The revisionist history has already begun in Green Bay. Didn't even take a month. Color me not surprised.
The Green Bay Packers sacrificed a fourth-round pick to move up in the first round to select quarterback Jordan Love to replace Aaron Rodgers in two years. Period. Them's the facts. Any attempt to skew that decision made on April 23 in another way is disingenuous at best. Might even enter the realm of gaslighting.
I knew it would only be a matter of time before the powers that be in Green Bay tried to couch this in the same vein as when Rodgers fell all the way to them in 2005 when they already had an aging Brett Favre in the fold. I dissected that faux dynamic in realtime right after the first round was complete last month, when the Packers had executed the most controversial transaction of that Thursday night. They had put an expiration date on their Hall of Fame QB in Green Bay -- everyone saw it and knew it and Rodgers would eventually infer as much himself when he recently Zoomed with the media -- and gone out of their way to trade for his replacement.
But to hear second-year head coach Matt LaFleur tell it this week, Green Bay was just sitting back and following its board, and, darn it, they had no choice but to use a pick (that they didn't even own yet!) on Love because he was so clearly the best player available after everyone else they liked had been scooped up. Here's LaFleur's tall tale, as told to ESPN Radio in Wisconsin:
"It was just one of those situations where there were a couple of guys targeted that had just been previously been picked and Jordan was the next guy on the board, and so we went with the best player at the time."
Poor Packers! I really feel awful for them. They just got stuck and had to follow their board. Had no choice! They were stuck! Any team -- with a generational quarterback already under contract for four more years through his 30s -- would have done the same thing! What else could they have done, guys and gals? Aw shucks!
Why did the NFL table the 4th-and-15 rule proposal? And why did Jadeveon Clowney turn down the Browns? Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends debate those topics and more; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Then again, facts.
The player who went directly before Green Bay traded up for Love was receiver Brandon Aiyuk to the 49ers at No. 25; the Packers, mind you, sat out the entirety of the wide receivers in this draft despite its historical depth and their need, so, sorry, they weren't moving up for him. Receivers also went at picks 21 and 22, and, again, the Packers never selected a WR in the entire draft. So you can rule them out too. The Saints took center Cesar Ruiz one pick before Aiyuk, and the Packers already have one of the better centers in the NFL in Corey Linsley, who they are set to pay $8.5M this year. Could they have been looking to draft his replacement should he depart in free agency in 2021? I suppose one could make that case, but does it pass your smell test? Maybe we'll take a backup center for this year … or maybe we'll take a guy we think could be our franchise QB -- could go either way. Um, OK.
The Chargers moved up to pick No. 23 for a specific player -- linebacker Kenneth Murray -- who would have filled a need for Green Bay, and had been tied to the Packers in the pre-draft process, but there were also two very highly regarded linebackers who went immediately after Green Bay took Love, so if upgrading at that spot was a priority, options abounded with Patrick Queen and Jordyn Brooks, who Green Bay also did a lot of work on and who multiple teams have told me they had graded very closely together.
So, sorry, I'm not buying they jumped up a few spots very early with a focus on Murray primarily. And if they were silly enough to trade into 26 just hoping he would still be there, then that is actually a worse indictment of their process than anything else. Would anyone be that naïve?
If LaFleur is trying to maintain that the Packers honed in on the 26th pick just because they liked that number, and had a group of players they thought might could still be there, and were not trying to land Love in particular (despite Green Bay and other teams hearing chatter that the Colts were keen on moving up to grab Love themselves), that's simply a high level spin job. That's not how it works -- especially in the first round and especially when planning to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback.
No, what actually happened was they moved up to take a QB to replace Rodgers with a quarterback who most teams I talked to did not have a first-round grade on. No one fell to them; this wasn't Rodgers 2.0. They moved up to, if anything, reach for the younger, cheaper guy to take over for Rodgers when they don't want to pay him $34M a year anymore to manage games for them in a risk-averse offense. That's the deal. Just own it, guys.
This wasn't some predicament you fell into. This wasn't a passive, path-of-least-resistance decision. This was you putting Rodgers on the clock for two more seasons and making a massive organizational shift to the point that now the development of Love is the most paramount element in the entire franchise. This was one of the most significant decisions in the history of the storied franchise. Don't try to couch it as anything less.
The fact that the coach is already seemingly trying to hedge his bets or pretend this was something other than what the entire league saw … is probably not a good sign. You had the conviction -- albeit, in the eyes of many, misguided conviction -- to grab a QB you are banking on being a more cost-effective replacement for Rodgers come 2022.
Wear it. Embrace it. And by all means, sell it. If you can't, no one can.
Get your messaging straight and let Cheesehead Nation know how smart and calculated and shrewd this maneuver was. Get your story straight and stick to it. Because if this is the best sales job or re-imagining of what went down the night of April 23, 2020 that this brain trust can come up with, it's not particularly inspiring. And I can promise you that Rodgers is listening to every word.