ATM: Rodgers Question Lingers Over NFC North

| July 13th, 2021

“I never said I’m unhappy with my boss,” Aaron Rodgers replied to a jab made by Tom Brady in a video that was released last week. The video was mocking a game of Jeopardy between the two star quarterbacks, Rodgers the 2020 NFL MVP and Brady the Super Bowl winner. The answer was “He’s an NBA owner, a self-taught guitarist and has guest-starred on both The Office and Game of Thrones” to which Brady added “He’s unhappy with his boss and has no options. Who is Aaron Rodgers?”

But Rodgers had the response ready and it seems to be a safe bet that he’s going to use that line again.

Rodgers has said a lot since the end of the 2020 season that would lead one to believe he wanted some sort of commitment from the Green Bay Packers. He didn’t get it and the day of the NFL Draft there were reports that he wouldn’t play for the team again. But, as Rodgers was quick to say: he never said that.

As training camp nears, the question of “will he” or “won’t he” lingers over the entire league, especially the NFC North, where Rodgers playing could have a very direct impact on what kind of season the Bears have.

Should Rodgers play, we’re probably penciling the Bears in for two losses. If he doesn’t, two wins or a split at worst. That one game could be the difference between the Bears making the playoffs or missing out. With seven teams making the cut, it isn’t hard to see how the Bears could once again be in contention for that final spot.

The Bears should be better in 2021 than they were in 2020 and there really aren’t that many teams in the NFC that can say that.

Minnesota likely projects to be better than the Bears in 2021, but whether that means they win the division or get a wild card spot remains to be seen. If Rodgers doesn’t play, they’ll likely be the favorites to win the NFC North.

The NFC West teams may just all beat up on each other, meaning the top two teams could win 11-14 games, leaving the third in the nine-win territory and battling for the sixth or seventh wildcard spots.

We can figure New Orleans will take a big step back, not just because they lose Drew Brees, but the number of other moves they had to make to get under the salary cap. There’s no reason to think either Carolina or Atlanta will take their place in the playoff picture.

There’s also no reason to think the NFC East will qualify more than the division winner.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s pencil in LA, Dallas, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and San Francisco. That would put the Bears in a battle with Seattle, Arizona and Green Bay for two spots. If Rodgers doesn’t play, who wouldn’t like the Bears’ chances? If he does play, who would?

Of course, the Bears could be better than Minnesota. Though, the Vikings seem to be good every other year, just so Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman can keep their jobs. They’ll win 11 or 12 games in 2021 to keep the trend alive.

An educated guess is that Rodgers shows up because he has refused to say anything he wouldn’t. That seems important, just as it proved to be with Russell Wilson — who was able to tell his teammates and the media he never requested a trade because, technically, it’s true. Wilson and Seattle have moved on, for now, and it’s water under the bridge.

If Rodgers is going to draw a hard line in the sand, it’s going to be public at some point anyway, so why not now? He’ll show up and say, “I never said that” and expect the world to move on. But, as Mark Murphy said, Rodgers is a “complicated fella.” Maybe he simply doesn’t show up and doesn’t say anything about it?

While we’d all like to believe the Bears can just show up and beat the Packers regardless, the historic truth is they can’t. We never really know how an NFL season will play out, but we should all like the Bears chances to play in January better if they don’t have to beat Rodgers.

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