GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — The signs were everywhere for Aaron Rodgers this Sunday night: He left Lambeau Field with his arm around his best mate Randall Cobb, he didn’t want to give up his game-worn jersey and he fought his emotions in the final moments of his session after the game with reporters to prove.
Before anyone drafts retirement papers or a trade deal, consider the other indicators that emerged after the Green Bay Packers’ 20-16 loss to the Detroit Lions at the end of the season: He did and said some of the same things after the Packers retired from last season’s playoffs. And the season before that.
However, this time there will be no playoffs. All the Packers had to do was beat the Lions Sunday night, and they were in for it. Instead, they finished 8-9 and missed the postseason for the first time in coach Matt LaFleur’s four seasons.
“Eventually the carousel stops and it’s time to get off, and I think you know roughly when that is,” Rodgers said Sunday. “And that has to be taken into account. is it time And what does the organization do? That’s part of it too. But the competitive fire will always be there. I don’t think that will ever go away. Sometimes I think it carries over to other things that may never fill that big gap. But like I said, I feel good about what I’ve achieved in this league and wouldn’t regret walking away. But I’ll have to see how it feels when I get away from it.”
Last offseason, Rodgers announced his decision to return on March 8th. Shortly after, he signed a three-year, $150 million contract extension. This deal includes a $58.3 million bonus plus more than $1 million in other guarantees if he plays in 2023. Rodgers insisted Sunday he could walk away from that money.
When asked what will be the deciding factor, Rodgers said, “It’s a feeling.” He then went on to list several things that could affect that feeling.
“Do I feel like I have something else to prove to myself?” he said. “Do I want to go back and prepare for another grind? Or is it about time? Is it time to resign? Is it time for another voice to lead this team?
“I think I need to get away and think about these things. This is real to me. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved in this league, but I’m also a realist and I understand where we are as a team. We are a young team. There might be some changes with some of the older guys and it might be time to step down. But I could take some time and say, fuck no, man, I gotta get back out there and do another run. But I have to see how it feels when I’m away from it.
Rodgers admitted his decision could also be affected by whether the Packers bring back players like Cobb, David Bakhtiari, Mason Crosby and Marcedes Lewis.
While the organization hasn’t yet had to tell Rodgers face-to-face if they want him, they’ve done so publicly. Last month, general manager Brian Gutekunst told reporters he wanted Rodgers back. LaFleur said he believes the organization still feels that way, even after one of Rodgers’ least productive seasons.
“Yes, absolutely in my opinion,” LaFleur said. “But I think ultimately he will decide that.”
While Rodgers didn’t seem very keen on playing for another team unless he was ready to retire but the Packers wanted to move to Jordan Love, he didn’t completely close that door.
Rodger’s final throw of the season was intercepted by Lions safety Kerby Joseph 3:27 of the game. The Packers never got the ball back. It was Rodgers’ 12th interception of the season – second-highest only to the 13 he threw in 2008, his first season as a starter. Joseph, who twice defeated Rodgers in the November game in Detroit, became the first player to defeat him three times in a single regular season.
However, Rodgers had no doubt that he could still play at a high level, just as he had felt around this time last year as he wrapped up his second straight NFL MVP season and fourth of his career.
“The answer is yes,” he said.
Still, Rodgers found life to be a rough ride after wide receiver Davante Adams joined the Las Vegas Raiders in March, though the Packers drafted three wideouts in Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson and Samori Toure. Still, Rodgers said that “there’s a lot of good young talent on this team [and] If certain guys make the leap from first to second grade, that offense could be very different.”
Just like after the previous campaign, Rodgers said he wanted to come off the season and “take the emotion out of it”.
He did so for most of his 20 minutes in the media auditorium on Sunday night.
Until the end.
He was then asked if that was what he would miss the most. Rodgers paused for 10 seconds and said, “I’m going to miss the boys. I will miss the fans.”
He paused again, collected himself and said, “Yeah. Thank you.”
And he went into another off-season of contemplation.