Jordan Love wasn't always sure he'd be leading the Green Bay Packers, but now he's got his chance
GREEN BAY – When his predecessor signed the extension last offseason, the highest-paying contract in NFL history at the time, Jordan Love never had more doubt he’d eventually be standing here, starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
Not that Love ever held much certainty over the past three years. A first-round quarterback is drafted to start in the NFL. Unless that first-round quarterback is drafted to a team with Aaron Rodgers. Then, all bets are off.
Love knew if everything went according to plan, he wasn’t sniffing the field for the foreseeable future. If ever.
For a first-round pick, that level of patience was challenging. “I can only imagine,” 2016 first-round pick Kenny Clark said, “being in the situation he’s been in.” A year after he was drafted, when Rodgers and the Packers waged their war of silence, it appeared Love’s wait might be over. Then Rodgers returned, won his fourth MVP in 2021, and signed the contract.
“I’ll admit,” Love said, “I think the hardest time was when he signed the contract last year. It was kind of like, ‘OK, well, where do we go from here? What do I do?’ I think I just sat back, kind of thought to myself, and just came back with the approach, like, just go ball out. Any opportunity I get – I’m going to get the preseason – who knows what happens after that.
“So just grow and try to become the best version of myself, and I can’t really control what happens after that. So just let it play out.”
Love followed that script like he filled his job as backup quarterback the past three seasons, with a deftness that would serve him well now that he’s the starter. He did grow in his development. How much won’t be known until this fall, when the snaps come in a flurry.
Jordan Love: ‘the whole offseason, I approached it as I would be the starter’
Love handled his first news conference as the starting quarterback Wednesday afternoon with the confidence coaches and teammates have sworn he has, sure in his answers as he gripped the podium. He spoke of bringing his teammates, including a young cast of skill-position players, along so they see the game as he does.
None of that, or what comes in the months ahead, matters if he doesn’t handle those snaps with the same confidence.
“The whole offseason,” Love said, “I approached it as I would be the starter. That was just my mindset going into it. I couldn’t really control what happened going forward. It was really out of my control, but that was kind of the approach I took to it.”
Love’s training is no more focused now than it’s been in the past. For most of the past three years, he’s been one injury away from snaps. This offseason has been no different, except everything is different.
When Love started his training routine this spring, he had company. Running back Aaron Jones, receiver Christian Watson and receiver Romeo Doubs joined him in California so they could get a head start on developing their new chemistry.
“I think the only thing that’s changed,” Love said, “is trying to get guys out to get some more reps, to come throw with me, to do things like that. It’s a little easier being the starter to have guys come out.”
Early in the offseason, Jones made clear his preference was for Rodgers to return. Once he knew that wasn’t happening, the Pro Bowl tailback pivoted. Love said he got a text from Jones to see if his new quarterback wanted to throw together. Jones doesn’t plan on his assistance stopping there.
In his six-year career, Jones has an extensive catalog of seeing the game from the closest vantage point of a quarterback. He’s also become a premier leader inside the locker room. Jones said whatever his new quarterback needs, he’ll be ready to help.
“Just being an extra ears and eyes on the field for him,” Jones said, “letting him know what I see. Because some things might be new to him, like safety rotations and things like that. He might not pick it up as fast because he hasn’t had as many reps. So just helping him in that way and then just making sure the other 10, including myself, are there ready to play. Alignment, assignment, know what we’re doing and make his job easier.”
Jordan Love and Aaron Rodgers have talked since the trade
Love might also get some assistance from outside Green Bay. Unlike general manager Brian Gutekunst, Love said, he spoke with Rodgers after the trade. Their conversation was cordial, unsurprising given the lack of personal friction over the past three years. Rodgers, always careful who he praises, has said nothing but positives when referring to Love publicly.
Privately, Love said his predecessor wished him well. Love did the same. Rodgers let his former backup know he was there to answer any questions along the way. For Love, the challenge will be molding his game into what he’s learned from the four-time MVP.
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Maybe most importantly, Love said he’s not entering this season trying to be Rodgers.
“You’ve got to find that balance,” Love said. “You can’t go out there and try to throw like he throws. He makes some crazy throws with his feet facing different directions. Not everybody can do that. So you have to find what works for you, try to incorporate things, but at the same time you’ve got to understand how you play the position, what you bring to the table, and just trying to incorporate all the little details that you can keep while keeping your game the same.”
Asked what works for him, Love said he’s a playmaker. For any quarterback, knowing what to do when plays break down is essential. Love will get that opportunity now. He knows it won’t always go smoothly.
The first-year starter also isn’t questioning himself anymore. Now that his situation is clear, the top spot on the depth chart his, Love has more certainty than ever before.
“It’s not easy in this league,” Love said. “I know it’s not going to be easy this year. One thing I do is, I tell myself every day that I’m good enough. I have really high confidence in myself. … My thing is to just keep growing. I know it’s not going to be easy, I know there’s going to be ups and downs.
“The thing I’m going to tell guys is try to stick together. Stay together through the whole process. The tighter we can get a bond together as a team, the easier it’s going to be to face these challenges.”