell twist of fate, who among the football gods did I piss off to put myself in this spot where I'm understudy to Aaron Rodgers when, number one, he's playing at a Hall of Fame level, number two it's just this constant mess, and number three at some point I have to be the guy who follows the four-time MVP? So I've always felt bad for Jordan Love, and I hope he does well, and I hope this works out for him because he's been through some stuff the last three years.

- Well, he definitely has. I mean, you know, I'd sit here and argue it's one of the toughest situations that we've seen in the last 15, 20 years in football for a first round quarterback. Man, I don't know. Maybe it's the toughest situation ever, honestly. I think you could go back and go, oh man, one, maybe he was over drafted. Two, yeah, he got thrown into a situation that was a soap opera for three, three and a half years.

And so, that's not. And then also with a guy that I think was raw in his talent, like I said, a hair over-drafted maybe in the late first round, and then obviously maybe a little immature off the field too, there was a lot of obstacles to overcome. But the one thing you heard about the guy constantly is everybody likes the guy, the person, right?

So that's the positive thing that he's got working for him. And yeah, now that Aaron Rodgers is in there, he can start taking control and leading the charge, leading the ship there as far as the other young receivers that he can now formulate a bond with in Dobbs and Watson. I think it's really important.

It's a real thing, Mike. You know, I can give a little history into this my second year in the NFL with Brad Johnson, right? They were two years removed from the Super Bowl, but I was kind of getting the feel that, hey, I got a chance here. I might be the starter, and Gruden was starting to give me some inklings, and everybody was.

And I ended up being the starter by about week four. But before that, yeah, it was hard to be a real leader. Even though I knew I was one of the leaders of the team, it was hard to vocalize anything or say anything. I had too much respect for Brad Johnson. I wasn't going to step on his toes, even though I was like I'm better than him. I think I should play right now, right? I was thinking that, but I wasn't going to do that to him. So he's been in a tough situation, and it's good to see him unchained that way.

- Who put the shaving cream in whose shoes?

- [LAUGHTER]

Did you do it to Johnson, or did Johnson do it to you?

- He probably wanted to do it to me.

- I guess that's the more--

- Yeah. That would probably be the one-- the way to go there, but he couldn't have been better when I did take over, which was great. But to the situation Jordan Love was in, yeah, I can sympathize with that over the last few years. It's hard to be the guy when there's a guy in front of you at the same position.

- After 2020, which was Jordan Love's rookie season, there was talk, well, the Packers don't know what they have in Jordan Love. After '21, same thing. Well, you don't know what you have unless the guy can play. You don't even begin to know what you've seen in practice, does it translate into games that count when you're talking about game-planning.

Even the sliver that we've seen from the Sunday night against the Eagles when Jordan Love came in and faced a defense that wasn't ready to see him. Aaron Rodgers leaves. There's, I think, a certain amount of exhaling that the Eagles defense does as Christian Watson is running by them on that little crossing route.

But when we get into October, when there's been four, five, six games of Jordan Love, and tendencies tells what he does well, what he doesn't do well. Game-planning, how do we attack this guy? How do we confuse this guy? How do we make him do the things he doesn't want to do? Can he bust through that ceiling?

So I don't know how relevant a half game last year was, other than to the fan base. I don't think it means anything to the team. It doesn't tell them they've got a guy who's going to be great, or a guy who's not going to be great. I mean, if he would have just been a disaster that night, that's relevant. That's far more relevant than the fact that he came in and checked the boxes and did well. That is expected, right, of a guy who was a first round pick, gets a chance to play against a defense that isn't ready for him. It's expected you're going to come in and you're going to be able to keep things moving.

- Yeah.

- What is unknown, unexpected, unpredictable at this point is how he does week in and week out. Is that a fair assessment?

- Yeah. No. I think that's a fair assessment. You said it right. Hey, when you get in three or four weeks as far as playing, tendencies, offensive tendencies, everything, defenses start to formulate a little bit more of a personal game plan around the actual player they're playing against.

Wait, he likes to throw here. Hey, in this situation, he does that. So that's where life gets harder. And now, yes, you've got to take your game to the next level. Yes, to your point, it is expected for you to come in and be able to hold down the fort when you're a backup quarterback, or a first round quarterback.

But I think he did more than in that game, and I think that's what LaFleur is alluding to in that Eagles game, that that was more than just, hey, he came in and ran the offense. It didn't look that bad. It was, hey, he came in against the best team in football, and on their field in "Sunday Night Football," and he didn't blink, and actually he played really well.

And so, even though it's a little inkling in the big picture of things, I do think that was probably the jump-off spot of like, ooh, wait. Wait. Huh. Can win with this guy. We can move the ball down the field with this guy. Maybe we don't have to be all in or just bow down to Aaron Rodgers. I could see that being the moment.

And I think within all of this and Aaron Rodgers leaving town too, like, I know we hit on this a little last week. Green Bay, you said it last week, if you had to pick Green Bay or the Jets to go to the Super Bowl, you'd pick Green Bay. Green Bay's teams better than people are giving it credit for. Still a good O-line. Still good running backs, those two receivers, that defense, and they've added to it. It didn't meet expectations last year, but it was still good. So, you know, I think all those things, especially that Eagles' game. Even though it wasn't a huge thing, I think it was a huge thing to them to go, wait, we think he can do this.

- Well, and one of the main reasons I think the Packers have a better chance to get to the Super Bowl than the Jets is because of where the Packers are, conference and division.

- Yeah, sure, I got you.

- Flip the two, Packers are also-rans at best in the AFC, and the Jets are up there with the Eagles and the 49ers as the favorites in the NFC. Now leadership, I'm always fascinated by this. Wise man told me a few years ago that there's two ways a quarterback leads. One, natural Sheriff, walk through the door, take charge Peyton Manning style. Two, the team elevates. The team promotes. The team says, coaching staff, front office, everyone. Inside, outside of the building, the message is he's the leader. Follow him. And when you clear out Aaron Rodgers, you necessarily put someone in that spot.

Now, at some point, he's got to show leadership, but it makes sense he shows deference when Aaron Rodgers is there because that's the last thing you need is Aaron Rodgers feeling like he's got a threat to the throne internally. That's just not going to go down well for the delicate genius. We know that. We accept that. We factor that into how Jordan Love carries himself, and I think Jordan Love's smart enough to not even try to take on the King.

- Right.

- But now the throne is empty, he's got to step up, and he's got to be the guy, and it's going to take some big moment early in the regular season, making a big throw, big spot, big run, lower the shoulder. Although, I don't typically advise that because you want to keep yourself healthy, but something that wins the respect of the locker room that justifies why the organization has said he's the guy. It's got to be something he says or does in a key spot that proves while also boosting his credibility within the team.

- That's right. It's credibility. You're saying it the right way. Money talks in an NFL locker room, play on the field talks, period. That's what people follow. And yeah, to your point, a lot of quarterbacks are getting money, and playing well on the field. And then you have the ones like Peyton Manning and other guys like that who, yeah, they're the Sheriff and they come in and they control things. Not everybody's like that.

Jordan Love, I don't look at him to be that way, you know? But either way, yeah, this is a chance to start to bring things together the way he envisions it. You don't have to worry about, hey, I'm going to have a few guys over the house and go, oh wait, I got to call Aaron, or maybe I shouldn't do that because I'm not the best-- you know, I'm not the starting quarterback. So maybe I shouldn't have all the receivers.

Those are the things you think of when you're in a situation like Jordan Love. So now, he can really get team camaraderie and be the leader of that type of scenario and in those gatherings that way. And then I think to your point too, yes, on the field what he even does in OTAs, and even training camp and preseason. That will all start to manifest if he can, hey, make a big throw, ooh, has a great day in OTAs and throws lasers all over the field. Ooh, training camp he's putting day after day after day together that is really good, and he's mentally all over it.

That'll all start to gather steam to be, hey, this is our leader. And then the finishing touch is like what you said. He needs that big moment, that 4th quarter moment where, ooh, things were tough, but he told us to shut up and get in the huddle. And hey, we're going to be OK right here, and we won the game. And then boom! Now you are the leader of the football team, and that's in, I think, the perfect world and what the Packers are hoping here with Jordan Love.

- We caught some glimpses of it as well before Aaron Rodgers was traded, Jordan Love gathering teammates somewhere to throw.

- Yeah.

- And be together.

- Right. There you go. Right.

- See, I really do think what happened the past few years, Aaron Rodgers hatred-- that may be too strong of a word, or not, of the front office caused him to put the team in the middle, the players in the middle, and withholding services in the offseason as a middle finger to the front office hurt the team.

And that's where the biggest difference is this year, Chris. You've got a guy who isn't at war with the front office, who isn't going to have a press conference where he airs grievances for 25 minutes about how the front office treats him and other players, which really was unprecedented and just bizarre as it was happening in July of 2021.

- Yeah.

- You don't have that. And I think the Packers benefit from that. That's why I keep saying I believe in Matt LaFleur.

- Yeah.

- Because LaFleur has three straight 13-win seasons. I know last year didn't work out, but three straight 13-win seasons to start his career caught in the middle of Aaron Rodgers and the front office.

- Right.

- You take that dysfunction out of the team, and you have a normal relationship between quarterback and organization. You're necessarily going to be better. Now, there still may be a drop off between the skills of your quarterback before and your quarterback now, but it's going to be more peaceful. It's going to be more calm. It's going to be less dysfunctional for the Packers. That counts for something too--

- It does.

- --in the week in and week out grind of a football season.

- No, 100%, right? I mean, again, I think there's a reason we've seen great teams in history not have those elements that are like that for the most part. Distractions, or such a disliking of something in the locker room, that it becomes a distraction, or it becomes a distraction even when people don't think it's a distraction where it's like, oh, there's Rodgers and Gutekunst. They're in the locker room together, and the guys are in the corner kind of watching them, and watching it play out.

There's just-- yeah. It had to be hovering over the organization. Or the players, oh, what did Aaron say today in the press conference? Did he drop a few-- one of those-- like what you say, those cryptic messages that we can all laugh about or whatever? Yeah. Those things could be not good for a locker room in that way.

So now, you get positive vibes, positive culture, everything. It's not, hey, we're out at practice, but we've got to answer questions about a guy at OTAs who's not here, right? That makes no sense. We're all here. We're all in this together. To your point, Mike, I think there's a ton of positives with not having to deal with that drama right now.

- And I think the attitude that Aaron Rodgers has toward the front office spills over to the other players. How can it not? Think back a few weeks ago. Pete mentioned David Bakhtiari.

- Yeah. I know.

- I'm going to take it a different way than what Pete had discussed. When David Bakhtiari is on the "Bussing With the Boys" podcast, and he throws out that alternative that the Packers could pursue of pay Aaron Rodgers to sit on the bench, one of the headlines that came out of that was Bakhtiari kept referring to the Packers as "they."

- Right.

- They, they, they. We talked about that.

- Yeah.

- He wants out too, or what the hell is going on here? It should be "we." Every fan, especially Packers fan with a piece of paper that says you own a share of worthless stock, has a license to say "we." How in the hell can the starting left tackle on the football team not say "we?" And then he finally addressed it, and of course it's everybody else's fault, not his. He was referring to the front office. How dare we interpret his words any differently than how he intended them, even though he didn't say so.

But just that fact that he would regard the front office of the team as "they" shows you the extent to which the poisonous relationship between Rodgers and the front office poisoned the rest of the team. They're not thinking of their front offices as "they." What other player publicly refers to any aspect of the football team as "they?" It's all "we."

- Yeah, no.

- So I think that's part of this benefit too. You've removed the guy who hates the front office so much. I mean, I don't think it's a leap of logic to think that Aaron Rodgers was constantly complaining about Brian Gutekunst, Russ Ball, and Mark Murphy to all of his teammates, constantly complaining, constantly whining, constantly griping about how they treat players. And we would-- imagine how many Super Bowl rings we'd have if those dumb asses knew what they were doing. That kind of stuff.

- Yeah. Yeah.

- Not that they're dumb asses. I'm just giving you some flavor.

- You're giving the examples there.

- But that's going to spill over to the other guys. That's going to spill over to the other guys.

- Definitely.

- And you take that out of the equation now, and maybe it repairs some of that damage. And it may be that a few of those other guys do need to move on. It may be not fully-repaired until Bakhtiari is out of the building.

- Yeah, sure.

- And maybe playing for the Jets. So Mason Crosby, they moved on from him. I think some of these guys, there's no coming back from whatever they've heard from Aaron Rodgers the past several years.

- No. No. I think there is that element up there. I've heard that. Despite Aaron Rodgers and what he said, I've heard it from other people up there, that there's a little bit of that element there. And yeah, I think the Rodgers situation probably pours a little more gasoline on that fire when you talk about that type of what we're talking about here, the more of civil war, or them, or they, or whatever, and we're all in the same building there.

Yeah. I think there is a little bit of an element up there in Green Bay. Again, I think it goes, one, into there's no owner that kind of brings it all together. I think that's, again, where the owner is really good that way. And then two, I do think Aaron Rodgers, other players I've been around, there's always been a disgruntled feel about why doesn't Green Bay bring in other big-time players here to get us over the hump.

I've heard that from a number of Green Bay people over the last six or seven years when I've been around in certain functions or whatever. So I think that does rub them the wrong way. But then when you have Rodgers to egg it on like you're talking about, yes. That makes things even more weird.

And it opens the door for they because, like, you're right, Mike. Players don't ever refer publicly to "they," but there is that sense in a lot of locker rooms in football that they upstairs, who are controlling the contract and doing all that, that yeah, it's "we," but it's "they."

And like you always said. The players feel that, hey, we're expendable. As soon as I play bad, they are going to go see you and cross my name off a list and cut me. So there is that element, but you try to fake it and bring it all together and, like you're talking about, get the mojo going in a positive way. And when you have something like the Rodgers situation, I don't know if it ever brings it all together because there's always that divide, I think, is what we're trying to say here.