While I do get it on paper, that Rodgers could conceivably get a injury where recovery lasts past next training camp, and I recognize the logic behind the tanking strategy, I’ll be extremely disappointed if this happens. From a very strict dollars and cents, x’s and o’s analysis, yes, keeping him from further injury and getting a better draft slot are in our best interests, but from the perspective of simple human behavioral analysis, nothing could be worse than deliberately benching Rodgers when it wasn’t truly necessary.
1. Rodgers stinks(at least when you compare him to the bar he-and his contract- have set for himself). Rodgers missed an entire year due to injury, and I have yet to actually see the Rodgers we knew take the field this season. I know, he hurt his knee. But, he’s been noticeably more mobile for a while now and he’s still making poor decisions and still missing WIDE-OPEN-RECEIVERS regularly, which I had been chalking up to the knee injury(but of late have been doubting is the true issue). He has not yet this season been the Rodgers of 2-5 years past, and we do need to know what we’ve got here. His new salary has just gutted our free agent money for years to come, and we can’t say for sure if he just hasn’t been healthy yet this year, if he’s still rehabbing last season’s injury, if the broken bone healed differently and he’ll simply never again throw the way he once did, whether it healed differently and he needs to learn to differently now, or whether he aged considerably in the past year and has literally passed his prime. One of those things IS TRUE, because he has not once played this year up to his own level. We need to know which one is true, and whether or not more than one are true, in order to figure out our future. Only way we’ll ever know is to keep on playing him. Given the astounding contract he’s now got and the way it’s going to impact our future, we DESPERATELY need to know what we’ve got going on here. There’s a couple more chances to work this out on the field, and he needs to utilize those chances. If he can’t play up to his own standards, which he clearly has not so far, he needs to use these last couple games like preseason and continue to work out his issues so in the future he can play up to the standards required of the biggest contract literally in history.
2. Attracting a hot new coach. Green Bay is back to being labeled as a bad job. Sure its cold, but that argument goes away whenever we’re winning. The one thing (Rodgers)that would attract the hot coach is not only not operating at the level he should, but also has crushed this teams ability to get any top flight free agents due to the biggest salary cap hit in nfl history, and is rumored to be the biggest diva in all of sports, leading to further rumors that he as the qb was powerful enough to run a head coach out of town. I’m not a fan of blaming everything on McCarthy, BUT, if as soon as McCarthy walks out the door everything on offense absolutely takes off, the hottest best coach available might be very interested in coming here. ‘Oh, McCarthy was the problem and I could win super bowls while coaching the greatest qb of all time? I’m in.’ If on the other hand the hot coach is thinking…..”If McCarthy wasn’t the problem and Rodgers is……and if after McCarthy leaves Rodgers and the Packers continue to suck, and Rodgers salary is an absolute black hole in the salary cap preventing them from getting future free agents, oh and Rodgers can have coaches fired if things aren’t going his way…….yeah, not so much interest in coming to green bay.” Nope, Rodgers needs to play and he needs to play extremely well. We need to perform in these last couple games to attract the best possible new head coach. Either we’re the sexy job and get the up and comer of a coach, or we’re getting the leftovers of whoever gets fired this year. No, Rodgers needs to play and he needs to win.
3. Fans. Hey, this is a business. When we buy late season tickets for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, unless we’re paying face value…which we are not…it’s a major rip off that we aren’t playing for playoff seeding, and horrifying to think Rodgers wouldn’t even take the field. This is a business, and you do want those fans happy. No Rodgers = No Happy.
4. Philbin. There are those that say Philbin becomes the favorite if we win out. I think that’s a really bad reason to hire a coach(but if we can’t attract the hottest coordinator I realize Philbin is no slouch – I have a few unrelated reasons for not wanting him permanently, but we could certainly do worse). Oddly enough, if you really are a Philbin fan though, you might do better if we bench Rodgers. We’re entirely too dysfunctional to win out, so Philbin isn’t going to get that nonsensical bump into pole position. But, if you did bench Rodgers, and for the good of the team you treated the remainder of the season as an extended preseason, and let guys try out for their jobs next year, I’d say in a sense you’re doing what’s best for the team, so that’s a plus. Also, you completely take off the pressure to win to get Philbin this job(if we can’t win at full strength, which we can’t, we certainly can’t win with the backups out there = no expectations of Philbin). Then, all you’re judging him on is how he manages this time to look to the future. At this moment, if I’m Philbin I’d much rather be judged on my ability to run a high profile preseason than on my ability to win with this team at this moment.
5. IR. Nope. Rodgers is a competitor. If he’s not seriously hurt, he’ll go to IR over his dead body. Last year with a glimmer of hope to get to the playoffs was a bit different, coming off IR. But, unless he’s seriously injured, I would expect him to scream his head off (and file a very legitimate grievance with the union) if the Packers wanted to violate the CBR and put him on IR just to add some practice squad player to the roster. Which leads me to:
6. Competitors. As a football player on the field, Rodgers is an ultimate competitor. You can’t coach that into a player, but you can coach it out of a player. If you tank on purpose, and IR’ing Rodgers WOULD BE tanking if he’s not seriously injured, you do send a message to the team that it’s ok to let up, it’s ok when you deem it appropriate to give up. A successful staff just can’t afford to ever let it be known that losing is ok. It can’t be ok, not ever. These guys may be professionals, but they’re humans and they’re capable of losing their edge if you allow it of them. Telling the team we’re tanking is the ultimate signal that it’s ok to quit, to compete less than 100% of the time. Can’t put that genie back in the bottle. And once a team suffers from quitting, it takes countless years to cut that cancer out. We’ve asked many questions about the braintrust at Lombardi Avenue this year. Reasonable minds can disagree about a lot of things. But, I do not think they can disagree on this. If you EVER let your team know it’s ok to quit, you’re not fit to lead competitors. To me, IR’ing Rodgers when it clearly isn’t necessary is telling your team quitting is ok. That’s the bottom line, and if the geniuses at Lombardi Ave even consider going that route, that’s a signal to me that the wrong people are in charge.
All that said, I would like to see Kizer get at least some meaningful snaps in each remaining game. We are now in 2019 preseason in some ways, and it’s hard to know what we’ve got here. It’s very hard to judge a rookie qb that plays for the worst team in the nfl, so I give him a pass on his year in Cleveland. We have our own issues of course, but I’d like to see how Kizer plays with our starters. That will go a long way toward figuring out whether he is the answer at backup. I find giving him some meaningful snaps to be ENTIRELY DIFFERENT than benching/IR’ing Rodgers, and I’d like to see what we’ve got here.