Sunday, January 23, 2022

What’s Next for Aaron Rodgers?

 Yeah, what's next? I thought it was going to be the NFC divisional championship round.

But nah. Green Bay chocked. At home. In 3 degrees with the windchill factor. Jimmy Garopolo had never played a game under 32 degrees. Rodgers? He's won 34 under 32

I wasn't even watching that much in the second half, instead looking at Twitter on my phone. But then I saw that last 49ers drive and the winning field goal as time expired, and --- I couldn't believe it!

What a game, dang.

Watch, at Sports Illustrated, "49ers vs. Packers Divisional Round Highlights - NFL 2021."

At at the Wall Street Journal, "The 49ers Stunned the Packers. What’s Next for Aaron Rodgers?":

The 49ers Stunned the Packers. What’s Next for Aaron Rodgers? San Francisco’s 13-10 upset over Green Bay upended the NFL’s playoffs. It also reinvigorated the drama about the star quarterback’s future.

Aaron Rodgers spent much of 2021 in a standoff with the Green Bay Packers. When Rodgers finally arrived at training camp, wearing enormous sunglasses and a T-shirt featuring a character from “The Office,” he began a season unlike any quarterback in NFL history.

He was at the center of culture wars. He played as well or better than every other quarterback in football. Then he was booted from the playoffs after just one game.

The Packers were upset in the divisional round of the playoffs 13-10 by the San Francisco 49ers—a shocker that ousted the team that recorded the best record in the sport and the quarterback favored to win Most Valuable Player. On a freezing, snowy night in Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, the Packers scored on the opening possession and then were stymied for the rest of the game before a shocking finish that left them out in the cold.

The result doesn’t just upend the rest of the NFL playoffs, with the favorite now out of the picture. It also raises questions about Rodgers, the Packers and their future together after a year of drama.

“I’m going to take some time and have conversations with the folks around here,” Rodgers said afterward of his future. “It’s a little shocking for sure.”

Rodgers and the Packers seemed to be in control Saturday. They marched down the field for a touchdown on the opening possession. The 49ers went three-and-out on their first four possessions. When San Francisco got close to scoring on their fifth possession, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw an interception. The Packers had a field goal blocked at the end of the half to go into the break with a 7-0 lead.

Even as Rodgers continued to struggle to move the ball after that first series, the Packers appeared to be in control. When Green Bay extended its lead to 10-3 in the early fourth quarter, the 49ers still seemed lost offensively while Green Bay’s defense looked unbreakable in the frigid conditions. On a fourth-and-1 in Green Bay territory midway through the fourth quarter, the 49ers went for it—and got stuffed.

That’s when the script flipped and the tidal wave of an upset began building.

On the possession after Green Bay’s fourth-down stop, the 49ers blocked a punt—its second blocked kick of the game—and returned it for a touchdown. Suddenly, the game was tied 10-10.

The Packers went three-and-out on their ensuing possession. The 49ers got the ball back with 3:20 left in the game. That’s all they needed. The game ended as Robbie Gould’s 45-yard kick sailed through the uprights, clinching a playoff stunner on the iconic grounds in Green Bay.

The result sent the 49ers to the NFC Championship and plunged the Packers into another existential crisis after exiting the playoffs early yet again with Rodgers.

Rodgers entered this season as the reigning MVP. He’s also the favorite to win it this year after leading the Packers to the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But he has made little secret of his past concerns about Green Bay management and those same doubts seem destined to resurface after an unexpectedly early playoff loss.

Rodgers and the Packers were the central drama of the NFL offseason, with rumors swirling that the star quarterback wanted out of Green Bay. For a time there were doubts that Rodgers, who turned 38 in December, would come back.

When he did, he became the central drama of the regular season, as well. After initially saying he was “immunized” against Covid-19, he later missed a game after testing positive and being placed into protocols because he had not been vaccinated. He continued to comment about the coronavirus pandemic while provoking detractors by doing things like wearing a sweatshirt that had the words “cancel culture” crossed out.

Yet he also continued to play quarterback at an extraordinary level. He threw 37 touchdowns with just four interceptions. By any metric he ranked among the most effective and efficient quarterbacks in the league.

The Packers won the NFC, even though they lost a game in Rodgers’ absence after his positive Covid test, and received a first-round bye.

Rodgers posted solid numbers again against the 49ers. He finished the game 20-for-29 for 225 yards, though he took five sacks. And when the game was done, the Rodgers-led offense had only put up 10 points.

This marks yet another season when Rodgers and the Packers have fallen short of expectations. Rodgers has won one Super Bowl. Yet when he has won three MVPs—and appears to be on the verge of a fourth—it has raised questions of why the team has struggled to reach that plateau again.

“There are a lot of decisions to be made,” Rodgers said. “I don’t want to be part of a rebuild.”

“Certainly, we want him back here,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said afterward. “Certainly, I’m extremely disappointed that we couldn’t get over the hump.”...

Still more.