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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Spray

The J-Lo Era: An Imposition

Let’s begin with a pre-article disclaimer stemming from sports-insecurity that I fully expect this uneducated sports argument to be torn apart by my counterpart (Nicholas). However I will never be one to turn down an opportunity to explore topics that primarily exist in my peripherals, and prove I care at least enough to bargain on Love’s behalf. Cheers to watching Love highlights on a rainy April afternoon.

“J-Love eyes a classy ‘Jets-to-Packers’ exit in New York after 19 years of fermenting”.

A headline prediction after the 2041 NFL season wraps up in melancholy-mediocrity for the Packers yet again. Despite the attitude towards our legacy-continuing quarterback, the now dilapidated Lambeau field is still sold out by the most loyal fanbase in the NFL marking the 81st year of consistent ticket waitlisting.

Is what a pessimistic cheese-head might say.

The true fact of the matter is that Jordan Love does indeed have quite the cleats to slip into. Rodgers took 3 seasons sitting behind Favre, Love took 3 seasons behind Rodgers. Favre to the Jets for one adequate season, Rodgers to the Jets for one to five potentially more-adequate seasons. The Packers shareholders are interested in once again breeding consistency in the leadership role of their multi-billion dollar franchise. The 1997 and 2011 Superbowl rings both happened to be 6 seasons into both Favre’s and Rodger’s careers. The goal and ideology coming from the coaching staff is that Jordan Love is not necessarily a ‘hot button’ that will push to quick success, yet be another long-term stability-based role in Packers evolution. The general consensus is, however, that we would like to be bare minimum ‘Lions worthy’ far prior to 6 years into his career.

The Jordan Love era has finally begun. Since the 2020 draft, the 26th 1st round pick has been accumulating speculation against competitors such as Tagovailoa, Herbert, Burrow, Hurts - all 4 of whom have had more of a ‘trial-by-fire’ experience over the past 3 years. It made sense in 2020 for a franchise with a future hall-of-famer to draft a more malleable QB who could train and learn from the best. The 2020 draft was primarily a building block gamble, when most opinions that year were in the camp of improving the current situation with a flashy WR such as CeeDee(z-nuts) Lamb who was out of reach, or the fine young Mr. Higgins. Personally, the long term investments will always outweigh the short term potential gain, especially with my belief in leadership on any team being pivotal to overall capability and success.

Flash-forward to today, we have a coaching staff that seemingly would rather underestimate up front, and over deliver post launch. Many articles highlighting LaFleurs recent comment on Love, “I think we all have to temper our expectations for him” (SI, March 29. 2023), have failed to also mention the progress that the coaching staff have seen over the past few years. While LaFleur certainly could have abstained from the easy target verbiage, there is no doubt that ownership wants to give Love some leeway towards the beginning of his starting season. It is also fair to assume that generational advancement will be a natural course for someone like Love, who is comparable in position to that of a young Rodgers or Brady, who by no means were expected to become the players they are today. The ideology that Love cannot become top-of-class talent like his draft year peers is the same ideology that spoke of Rodgers inability to fill Favre's shoes back in 2005. The hope would be that Love views himself as ‘the boy who lived’ and can, despite the pressure built up around him, become that MVP worthy leader. Love should be able to trust in his training and preparation, and use the fresh slate in front of him to change the game, and potentially inspire a new coach. It’s also hard to believe that after 3 seasons of preparation and constant eyes from ownership that the Packers would still be willing to adopt the Love era into existence if they didn’t truly see the potential.

It is at this point that we place clear and concise thought on Matt LaFluer, without spending too much time on his significance (or lack of). He has yet to prove himself as capable as well. That being said, this is the perfect clean slate opportunity to show growth and franchise building qualities over the next 1-3 years with this young team. Again, typically the best teams are built from a foundation of belief in coaches trying to build something, let’s give this combo of inexperienced potential and veteran knowledge a chance. The future that was seen 3 years ago, is now upon us.

With a total of 10 games that Love has had a chance to even touch the ball in the NFL, the team needs him to just get out there and actually play the game. His 3 years of starting at Utah State showed 8,600 passing yards, 403 rushing, 69 total TD’s (Utah State, Roster). The 2023 season will be the test of the trade-up being worth it’s weight in 2020. The gap between an impressive run 2017-2019 in college, and current day Love leaves us with a rather uneventful non-starting 3 year history. 3 TD’s, 632 total YD’s, and roughly 60% CMP doesn’t give much to go off of as for what to look for. One could argue they’ve seen more of a rustic Kaepernick practicing into oblivion the past 3 years than they have Love actually play in the same period.

Let’s talk Love’s game itself in what little we have seen of it. In 2021, Love was able to, in his 6 total 2021 games, rely on Adams and Lazard to adapt to his inconsistency with accuracy. What we have seen (within small data ranges) is Love’s ability to predict separation for his receivers, and the ability to yuck the ball out quickly (faster than AR in 2021) similar to Tua. To spit out a repeated opinion - the fear that Love cannot perform under pressure exists, however this should dissipate once we see more gameplay, there won’t be an option for him to stay behind this obstacle - this should be weeded out in pre-season. Flash forward to 2022, Love’s stats did improve - sparingly - as his time on the field was shorter by 2 games. Adams to the Raiders left reception to Lazard, Watson, Doubs and Cobb. 14/21 passes for 195 YD’s does not give a ton of credibility; however, he was often stepping into a game setup poorly by Rodgers. A few hot-shots to Lazard and Watson allowed them to at least stay competitive against the Eagles in November 22’. During his field time in the 22’ season he showed ability to throw passes proactively keeping his WR’s from injury, yet throwing behind his WR’s didn’t always end up in his favor. He was able to keep to the mid-field in terms of passes, however time-to-pass seemed to increase comparatively YOY.

Lastly, Love’s left with a team this season that he himself can grow and build trust with. Likely one of the least tenured starting lineup in the NFL (not gonna look that one up so just trust me), we can’t rely on experience to get us through 2023. The Packers as a team are going to need to be of the mindset that they are the foundation of something new starting this season, buying in to what Love will bring to the table. If a franchise puts a “wasted draft pick” on this backburner for 3 years of training, you would hope that the belief is cemented in objective behaviors observed in practice as Rodgers phased out. As Rodgers cronies follow him to the Jets and beyond, we are left with Watson, Doubs, Toure receiving, and Deguara at TE. The tenure will fall to Aaron Jones offensively - who’s performance in 2022 was primarily in his 1k+ YD’s, bringing home only 2 TD’s. Would be helpful for us to rely on the Jones we saw in 2019/2020 that went 16/9 respectively in TD’s. Love and the team seem to be willing to put in the off-season work, which helps at least to ease fears of Love being bought in or not.

Final thoughts: I will be ordering my Jordan Love jersey this fall. The Packers are ready to be done with the drama following Rodgers since Covid, and ready to refocus on building a new franchise around this young team. With Love’s help - we should be having a good chunk of fun over the next few years. If it comes down to the wire, I would rather Love gets more of a chance than LaFluer.

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