Creating special offensive packages for Jordan Love will lead to stunting his potential
When the Green Bay Packers shocked the entire world by selecting Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the thought process immediately shifted to what that meant for the longevity of Aaron Rodgers in a Packers uniform. It also led to speculation if he would follow in the steps of his predecessor, Brett Favre, and essentially turn everyone against him on his way to demanding out.
Rodgers has been on record many times since the draft ended, and has repeatedly voiced his appreciation for what Love brings to the table, how he can help Love become a better QB, and how this situation is going to have a much more positive outcome than the one that involved Favre and Rodgers when he had just entered the league.
Teams do not usually draft signal callers in the first round if they already have a Hall of Fame QB on their team that has some time left in the league. Yes, Green Bay did this back when Favre was still in the fold. But Rodgers was falling down the draft board and the Packers saw immense value at the time in taking the former Cal product.
Flash forward over ten years into his professional career, and it is very safe to say that Green Bay made the right call in what they did that night.
But for Love, his situation puts him between a rock and a hard place, of sorts, as his ceiling and collegiate productivity lends itself to the ideas that he could produce day one in the league. Meanwhile, the fact that he attended Utah State — which is not all that known for facing high-level competition — combined with his senior year statistics, provide a murkier look into how he could contribute right out of the gate.
Another team that has a solid incumbent QB at the helm used a high (second round) selection on a rookie QB – the Philadelphia Eagles. With Carson Wentz’s injury history cloudier than a dirty pond, Oklahoma product Jalen Hurts was brought in to help alleviate some potential concerns with the backup role for the Eagles.
Along with that, there have been some reports about the team being very willing to roll out special packages to get Hurts onto the field to try and maximize his talents in his rookie season. While head coach Doug Pederson and his offensive staff are known for their intuitive playcalling — Philly Special comes to mind — the fact that they want to throw a whole package wrinkle into the offensive playbook speaks volumes about their confidence in the former Sooner.
Head coach Matt LaFleur is an offensive mind himself, and while his background from his days as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee provides some examples of creative playcalling (Derrick Henry running the Wildcat offense, Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill on the field at the same time), his willingness to roll some of those elements into his tenure in GB seems to be a bit less obvious.
Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report put out a very interesting blurb after the draft, saying that it is a “lock” that Love will see the field in his rookie season through various packages and that his “significant part in the offense” is going to be another aspect added to this offensive scheme in 2020.
Take that report as you will, as it could very well be seen as a way to conjure up a fanbase to get into cahoots about a hot-button topic. But the fact that this was even an idea seems a bit hard to swallow.
Yes, from a health standpoint, Love needs to be kept in tip-top shape, especially with the countless, unfortunate injuries that Rodgers has been dealt with over his career with his collarbone and his legs. But drafting a QB who projects to be the franchise leader in around three to four seasons just to play him now in ‘special packages’ seems a bit suspect to say the least.
Love never caught a pass in collegiate football, and while he is set up to be a mobile QB, his lack of rushing attempts — only 170 across three seasons (high of 81 last season) — shows that his mobility is there. But either it was not utilized enough or simply was not enough of a weapon for Utah State to feel like it was needing to be focused on more.
His abilities inside the pocket are quite raw still, as his accuracy and abilities to look off members of the secondary are still a bit rudimentary in their development. But his touch on deep balls and sense of knowing how the pocket is doing around him gives GB fans a look into what could be their next Rodgers in terms of field vision and play breakdown.
There really is not a doubt that Love’s abilities as an athlete are not solely limited to playing QB. But there is not much ground to stand on, at least at this moment in time, that say that he deserves to have his own set of plays moving forward.
Okay, so maybe throw him out there for one play every four to five games as a wide receiver where he takes a reverse and acts as a thrower downfield to try and throw off the defense. That is perfectly alright if LaFleur wants to capitalize on his talents like that. But to blatantly create a whole 10-plus play package just for him to be utilized in as either a QB, RB, WR, or offensive weapon just does not seem to be in the best interest of him or the team.
And yes, while the Eagles have been noted as making similar statements in regards to their planned usage of Hurts, Green Bay is not Philadelphia. Green Bay does not run a scheme that envelopes every single entity and facet of an offensive playbook that Philadelphia does. So comparing the two situations, while alike on the surface, brings no merit to the conversation.
It is a widely-known fact that the Packers are in desperate need of finding another above-average wide receiver to play next to star Davante Adams. And while they failed to address that through any of their draft picks in this year’s draft (no need to start on how that makes no real sense), Love is not the answer in that category either.
How would you feel if Love ends up turning an ankle or separating his shoulder after catching a bubble screen in the flat against Detroit and misses some time? How about if Rodgers then ends up turning an ankle the following week and now we are down to Tim Boyle and a street free agent or a practice squad QB as your hopes to take you to the postseason? Will all due respect to Boyle, this kind of issue is fully avoidable if the right precautions are taken. Which means that Love is not put into harms way more than he needs to be.
Offensive creativity is the name of the game in the NFL nowadays, riding on the backs of ingenuity that coaches like Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, and others are providing every Sunday. But is gaining 17 extra yards through the course of six scripted plays with Love on the field every week going to be that kind of needle mover that can push this team past its 2019 results?
Love has talent, as he is a first-round draft pick. Love has potential, as he is seen as the heir apparent to Rodgers. But what Love ultimately provides this team with is security, and that would all be thrown out the window if a specialty offensive package would up his snap count on a weekly basis, potentially ruining his potential, lowering his ceiling, and ultimately providing even more questions for the head brass of Titletown.