The Vikings had yet to make a pick in Thursday’s NFL draft — in fact, it was four-plus hours before the first round would start — and yet those working in TCO Performance Center had to be feeling elation about how the day had gone.
They couldn’t be blamed.
A year after the Packers surprised everyone by trading up in the first round to take quarterback Jordan Love 26th overall, it was reported that 2020 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay. The Packers reportedly have no intention of trading the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer, but that doesn’t mean Rodgers will agree to return.
The relationship between the Packers and Rodgers has turned toxic and, if you’re the Vikings, that’s great news. This disintegration is remindful of what happened with Brett Favre after the 2007 season, but in that case it started with Favre’s retirement and the transition to Rodgers. Favre had wanted to return to the Packers after changing his mind. Rodgers doesn’t want a new contract, he doesn’t want another season in Green Bay, he wants out. (Whether he will try to force his way to the Vikings in a year or two, like Favre did, remains to be seen.)
Afternoon Judd: The draft hasn’t even started and the Vikings are winning because of what’s going on with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. pic.twitter.com/EnhtBGCmuz
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) April 29, 2021
Rodgers wasn’t happy when the Packers didn’t tell him they planned to pick Love, especially because they could have gotten him more help on offense, and he then proceeded to have an outstanding season and led Green Bay to a second consecutive 13-3 record and NFC North title. The Packers lost 31-26 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the conference championship game at Lambeau Field.
Coach Matt LaFleur didn’t endear himself to Rodgers when he decided to have Mason Crosby kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 8 with Green Bay down by eight points and just over two minutes remaining. The decision backfired as the Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady got a first down on the following drive and Rodgers never got the ball back.
The Vikings and Packers split their two NFC North games last season, but if Rodgers is truly done in Green Bay, life just got much easier for the Vikings and coach Mike Zimmer. The Packers have had a Hall of Fame quarterback under center for almost every game since 1992, when Favre was acquired from the Atlanta Falcons. Rodgers, who fell to the Packers with the 24th pick in the 2005 draft, took over the starting role in 2008.
That’s nearly a 30-year run of outstanding quarterback play. If Green Bay must now pivot to Love as its starter that will cause a significant shift in predictions for the NFC North. The Vikings have spent the offseason attempting to rebuild a defense that was easily the worst since Zimmer became coach in 2014.
The Vikings finished a disappointing 7-9 last season, but were 10-6 in 2019 and upset the New Orleans Saints in the wild card round before losing to the San Francisco 49ers. There is pressure on Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and Zimmer to get the team back into the postseason, but Minnesota almost certainly was going to be predicted to finish behind the Packers in the NFC North.
Rodgers’ potential departure from Green Bay changes that. It might even increase the pressure on Spielman and Zimmer from ownership when it comes to expectations. But no one is going to complain if that means the Vikings’ defense is facing Love instead of Rodgers.