The Green Bay Packers are the talk of the NFL right now following their 27-19 dismantling of the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Now at 6-6, the Packers have entered the NFL Playoff picture with a hold on the seventh and final seed in the NFC. It has been quite the ascension for a team that, at one point, was 2-5 and apparently in a downward spiral.
Green Bay has won four of their last five games, including each of their last three. During those three games, quarterback Jordan Love has proven that the team’s time, effort, risk, and faith they put into his development is and will continue to pay off.
Of course, this is not anything new in Green Bay. Each of their previous three starting quarterbacks, Love, Aaron Rodgers, and Brett Favre, were backups on the team prior to starting. This, however, is not the route that many teams take when trying to find their franchise quarterback. Rather, they would rather take a rookie high in the NFL Draft and have him start right away.
This approach has had an incredible variety of results, but NFL insider Ian Rapoport believes that Love is doing these young quarterbacks a favor with the way he is playing this season.
Ian Rapoport Believes Green Bay Packers Quarterback Jordan Love Is Helping Young Quarterbacks
Speaking on “The Insiders” on NFL+, Rapoport had a very interesting thought regarding how the Packers developed Love for years behind Aaron Rodgers, and how Love’s play now may help young quarterbacks avoid being put under a microscope on Day One:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 4, 2023
“You know, Jordan Love is doing a lot of young quarterback a lot of favors here. And the reason why is because I think we all knew that Jordan Love was a huge mistake. Why would the Packers take him and upset Aaron Rodgers? It created all these storylines which filled so much TV time over the past several years.
“Then we saw him play in that COVID game, and it wasn’t good, and we knew they had made a mistake.
“And now we know that we were all wrong, and that it sometimes takes time for young quarterbacks to be good, and now it seems like Jordan Love is good.
“And I don’t really know to say like, ‘Alright, this guy is your franchise guy or he’s not a franchise guy.’ But Jordan Love is looking like a guy, and I think for the Packers, this absolute best-case scenario.”
Before going further, it is only right that we give major props to Rapoport for admitting that he was wrong about Love. He certainly was not the only media personality who believed that Love was a bust and that Green Bay had made a mistake in drafting him. It takes a big person to admit when they were wrong, and he admitted so publicly.
Back to Love, it is easy to see why football teams and fans are so expectant for young rookie quarterbacks to be good right away. After all, sports are instant-gratification entertainment. NFL teams want to win now as opposed to building for the future.
Plenty of Young, Rookie Quarterback Were not “Good” Before They Became Great
Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks of all time. The way he played the quarterback position will be studied and emulated for decades. But he was not always a good player, and he certainly did not start out as one.
In 1998, his rookie season, Manning was thrust into the starting job with the Indianapolis Colts right away. He completed 56.7% of his passes for 3,739 yards, 26 touchdowns, 28 interceptions, and had a passer rating of 71.2.
Earlier this season, when Love had a completion percentage under 60%, fans were calling for him to be benched. Manning went on to finish second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, by the way, and we all know the Hall of Fame career that he had afterwards.
Let’s take a look at a more recent and less extreme example: Trevor Lawrence, quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Lawrence was hyped as much as any quarterback prospect in recent memory when the Jaguars took him with the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Like Manning, he was thrust into the starting job right away. He ended his rookie season with a 59.6% completion percentage, 3,641 yards, 12 touchdowns, a NFL-leading 17 interceptions, and a 71.9 passer rating.
Just last season, his second year in the NFL, he made the Pro Bowl after having a 66.3% completion percentage, 4,113 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, just eight interceptions, and a 95.2 passer rating.
NFL Quarterbacks Need Game Reps to Learn
Now, in both of these cases, each quarterback was the starter from Day One. This means that they were playing actual NFL games, whether they were completely ready for it or not. There was a great deal of learning done on the field.
Packers Hall of Famer Gilbert Brown has said numerous times on his podcast (linked above) that there is no substitute for game reps. Manning and Lawrence learned difficult lessons early and often, which led to their second-year jumps.
Other quarterbacks, like Love, who sit for a number of years, need a few weeks of games in order to learn the lessons that only playing can teach.
Now, of course there are exceptions to this: Patrick Mahomes sat for one year behind Alex Smith and then threw 50 touchdowns and won the NFL MVP in his first year as a starter. This is not, and should not be considered, the norm for first-year starting quarterbacks.
As Rapoport notes, sometimes it takes a while for young quarterbacks to become good. Let’s face it, though: fans and the media will always have high expectations for young quarterbacks, no matter if they start Day One or sit behind a veteran for a year or two (or three).
That’s just the nature and culture of the NFL; but perhaps it shouldn’t be.