There’s a game that counts in the final standings to be played Sunday, even if for the Green Bay Packers, it won’t get the team any closer to the playoffs and will only make a disappointing season look slightly better on paper than it did on the field.
Don’t tell that to Aaron Rodgers, though. The Packers’ veteran starting quarterback, two-time National Football League Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLV, wants to play.
Twice in recent seasons — in 2013 and 2017 — Rodgers came back from injury with the Packers’ postseason hopes hanging by a thread. Against the Chicago Bears in 2013, he led the Packers to the playoffs in dramatic fashion. Against the Carolina Panthers in 2017, his efforts didn’t translate to a postseason berth.
True competitors want to compete.
Rodgers also sees himself, correctly, as a team leader.
“That it matters, even when the record isn’t great and you’re not going to the playoffs,” he said after the Packers rallied to beat the New York Jets last Sunday. “That I have a lot of pride. I love competing in anything. I don’t want to look back in 20 years and wonder, ‘What if I had played that game? Could something special have happened? What would it look like to my teammates if they knew I kind of quit on them?’ I hope my teammates know I’m never going to quit on them.”
It’s an admirable stance for No. 12 to take.
But we’d like interim head coach Joe Philbin to respectfully say no to Rodgers playing any more this season. It may end up being the best thing Philbin could do for the team.
We’ve seen Rodgers suffer serious injuries in early-season games, when the Packers still had everything to play for. We also watched the team’s fortunes take a nosedive under the guidance of less experienced, less talented quarterbacks.
Football, any fan can tell you, is a violent game.
As much as we respect Rodgers’ desire to play, we don’t want to see him suffer a meaningful injury in a meaningless game. Despite his comments, the Packers cannot make it to the Super Bowl this season; in that sense Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions is, if not meaningless, too short on meaning to put the franchise quarterback out on the field.
There is value to the Packers in having DeShone Kizer start the game and go all the way at quarterback. In the season opener, when Kizer was thrust into the starting spot after Rodgers injured his knee and missed the rest of the first half, Kizer looked a bit lost.
The Packers need to find out, in regular-season conditions, whether Kizer is capable of being Rodgers’ backup, capable of leading the team on offense for several games if Rodgers sustains another injury. Sunday’s game provides an opportunity for the Packers to make the determination. If the team determines Kizer can’t, then it should spend part of the offseason exploring the possibility of a new man to back up Rodgers.
We love watching Rodgers play, and we respect that he wants to continue playing in 2018.
We’d just prefer it if he didn’t.