Tom Clements on how long it’ll take Jordan Love to show he’s The Guy: ‘I don't think you can put a time on it’

Ryan Wood
Green Bay Press-Gazette
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GREEN BAY – Even Tom Clements doesn’t know the one thing everyone around the Green Bay Packers is trying to figure out.

He’s a good place to start, though. Nobody in Green Bay has his depth of quarterback knowledge. The Packers quarterbacks coach had a front-row view when Aaron Rodgers broke into the NFL as a first-time starter in 2008. He’s here now for Jordan Love’s transition.

Clements was hired to his old role one year ago, plucked out of retirement befitting an NFL coach of 23 years, to teach his former pupil. Something happened last season, though, something Clements didn’t expect. He enjoyed coaching Love, shepherding another young quarterback’s development, seeing the growth day after day.

Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements talks with Aaron Rodgers during a game last season.

Long before Rodgers was eventually traded to the New York Jets last month, Clements had a decision to make. The trade was a foregone conclusion for weeks. Clements could either stay and coach another quarterback, or he could retire again.

“I came back,” Clements said, “and enjoyed working with Jordan and the other quarterbacks, Danny Etling. And anytime you can coach a guy and help him, or it looks like you helped him a little bit, that’s gratifying.”

Clements didn’t just help Love a little bit, if you ask Matt LaFleur.

Love’s progress last season finally pushed him over the top, the former first-round draft pick going from heir apparent to heir. Behind the scenes, obscured as he’s been the past three seasons, Love’s footwork improved. He was more comfortable scrambling outside the pocket. His passes threaded into tighter throwing windows.

How long Love’s reign will last, nobody knows. Until the future of the Packers quarterback position is determined – Love will either be The Guy, or he won’t – everything he does will be scrutinized. There is no patience in the NFL, only a persistent pursuit for answers. Clements might know first, though, so when he was asked Thursday how much time it might take to know if Love has what it takes, his answer could provide a lamppost.

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“I don’t think you can put a time on it,” Clements said.

In another word, patience.

The Packers believe they’re starting from a solid foundation with Love this offseason, courtesy of the three years he’s spent learning behind a future Hall of Famer. Adam Stenavich, in his second season as the Packers offensive coordinator, said Love isn’t limited with the playbook. “Pretty much all of it,” Stenavich said, “is on the table.” The Packers will have a different starting point this offseason with a first-year starter than a four-time MVP, but running their full offense starting Week 1 is a byproduct of how much time Love has had to learn.

How Love plays within LaFleur’s offense will ultimately determine his success. Stenavich said Love showed strides with his management of the playbook last season, the early indicators that he was ready for a chance to start.

“I think his handle,” Stenavich said, “just his ability to translate the meetings to the field, and his ability to kind of just see the game from a quarterback’s perspective. Where he’s not processing too fast, he’s processing within the time of the play, getting the ball out on time. And doing a great job in the huddle, getting guys lined up. It was very impressive to see.”

Stenavich said an emphasis this offseason will be preparing Love to face blitzes expected for a first-time starter. Until he shows he can handle the blitz, he’s sure to see extra pass rushers harass him, the way Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo sent a relentless arsenal in Love’s first career start in 2021. The Packers will build blitz periods into their offseason practices, which start Monday as they open organized team activities.

It helps that the Packers have a veteran offensive line in front of Love, but a quarterback often dictates whether a blitz is successful. Love will need to be on time in the offense, but also able to make plays when the scheme breaks down. Clements said Love got plenty of reps to polish his improvisational skills running scout team the past three years. “Things break down pretty quickly on the scout team,” Clements said. Of course, they also don’t tackle in practice.

Clements believes Love has all the skill needed to handle any challenge he encounters as a starting quarterback.

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“He can throw the ball, number one,” Clements said. “Which he needs to do in the NFL. He’s good athletic. He can move around, buy time. And he’s intelligent. He generally makes good decisions, and at this point just needs to play, work on processing information, making good decisions and getting it to the right guy. He has all the qualities you’re looking for in a guy to be successful.”

After learning behind Rodgers, Love should benefit working with the coach who led Rodgers’ development. Clements can pull from his experience guiding a future Hall of Famer through the early part of his career. Love, like Rodgers, sat behind an all-time great his first three seasons. Clements remembers Rodgers’ breakout with 26 passes at Dallas in 2007, the first time the Packers saw his potential on the field. He said Love’s fourth quarter at Philadelphia last season was similar, a glimpse at what he might be.

What he becomes, and how quickly, is what Clements can’t know until the games start.

“He got an opportunity to have a little extended playing time against Philadelphia,” Clements said, “and he did some very good things. I’m sure that helped his confidence. It helped the confidence of the guys around him, and he’s just got to build on that.”

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