How does Jordan Love stack up to Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre after 8 games as the Packers’ starting QB?
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Barring a dramatic turnaround by the Green Bay Packers over the final two months of the season, Jordan Love’s first season as the team’s full-time starting quarterback will end the same way as it did immediately after Hall of Famer Brett Favre took over in 1992 and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers in 2008: without a playoff berth.
The Packers just hope that 2023 tells them what the 1992 and 2008 seasons told them about Favre and Rodgers, respectively:
That they have their quarterback.
At this point with Love, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that they know. Perhaps that shouldn’t be as worrisome as it might seem near the halfway mark of his first season as “the man.”
While the Packers gave Rodgers a contract extension before this point in his first season as the starter, his fourth in the NFL, they still didn’t know if he could win and win big. And with Favre, the raw talent was evident midway through his first season in Green Bay, after spending his rookie season as a backup with the Atlanta Falcons, but no one knew if it could be harnessed.
In that regard, Love might not be that far behind after spending his first two NFL season as a backup to Rodgers.
Last week, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said he hoped it would not take into next season before he would know whether Love is their long-term quarterback.
“We’re evaluating a first-year player, if that make sense. Because he’s really had his first chance to go out there and game plan week in and week out,” Gutekunst said. “So to me right now it’s just, like, really looking at the small victories, the small improvements and making sure we’re moving forward. If that doesn’t, if that stops happening, then there’s problems.”
A statistical comparison shows the biggest difference between Love and his predecessors is completion percentage, which isn’t necessarily the same as accuracy. Through eight starts this season, Love has completed just 59.6% his passes — the lowest rate among all qualified quarterbacks this season. Favre was at 64.8% through eight starts and Rodgers at 63.7%.
Rodgers had thrown for more — but not a lot more — yards (1,982) than Favre (1,892) and Love (1,720) to this point. He also had the most touchdowns (13) and the fewest interceptions (five) compared to Love’s 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and Favre’s nine touchdowns and seven picks. All were sacked at a similar rate — 18 times for Love, 17 for Rodgers (whose biggest flaw at the time was holding the ball too long) and 16 for Favre.
None had a winning record through eight starts. While the Packers’ 3-5 mark looks unsightly, especially considering how much the offense has struggled early in games, it wasn’t much better with Favre and Rodgers. The Packers were 4-4 at this point under both. Rodgers’ Packers would win only two more games to finish at 6-10, although the defense blew several games in which Rodgers had given them a late lead, while the 1992 Packers finished 9-7.
The biggest difference might not be in the quarterbacks but, rather, their pass-catchers.
Favre had receiver Sterling Sharpe, who already had a pair of 1,000-yard seasons before they joined forces, and tight end Jackie Harris was in his third season. Rodgers had receiver Donald Driver, who already had five 1,000-yard seasons, plus a third-year receiver in Greg Jennings and second-year receiver James Jones to go along with veteran tight end Donald Lee.
Love has the youngest group of pass-catchers in the league with six receivers in either their first or second NFL season and three rookie tight ends.
“We haven’t played together a lot,” said Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, the only person to coach Favre (2006, 2007), Rodgers (2008-2016, 2022) and Love (2022, 2023). “With Aaron, he was with the guys he played with when he started — he was with them when he wasn’t starting — and that hasn’t been the case [for Love].
“Offensive football, you need 11 guys to do their job, and if one guy doesn’t or is off a little bit, it can impact the whole play. … So I just think the more that we can practice together and be together and learn each other’s habits, it’s going to eventually turn for us, and that’s what you have to keep on working towards.”
It may take well into next season.
The Packers opened 4-4 in Rodgers’ second season as the starter, meaning through a season and a half, they were 10-14. They won seven of their last eight in 2009 and made the playoffs. A season later, they won the Super Bowl.
It’s also easy to forget the rocky times for Favre. Unlike Rodgers and Love, Favre didn’t have an entire offseason to prepare as the starter. It was Don Majkowski’s job to start 1992. In his third game, Majkowski ripped up his ankle. Favre came on in relief and threw the game-winning touchdown to Kitrick Taylor with 13 seconds left to beat the Bengals.
Favre never gave up the starting job, although there was at least one time it was tenuous. The 1993 season did not start well. The Packers were 1-3 and Favre had thrown five interceptions in those four games. Then-coach Mike Holmgren considered benching Favre in favor of Mark Brunell, a rookie fifth-round pick, but several assistant coaches, including quarterbacks coach Steve Mariucci talked him out of it.
“We went all the way around the table about who we’re going to start this week, and everybody had an opinion,” Mariucci recalled in an interview with ESPN.com before Favre went into the Hall of Fame. “As you know, Brett started, but it was a long discussion. It was a very emotional conversation. Mike made the call, and he kept him as the starter, and it’s obvious now that it was the right call. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but it worked out.”
There’s no one left in the football operation who was around when Favre arrived; Gutekunst joined the Packers as a scout in 1998, and the most tenured scout, Sam Seale, dates to 1995. And while no two — or in this case, three — quarterback situations are the same, those in charge know enough about the history to know what to look for in Love.
Gutekunst said prior to last week’s game that the final 10 games were important to Love’s development. The first of those 10 marked some improvement from him and his young pass-catchers. Love had one of his most accurate showings Sunday, completing 20 of 26 passes in the 20-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
“I thought it was a pretty positive performance, especially when we needed some of those throws late in the game to kind of ice the game and the guys made some plays for him,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “[Receiver Romeo Doubs] had a really strong-hands catch on that third down, and then obviously Christian [Watson] going up for that ball, that was huge. That was good to see that development because we haven’t had a ton of success on those 50-50 balls and he went up there, and he made a great catch.”