After Another Letdown, Rodgers' Future In Doubt
Source: MORRY GASH, ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Packers once again fell short of a Superbowl appearance. For the second straight season, Green Bay went to the NFC Championship game and came out as losers. The Packers under Aaron Rodgers are 1-4 in NFC championship games. The Packers’ loss on Sunday was a gutting feeling for fans. The year Rodgers had this season at 37 years old was remarkable, a career season with a great chance of capturing his 3rd MVP. The Packers had some bad breaks in this game and lost a heartbreaker.
The biggest game-changer might have been the Scotty Miller TD. The Bucs decided to go for it on 4th and 3 late in the 1st half, then a few plays later Brady heaved the ball downfield to Miller for a score. The Packers gave up the biggest play of the game and instead of a 4 point deficit heading into the break, they were down by 11. As I said, it might have been the biggest play of the game and it put the Packers in a bad position.
The Packers look to be down and out, but they actually made a game and almost comeback. Though coming out of halftime and turning the ball over off the gate had the Packers play the catch-up game for the rest of the second half.
Green Bay's’ offence looked good against the best-ranked defence in the league, but when Brady started to throw interceptions the Packers offence stalled. They scored on the first INT but had back to back three and outs. In a situation like that, Green Bay needed to take charge in those situations. The Packers had chances to take the league or tie the game but failed to do so three times in the 4th quarter and came up short.
A few non PI calls hurt Green Bay but the Bucs defence pressured Rodgers, sacking him 5 times. The Bucs defence made some crucial stops in the red zone which led to the Packers’ demise.
Speaking of the red zone, with the pressure on Matt LaFleur decided to kick a field goal and hope for a defensive stop in the most crucial part of the game. Did he make the right choice? Well, many feel like LaFleur should have let Rodgers determine the game, but he went the other way.
The Packers’ defence played well in the second half, they were a 3rd down away from getting the ball back if it wasn't for the PI call on Kevin King late in the 4th quarter. If they stopped Brady on that 3rd down, Green Bay gets another crack to win the game. The Packers were close to getting the ball back. Sure, LaFleur made a conservative, but call me crazy, it felt like it was the right call.
Though Rodgers had a hand in putting the team in this position, he reluctantly decided to not run on 3rd and goal despite having some open field ahead of him. Rodgers normally would take his shot and run in but he didn't. His lack of faith in himself was surprising and has opened himself up to a lot of questions in regards to the QB’s decision-making during crunch time.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding the future of the franchise heading into the off-season, the biggest concern being if Rodgers is coming back? We know he wasn't a fan of LaFleur deciding to kick the field late in the 4th quarter. He didn't guarantee coming back to the Packers next season either.
With the Packers drafting Love last year, you wonder if Rodgers feels like the Packers will do what they did to Brett Favre. A situation he knows all too well. Rodgers has his own future in his hands despite being tied with the Packers the next few seasons. He could ask for a trade or retire entirely. The Packers owe him a lot of money. Although, Matt LaFleur seems more positive about the situation.
The possibility of being 22 million dollars over the cap if it stays put next season means it will be difficult for Green Bay to upgrade on certain positions and saying goodbye to some veterans like Aaron Jones. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst will have a challenging off-season and will have to determine if the time is now to move on to a new era for the franchise.
Green Bay got the season they wanted. Rodgers was in MVP form, they clinched home-field, they had the best offence in the game, but just like many games under Rodgers, the Packers wasted another opportunity to get to the big dance. It's eerily similar to Brett Favre's final years in Green Bay. They missed the playoffs in back to back seasons, hired a new coach and were one game shy from the Super Bowl, in a game where they had home-field advantage.
The Aaron Rodgers watch will be in full effect this off-season just like Favre watch was in 2007. This was another season of "what ifs" if you’re a Packers fan.