Eighteen months ago, when they traded up to land a raw yet physically gifted quarterback late in the first round, the Green Bay Packers surprised a lot of people with their eagerness to embrace a future without Aaron Rodgers.
Among the most stunned was the 21-year-old former Utah State star that the team anointed as Rodgers’ eventual successor.
Until his phone rang on draft night, Jordan Love didn’t think the Packers would consider taking a quarterback so early. Nor did the friends and family members who joined Love to watch the first round in his mother’s Bakersfield, Calif., living room.
“We had no clue,” Steve Calhoun, Love’s longtime quarterback coach, told Yahoo Sports. “We were like, ‘The Packers? What?’ It was a huge surprise to all of us.”
The first real chance for Love to validate Green Bay’s faith in him arrives on Sunday afternoon when the Packers visit the Kansas City Chiefs. Love is expected to make his first NFL start with Rodgers reportedly COVID-19 positive and in the league’s 10-day testing protocol for unvaccinated players.
If Love can seize this window to showcase his readiness, he provides the Packers front office more ammunition to move on from Rodgers and promote him to starter after this season. If Love falters, it muddies the Packers’ longterm future and raises questions about their controversial draft-day decision to invest in a quarterback instead of a receiver or lineman who could have helped right away and extended Rodgers’ championship window.
Asked on Wednesday if Love is prepared to play in one of the NFL’s most hostile environments and to face an opponent that has reached the past two Super Bowls, Packers coach Matt LaFleur chuckled before telling reporters, “We’ll find out, right?” LaFleur went on to say that the Packers “have a lot of confidence in [Love]” and that the second-year quarterback is “excited” for the challenge.”
“We talked about having that no-flinch…