Aaron Rodgers heads into another off-season of uncertainty after another frustrating end to a brilliant year. Rodgers drove the Packers to a touchdown on the game’s first possession and then failed to bring them back into the end zone for the rest of Saturday night. Their season ended in a stunning 13-10 NFC division playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“A little numb, sure,” Rodgers said after the game. “I didn’t think it would end like this.”
But was this just the end of Rodgers’ season? Or is it the end of his distinguished tenure at Green Bay? The upset loss capped a turbulent year that saw Rodgers skipping the Packers’ mandatory minicamp; missed a game due to a positive Covid-19 test after making misleading comments about his vaccination status; but still earned All-Pro honors and positioned himself for a possible fourth MVP award.
Rodgers didn’t want to speculate about his future. He said last month that he had not ruled out any possibility, including returning to Green Bay, asking for a trade or retiring.
“I’m still super competitive, still know I can play at a high level so it’s going to be a tough decision,” Rodgers said after the game. “I have a lot to weigh up in the coming weeks. But man just so much gratitude for this city and this organization and such a long, long career here that I’m proud and truly grateful for all the men and women who work here, the men I’ve gotten to cross paths with, coaches and players over the years.”
Rodgers said Saturday night that his relationship with general manager Brian Gutekunst has improved this season.
“There are a lot of players whose future is up in the air so it’s definitely going to be interesting to see where some of those decisions go,” Rodgers said. “But I’ll be having the conversations with Brian over the next week or so and getting a little more clarity and thinking about my own future and how much longer I want to do this.”
The Packers are $44.8 million over their projected salary cap for next season, which means they will almost certainly have to lose key players. That would hurt their chances at the Super Bowl. At the age of 38, Rodgers knows his chances of winning a second championship, which he won with the Packers in February 2011, are slim. He’s been linked with moves to teams like the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers, both of which have strong defenses but lack quarterback threats. Rodgers said Saturday he would make a decision about his future by the time the free agency window opens on March 16.
“I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I want to continue playing, so there are a lot of decisions to be made over the next few months,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers came on Saturday after throwing 20 touchdown passes with no interceptions in his last seven games of the regular season. But once again he wasn’t spectacular in the postseason. He went 20 of 29 for 225 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He was sacked five times while working behind an offensive line and missing injured tackle David Bakhtiari. When the Packers had the ball in the final minutes of a tied game, they went in threes and punted, eventually leading to the 49ers’ successful field goal.
“I think Aaron did everything he could,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur. “He was under a lot of pressure. I think it has more to do with not being able to get our guys to make enough plays. I take that very personally.”
The Packers had a brutal night in special teams, with a blocked punt leading to a 49ers touchdown. The Niners also blocked a Mason Crosby field goal that would have given the Packers a 10-0 lead. However, Rodgers admitted that he could have played better himself.
“I didn’t have a great night tonight,” Rodgers said. “They did a good job of getting me off the spot and did a better job of taking away some of the fast play we got going last time we played them. I missed a few readings. I probably should have risked a few holes a few times. Obviously if I beat Allen [Lazard] If we go deep on the last drive, that’ll probably put us in midfield, and then we’re a few first downs from being in field goal range.