The end of any season sends every player into a reflective period. Well, except for maybe Gronk. So let’s say it sends every player who can spell “reflective” into a reflective period. Months of work, hours of anticipation, to what ends up being the last game, and the assuredness that it all led to you winning it go up in smoke, and it’s only natural that you might feel a little lost.
That’s what it felt like Aaron Rodgers was going through after yesterday’s 31-26 loss to Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship Game. There were definitely references to a foggy future, as there’d been earlier in the week, and allusions to the strange idea that he might not be in Green Bay next year.
The logistics of such a thing don’t really work. Even if the Packers don’t want Rodgers back, and that would seem exponentially asinine, they would only save $4 million off their cap by cutting him. It’s hard to see Rodgers asking for a trade, though stranger things have happened. After the 2021 season is when the savings come, if the Packers decide to turn to Jordan Love (give me, your Jordan Love, like you might surrender to a dragon in your dreams…). So for Rodgers to get so philosophical was odd, for sure.
We’re not privy to the private conversations Rodgers and the Packers have had, of course. And perhaps this is an organization that is desperate to avoid the silliness and drama of when Rodgers got the job, when attention-moth Brett Favre was doing his one-foot-in, one-foot-out, with retirement just to get people talking about him. He was basically the kid demanding that his parents watch him jump off the cliff into the water after every season. And eventually the Packers told him to do one, because they thought they had someone better and were tired of watching Favre throw their entire season away to the wrong jersey in the playoffs. And they were right.
Or perhaps Rodgers just thinks something is broken with him and the Packers. Are the Bucs the worst team Green Bay has gone out of the playoffs to? You might make that argument. For the first time the Packers had it their way, with a bye and the championship game at home, and it still didn’t work. Rodgers’ career only involving one Super Bowl approaches the level of high crime/Bermuda Triangle-level oddity, and perhaps he thinks it’ll never happen in Wisconsin.
It’s a stretch though. He’s coming off perhaps his best season, the defense at least is filled with young players, and there’s little reason to think the Packers can’t be right back here next year.
Football being only one game at a time should make it more susceptible to randomness, and yet it’s always the Packers who seem to fall victim to it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a game where Rodgers didn’t play well, and yet they keep finding a way to eat it at the most important time. Whether it’s biffing an onside kick or letting Colin Kaepernick run for 300 yards or whatever it was, or letting the Niners again run for 300 yards, or whatever yesterday was, it keeps not happening for them. Maybe Rodgers feels it will only work somewhere else. It seems to happen for all of his contemporaries.
Maybe for the first time Rodgers just can see the end in Green Bay. They’ve drafted his replacement, and there will come a day when the Pack will want to shift things over to Love. There’s an expiration date now. Maybe Rodgers doesn’t want to wait around for it. Maybe he’s dealing with the cold reality that the chances will not be infinite.
Or maybe he’s tired of being cold. We all get there.
Baseball has always suffered from an East Coast bias, but then so do all sports to some degree. Still, it looks like the NL East will be the only division next summer that will be worth watching. Whereas every other division seems to be a private discussion between two teams, or you have the NL Central and AL West that have all the passion of a training seminar at work, the NL East has five teams actually trying. Or at least would like to be trying, if that’s what we can call what the Phillies are doing that.
The Nationals signed Brad Hand to bolster their bullpen, which was already acceptable. The lineup could still use some juicing, even with the addition of probably-DH Kyle Schwarber. But the rotation still has Scherzer-Strasburg-Corbin, which would give anyone a chance.
With the Mets’ new ownership, the Braves homegrown core, and the up-and-coming nature of the Marlins, the NL East will actually be competitive throughout. There will be no collecting 15 wins against the Pirates or Rockies. At least that’s something.