CHICAGO – The Packers’ postseason hopes are gone, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was fighting through a tight groin muscle Sunday, and an offseason of significant change awaits.
But Rodgers has no interest in sitting down for the final two games of 2018, instead focusing on trying to finish the season “the right way.”
“We’re paid to play this game and prepare,” Rodgers said shortly after Green Bay’s 24-17 loss at Soldier Field in Chicago. “I think you set different goals, obviously. The playoffs won’t be happening, so a good one is probably to get our first road win of the year.”
The Packers’ last chance for that is next week at New York, and these last two games against the Jets and Lions are now their lone remaining opportunity to win consecutive games this season.
Meaningful momentum in this up-and-mostly-down year has eluded Green Bay in almost all forms. But there are plenty of young players in the locker room who didn’t win a bunch of championships in college, so any taste of success at the NFL level can have value, which means the Packers still must play to win.
It’s also just not in Rodgers’ nature to shut it down if his health isn’t at risk, as it was last year when his comeback from the surgically repaired collarbone was aborted after one loss with the Packers out of contention.
Both at his locker this past week and after Sunday’s game, Rodgers pointed to what he believes is a positive future in Green Bay despite the franchise missing the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since his first two seasons in the league, as Brett Favre’s backup.
Rodgers pointed to his own rookie year for why he expects to play out the season. In 2005, Favre finished out a 4-12 campaign with an expected head-coaching change coming because, simply, it’s what pros do.
“Last year was obviously a tough year with the injury, and this year there was a lot of promise early on, so it’s definitely disappointing for sure,” Rodgers said. “We expect to compete for championships.
“I told some of the guys, I look forward to the battles over the years. I like our chances in this division moving forward.”
So, aside from some injuries, the question remains what went wrong this year, especially on offense. Interim head coach and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin pointed to a litany of things, whether it be missed throws, protection breakdowns, route-running issues, and the like.
Philbin stressed it’s not accurate to pin the blame solely on Rodgers, though the two-time MVP has acknowledged he’s missed throws. He also said passes that are a little off are sometimes the result of “not being on the same page” with the receiver, which is admittedly frustrating after 14 games.
“Details,” Rodgers said when asked the reason for seeing many of the same struggles on offense in December as in September. “I’d love to give you a longer answer than that, but it’s really the issue.
“It’s a re-occurring issue.”
The Green Bay Packers traveled to Chicago's Soldier Field to face the Bears in a Week 15 matchup.
How much benefit there’ll be for Rodgers to get two more games with the Packers’ young receivers is debatable, with the possibility of a whole new coaching staff and offensive system coming next year. It will certainly help without hurting anything.
But however the last two games go, Rodgers plans to “dedicate” himself to getting to know the young players better and keeping the chemistry in the locker room strong. He’s had conversations with Favre about how tough it can be as the quarterback and team leader to stay connected with everyone as you get older while segments of the locker room remain young.
That’s just one of many challenges Rodgers will face as 2019 approaches. Playing two more games won’t really give him a head start on tackling those challenges, but he sounded like a player on Sunday who is going to focus on the offseason when the offseason arrives.
And that’s not now, because that’s not how pros and true competitors think.
“There will be some changes in the offseason, but we need to finish this year out the right way and we’ll look to the future,” he said, “which I think is really bright in Green Bay.”