The nation saw Jordan Love at his worst. The Packers saw Aaron Rodgers’ replacement. While attending Utah State’s 42-6 blowout loss at LSU in October — when Love completed 15-of-30 passes for 150 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions — Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst ignored the junior’s career-worst outing and focused on …
The nation saw Jordan Love at his worst. The Packers saw Aaron Rodgers’ replacement.
While attending Utah State’s 42-6 blowout loss at LSU in October — when Love completed 15-of-30 passes for 150 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions — Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst ignored the junior’s career-worst outing and focused on the athleticism, play-making and rare natural ability of the Aggies quarterback.
“He’s a very natural thrower, can make all the throws, he’s a very good athlete, he has the kind of size we look for,” Gutekunst told ESPN. “I just think there’s some rawness to him, but I just think he’s got everything in front of him. And we really like the guy. We think he’s a really good kid, wanted to work, and he just kind of fits with our culture.”
With Love still available late in the first round of the NFL draft, the Packers traded the 30th overall pick and a fourth-round selection to take the quarterback with the 26th overall pick, mirroring the 2005 selection of Rodgers, when three-time MVP Brett Favre was still under center.
Gutekunst didn’t want to take a chance the future would fall through Green Bay’s grasp, but also felt compelled to ensure second-year head coach Matt LaFleur would be on board with a pick that wouldn’t help a team that just reached the NFC Championship.
“Matt was on the line with us and understood where I was coming from,” Gutekunst said. “I think it was one of those things where, again, with a second-year head coach, I certainly wasn’t going to give him a player he didn’t want.
“It’s not something we anticipated. It kind of fell to us, and we were excited about that. I know a lot of people will look at this as not a move for the immediate, and I understand that, but the balance of the immediate and the long term is something that I have to consider, and that’s why we did it.”
Rodgers, 36, was “surprised” by the selection — according to Favre, who spoke with him afterward — in the midst of his $134 million extension which runs through 2023, hoping the team would draft a wide receiver for the first time in the first round in 18 years. Instead, the Packers opted for a gifted thrower — whose only FBS scholarship offer was from Utah State — who just led the nation with 17 interceptions.
While Rodgers was able to become a legend after replacing one, the Super Bowl MVP and Favre had an unhealthy relationship in their three seasons together, during which Rodgers remained on the bench. The Packers believe that won’t be a problem this time.
“Yeah, I don’t want to get into specifics, but I will say this: Aaron is a pro, and he’s the leader of our football team, and I anticipate that for a really long time,” LaFleur said. “I have so much respect for him not only as a player but the person, and some of the stuff that nobody sees. So I can’t tell you how much I like working with him.”
The Packers believe the future can be just as bright.
“If he was going to be the kind of guy we’d love to bring in and have the leadership … [we had to] see if he had that in him,” Gutekunst said. “Every step along the way I thought Jordan handled himself very well, and we were very comfortable with who he was.”