The Green Bay Packers easily handled the Chicago Bears in their final game of the 2020 season on Sunday, winning their 13th game of the season and securing the top overall seed in the NFC. Aaron Rodgers put an exclamation point on one of his best seasons to date in the process and made a strong case to win his third MVP award. Green Bay now awaits the results of next weekend's playoff games to see who they'll play at Lambeau in the second round of the playoffs.
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Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love | Dylan Buell/Getty Images
On a related note, the Packers' 2020 first-round pick, Jordan Love, was inactive for that game. Much like he was for the vast majority of his first season in the NFL. The franchise's decision to pick a quarterback with their first overall selection was derided at the time and even more so when reports emerged that Love looked bad in what little preseason action each team was afforded in this pandemic year. Now that a full season has passed, surely the Packers, holders of the No. 1 overall seed with a clear path to a championship appearance, are still pleased with that selection.
This season represents the Packers' best chance to bring home the Lombardi in years. A good argument can be made that this is the most well-rounded Green Bay squad since 2014, when they were one recovered onside kick away from going to the Super Bowl. Last year's team went 13-3, just like this year's, but the defense was a big question that was exposed by the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Yet they decided before the year that the best use of their top pick was to take Rodgers' replacement. Maybe it was all a part of a bigger game to get Rodgers mad and inspire some of his best play of the decade, in which case it was a killer pick. But in any other universe, it looks even worse at season's end.
Consider the following: as Reddit user u/DayOldTurkeySandwich pointed out, Love is the first rookie first-round quarterback to not start a single game since Jake Locker in 2011. He was the first rookie to not even take a snap since Jason Campbell in 2005. The reality is that teams simply do not draft a quarterback in the first round to sit them for an entire season. And Locker and Campbell were not selected while a future Hall of Fame quarterback was on the roster.
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The Packers could have selected any number of players who would be actively contributing to their Super Bowl run. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor both went after Love. The Packers did not need another running back with Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams on the roster, but they did pick A.J. Dillion with their second-round pick, who looks to be worse than both Taylor and CEH. Chase Claypool, a third-round pick, recorded 872 yards and nine touchdowns in Pittsburgh as a rookie this season. Those numbers would be better than any other Packers receiver not named Davonte Adams were he in Green Bay. On the other side of the ball, Antonie Winfield Jr. and Jeremy Chinn both made waves as rookie safeties and would sure be useful against whatever team the Packers will play after their first-round bye.
It's easy to play this game nine months after the draft. Hindsight is 20-20, after all. It's not particularly fair to blame the Packers' scouting department for not knowing that Claypool or Winfield would turn out to be studs when every other team passed over them at least twice, too. The point is that Green Bay could have picked literally almost anybody else with that first-round pick and would have a better team right now as a result. When the team is a Super Bowl contender, as these Packers are, that stings.
Sure, Rodgers might ride off into the sunset as soon as this offseason and Green Bay might look smart for preparing for the future when they had the opportunity. But how many things would have to break right for Green Bay to win a Super Bowl with Love and justify the opportunity cost that came with picking him in this year's draft, when they still have Rodgers and a legit shot at another ring? They play to win the game, after all. Love might help them win games years down the road, but any number of players who were still available at No. 25 could have helped them win games this year, and perhaps even a playoff game. Or a Super Bowl.
Green Bay will never know now. The only way to justify the Love pick is to win this year's Super Bowl and have Love turn into an All-Pro sometime down the road. But if they falter in the playoffs over the next month, as they have time and time again since their last championship in 2010, it's hard to not think about what could have been.