Objective No. 1 for the Green Bay Packers this season is to evaluate Jordan Love and ultimately decide if they can build around him as their starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. That can already be a daunting task, but it’s been made even more difficult given the chaos that surrounds Love on an often play-by-play basis.
“It’s not evaluating the quarterback, but everything, all the players,” said GM Brian Gutekunst on Wednesday. “When the group as a whole is not functioning the way that it should function it’s hard to evaluate anybody. At the same time, it’s on us to get that right so we move forward and evaluate the guys that we have in that room. When we are not clicking it’s tough to evaluate anything.”
Love, of course, has areas where he must improve, and he would be the first to shoulder the blame for what’s taking place on offense. However, the conditions around him have been far from ideal either.
Green Bay just cannot find a way to get the run game going this season, which has made the offense one-dimensional and taken away Matt LaFleur’s ability to lean on play-action, where Love has been quite good this season. After a strong start to the year, the pass protection has declined as well. Over the Packers’ four-game losing streak, Love has the fourth-most dropbacks when under pressure, according to PFF, and consistent pressure on the quarterback is not a recipe for success for an inexperienced offense.
In addition to the problems in the trenches, the young group of receivers and tight ends that Love has to work with are still running the wrong routes, while drops and struggles in contested catch situations have been an issue for the entire season. On top of all that, injuries and being the most penalized team in football have only exasperated the on-field issues that Green Bay is experiencing.
On many plays there is at least one player making an error, which has often resulted in a penalty or the timing and execution of the entire sequence is thrown off. The end result is an offense that has lived in long down-and-distance situations, which have all but doomed this unit, and kept them from being able to fully get into their game plan for the week.
“It’s tough to evaluate anyone when it’s not going right,” added Gutekunst. “But at the same time, we spend all day looking at what’s going right, what’s not going right. Those things as we move forward, there’s a lot of season left, we need to see these guys grow, and I expect to see these guys grow. But it can make it difficult when the whole unit is out of whack to evaluate any individual.”
Unless things start to improve around Love, it’s going to be really difficult for him to turn things around and showcase what he can do. Not that the expectation should be that he has to work in ideal conditions, but I also can’t imagine that there are many first-year quarterbacks who would find a way to thrive in this current environment either.
By trading away Rasul Douglas prior to Tuesday’s deadline, there is now less stability around Love. While Douglas plays defense, that unit is now worse off without him. That could result in more points allowed by the Packers’ defense, putting the offense in potentially an even bigger deficit. This then further limits Green Bay’s ability to lean on the run game and puts more of the onus on an already poor passing game, which is facing too many predictable passing situations as is.
“You look at it all,” said Gutekunst about the decision to trade Douglas. “You look where your team is at and for us right now, we have some young players at that position (cornerback) that we really like and want to see play, that we need to see play. We’ve got to play better as a unit—offense, defense, and special teams. Play complimentary football. We haven’t done that.
”Whenever you take any player away from your football team it’s tough to get better. But at the same time, my job is to keep an eye on right now, but also on the future. Again, getting a pick in the top 100 is not something we could pass on at this time.”
Gutekunst and the Packers have a massive decision to make this upcoming offseason. The way things are trending, they are staring down a top five-ish pick in a quarterback-rich draft. However, if they continue to choose to build around Love, it’s very rare that you see a long-term option at quarterback play out their contract on a lame-duck one-year deal, which could mean an extension is a possibility. If that’s the case, then you’re not truly committed then, are you? And if that’s the case, then why pass up selecting one of the top quarterback options in a very good class?
As Gutekunst mentioned, there are still 10 games left in the season to help form the Packers’ final evaluation of Love. What can’t happen come the end of the season is uncertainty on the Packers’ part. The worst outcome for Green Bay is not having to start over in the draft—at least that’s a clear path to go down. The true worst outcome for Green Bay is being stuck in no-man’s-land, unsure of whether to start over at quarterback or commit to building around Love in 2024 and beyond.
“There will be time for that,” said Gutekunst about the decision that lies ahead for the Packers about Love’s future. “I think right now we are worried about beating the Rams. That’s the most important thing. We have a lot of faith in Jordan. We’ve got to get the offense playing better and when that does, those things will take care of themselves.”