Last year, after the Packers lost 37-20 to the 49ers in the NFC Championship, quarterback Aaron Rodgers seemed surprisingly upbeat and optimistic when talking to reporters. On Sunday, after the Packers lost 31-26 to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship, Rodgers expressed a far different vibe.
“I’m just pretty gutted,” Rodgers said following the home game against Tampa Bay, speaking slowly and deliberately, as he seemed to search for the right words. “It’s a long season. You put so much into it to get to this point and then, you know, the way — you know, we had our chances, so you know I’m not — different position than the last couple of these when we got blown out and really didn’t have a chance. . . . We had a lot of chances. . . . This one definitely stings and is going to for a long time.”
Near the end of the session with reporters, Rodgers began to talk about the inevitable changes that will come to the Packers. Without prompting, he veered toward a discussion of his own future.
“A lot of guys futures that are, you know, uncertain, myself included,” Rodgers said. “That’s what’s sad about it most. . . . Just the uncertainties is tough and the finality of it all.”
Rodgers next was asked how the team will take the next step.
“I don’t know, I really don’t,” he said. “There’s a lot of unknowns going into this offseason now. And I’m going to have to take some time away for sure and clear my head and just kind of see what’s going on with everything. But it’s pretty tough right now, especially thinking about the guys that may or may not be here next year. There’s always change. That’s the only constant in this business.”
Consider what Rodgers said last year, immediately after the Packers were overpowered by San Francisco.
“The window is open for us, and that’s the exciting thing,” Rodgers said at the time. “I think we’re gonna be on the right side of one of these real soon.”
Rodgers, in that same session, gushed about the 2019 season in Green Bay.
“This one is special because it became fun again,” Rodgers said. “I wouldn’t say this was our most talented team, but neither was 2010. And we just found a way.”
This year, the team was better. They earned the top seed. They had the only bye in the NFC. They easily handled the Rams. Then it all came crashing down. And Rodgers said not a word as the dust settled about the season being fun.
Rodgers words and tone prompted some reporters to wonder whether he’ll be one of the changes made in 2021. While it’s premature to come to any such conclusions, the outcome seems to hinge on whatever Rodgers decides after he clears his head. But he’s the one who mentioned his uncertain future, and he’s not known for speaking recklessly or without meaning to his words.
Surely, Rodgers is wondering at some level whether the first-round pick that went to a player who held a clipboard all year — and the fourth-round pick used to trade up for quarterback Jordan Love — would have made a difference on Sunday, with up to 18 NFL games under their belts. Surely, he’s wondering why the decision was made to not take advantage of the ball being eight yards from a touchdown that, with a two-point conversion, would have forced overtime.
Rodgers seemed to set aside any frustration emanating from the Jordan Love situation and to embrace the 2020 Packers, playing well enough to become the presumptive league MVP. Now, with Rodgers himself flagging the issue of his football future, everyone will have to simply wait and see what happens next.