By: Dylan Parkes
The 2021 Draft weekend for Green Bay Packers fans will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. After a quiet off-season where the only addition to a back-to-back NFC Championship game team was defensive coordinator Joe Barry — many fans expected the draft to be where the Packers would attempt to improve the team in order to finally get to the Super Bowl. But what occurred, hours before the draft, was a bombshell that many people thought could happen but never would eventuate.
There were growing signs all off-season as the Aaron Rodgers rumours began to emerge. He couldn’t agree on a restructured contract before free agency and an extension was never formally offered which only added to the growing rift between star QB and GM. The shaky relationship between the two eventually came to a head and went nuclear on draft day, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news that Aaron Rodgers was so disgruntled with the team that he told some within the organisation that he didn’t want to return to the team in 2021.
The Aaron Rodgers saga has now dragged on for what almost feels like an eternity and a breakup between the two sides looks imminent. With sophomore QB Jordan Love reportedly not up to speed in his development, the Packers needed to address the QB room in order to provide some depth and much needed assurance at the all-important position. Enter Blake Bortles.
Last Wednesday, the Packers signed former 2014 first-round pick Blake Bortles to a one-year deal. The veteran QB has experience playing under current offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in Jacksonville and the pair made the 2017 AFC Championship game working with one another. Since then he has bounced around practice squads for the last two seasons and has only thrown two passes in the NFL. So that leads to the question, what will Blake Bortles provide for the Packers?
1. A QB to have through off-season workouts
At the very least, Blake Bortles will spend a lot of time with the Packers organization during the off-season. With Rodgers not expected to be a participant in the early off-season workouts it will be critical for Green Bay to have another QB in the mix alongside Jordan Love. Bortles would be able to practice as the scout QB for the Packers and be an extra asset during off-season workouts.
If Rodgers’ absence continues into training camp and beyond he’s availability becomes even more important. The Packers must go into this off-season with three QB’s on the roster and this was a certainty even before the draft took place. If anything, Bortles will provide reliability and experience for LaFleur as he looks to rewrite his career in the NFL after being the third overall pick in 2014.
2. Back-up QB if Jordan Love is not ready
Assuming Rodgers smooths things over with the front office the consensus back-up QB for the Packers going forward would be last year’s controversial first-round pick. He spent all of last season as the third-string QB and is yet to even play a preseason snap. Love didn’t even get to practice much last season as Rodgers would have taken the majority of the snaps with the starters and former Packers QB Tim Boyle would have taken the snaps with the reserves in case of a Rodgers injury. With Boyle now in Detroit, you would assume the role would naturally be handed over to Jordan Love. But if he isn’t ready to assume the back-up role just yet, Bortles would provide the Packers with a safe, short-term backup QB.
Love’s progression shouldn’t be put in jeopardy and it would be unwise to chuck him in the deep end early on in his career. He came into last year as a raw QB prospect and from all reports needs time to progress as a QB in the league. He is undoubtedly the future of the Green Bay Packers organisation and shouldn’t be rushed into the spotlight if he isn’t quite ready for it.
3. Familiarity with Packers offensive scheme
Bortles, as previously mentioned, has already spent time together with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett which will allow him to transition smoothly into the Packers offensive system. He has already been exposed to the west-coast elements of the playbook that Hackett brought with him to Green Bay and will be able to learn quicker than any other free agent QB. The Packers playbook includes several elements of the old Bill Walsh west-coast scheme and it’s what Hackett has been brought up with as a coach in the league. Bortles also spent some time last year on the Rams practice squad and has therefore been exposed to the McVay/Shanahan/LaFleur offensive system.
Bortles, under Hackett’s leadership, had an average season as QB of the Jaguars in 2017 and was largely carried by the defense en-route to an AFC Championship game berth. He is a quarterback who with the right system around him can be an average starter in the league and could provide Green Bay with a more than capable QB if he was ever called upon. Rodgers does have some previous injury history and had most of his 2013 and 2017 seasons wiped out by a pair of collarbone injuries. If he was to miss some time and Love wasn’t able to step in, Bortles would be able to lead a loaded Packers roster in a few games to keep the season afloat. While that would be less than ideal, the Packers would need to consider every possible outcome at the QB position, especially with them just two weeks into the current feud with Aaron Rodgers that is yet to be reconciled.