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Focused and fearless, Jordan Love takes the reins in Green Bay
Poise, playmaking ability have Packers’ young QB off to strong start
By Wes Hodkiewicz Sep 22, 2023
Photographs By Evan Siegle, packers.com; Photo Illustration: Lauren Stone

The quarterback's a cool customer. The observation – however obvious it may seem – hit Aaron Jones on the eve of the Packers' 2023 opener in Chicago earlier this month.

The Pro Bowl running back spent most of the offseason with Jordan Love. He twice flew to California to work out with his new starting quarterback and practiced every day with Love during organized team activities and training camp.

But it wasn't until a recent conversation with Packers assistant quarterbacks coach Connor Lewis that Jones pondered the path Love has traveled the past three years – from prospect to heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers to finally the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.

No matter how intense the pressure, Love was undaunted. He conquered the difficult position of following in the footsteps of a future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback with maturity, professionalism, and patience.

"I'm like, 'This guy is the right guy for this,'" Jones recalls telling Lewis. "He doesn't get rattled. He doesn't get shook. He's always poised."

Lewis agreed, having tried his best to get a rise out of Love in the quarterbacks' room. Nothing worked. It's an evergreen anecdote in the Packers' locker room among the countless examples of teammates failing to fluster the QB who can't be moved.

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New Orleans Saints

Week 3
Sept. 24, 2023

A world-class arm and prototypical intangibles might have made the 6-foot-4, 219-pound quarterback a first-round pick in 2020, but a calm demeanor and composure in the pocket enabled Love to turn potential into progress. It's earned him the respect of both his teammates and coaches.

Blessed with unflinching confidence in the pocket, Love was once categorized by former Utah State offensive coordinator, David Yost, in this way: "When you watch him, you would think his heart rate is always at about 30. I mean it does not budge – good, bad, or indifferent."

General Manager Brian Gutekunst and his scouts felt the same and chose to trade up four spots to secure Love as the 26th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Love waited three years for his turn, but patience served him well as Rodgers' understudy.

"Whether it was in college and in his time here, through all the ups and downs that he's had, he's maintained a very steady, even-keeled approach," Gutekunst said. "And I think that helps him. His routine helps him get through those games. Hopefully that will serve him as well as we get into this season."

Now, Love is ready to run the show. After registering the NFL's highest passer rating during the first two weeks of the 2023 season, the 24-year-old quarterback leads the Packers into Sunday's home opener against the New Orleans Saints.

"Definitely be a lot of excitement there, just to be in Lambeau," Love said. "A little bit more excitement, just first time being a starter there. So, I'm excited, I'm looking forward to it."

Poise has been a signature of the burgeoning Love era in Green Bay, which officially began on Sept. 10 against the Packers' archrivals at Soldier Field.

Riding an eight-game win streak over the Bears, the Packers were thrust into the national spotlight right away as critics debated whether Green Bay's new quarterback could build upon Rodgers' success in Chicago.

They got their answer quickly enough, as Love was lights out in a dominant 38-20 victory. He completed 15 of 27 passes for 243 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions (123.3 passer rating).

Most impressively, Love went 8 of 10 on third and fourth downs for 153 yards with two TDs and no INTs. In doing so, he became the first Packers quarterback to fashion a maximum 158.3 passer rating on third/fourth down since Rodgers at Minnesota on Oct. 27, 2013.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur could see that natural poise in play on the practice field the past couple years. It wasn't always perfect but Love never let setbacks quash his playstyle. Best of all, Love handled success and growth with the same stable temperament.

"He's played how we've expected him to play," LaFleur said. "You never quite know until they get out there, but the thing that's been so impressive to me is just how he's played in terms of the poise that he's shown, the confidence."

Love's brand of leadership began all the way back in the spring. While he didn't officially become QB1 until Rodgers was traded to the New York Jets in April, Love approached the offseason with a QB1 mindset.

That included going above and beyond the confines of Green Bay's standard nine-week offseason program. During his midsummer break, Love welcomed Jones, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, and Dontayvion Wicks all out to California to work out and run routes together.

Football forged friendship, as the group bonded over meals, conversations and even an impromptu bowling outing after original plans fell through to drive go-carts at a local speedway.

Doubs later referred to the excursion as "the best thing we've done this offseason." Jones came away from that trip feeling better acquainted with Love, both as a player and a person.

"Jordan's our leader," Jones said. "We've seen him put in the work for years now. We're excited that he's getting his opportunity to jumpstart his career and that we get to help him."

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Week 1 at Soldier Field was loud, but Jaire Alexander might have been louder.

Before the 2023 regular season beckoned, Love got a taste of what life can be like as an NFL starting quarterback courtesy of his All-Pro cornerback during training camp at Nitschke Field.

Alexander talked all summer…and talked…and talked. If he made a play, "J-Money" let "J-Love" hear about it. But it was always a one-way transmitter. Love was unfazed through the endless chatter.

Alexander doesn't lose many battles on the football field but admittedly getting to Love proved to be an impossible proposition.

"I don't see Jordan get rattled at all, man," Alexander said. "He's pretty much the same. I'm always talking to him and trying to get in his head, but I don't know. I don't think it works."

It doesn't. David Bakhtiari learned that truth early in Love's tenure in Green Bay. The five-time All-Pro left tackle put the young QB through his own initiation process to see whether Love had what it takes to succeed at this level.

Love was the same guy throughout. It's nothing forced or contrived. It's simply who Jordan Love is.

"I remember when he first got in here, I purposely would mess with him every day, by design," Bakhtiari said. "I wanted to try and rattle him, because I always want to see what kind of makeup guys are.

"If they show some fortitude early, I'm going to push harder and harder, because I just want to see what their breaking point is, or at what point they start squirming. The longer it takes, it's a good element for a successful player."

Personality translates to playstyle. With the utmost confidence in his arm, Love is unafraid to deliver a ball through a tight window if he feels there's a play to be made.

He's experimented with throwing from different arm angles and running the hurry-up offense like his predecessor to catch opposing defense with 12 men on the field.

If the three-year wait did anything, it allowed Love time to form a vivid plan for how he wanted to attack the game when the ball was placed in his hands.

Sure, mistakes will happen, but fear is a wasted emotion. Love's contention is a quarterback can learn something on every play, every throw, and every decision. He fully embraces that daily education in the film room.

"NFL is hectic. Being in the game, in the moment, plays are very hectic," Love said. "If things go bad on one play – if you get stuck on that play and it's hard for you to refocus on the next play – it can kind of go downhill. I try after every play to not get too high, not get too low. Just reset and focus on what I gotta do out there and everything is going to play itself out."

Love's philosophy has the young QB off to a promising start in his inaugural season as the Packers' signal-caller.

Through Green Bay's first two road trips, Love has completed 29 of 52 for 396 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Packers came up short in Week 2 in Atlanta but Love still fired three more TD passes to join Rodgers (2013), Brett Favre (1996) and Lynn Dickey (1983) as the only QBs in team history to throw for at least three touchdowns in back-to-back games to start a season.

That stat line puts Love in some elite company in the modern era, as just the fourth NFL quarterback in the last decade to throw for at least three touchdowns and no interceptions in the first two games of a season.

The other three? Patrick Mahomes (2018 and 2019), Tom Brady (2015) and Peyton Manning (2014).

Presently, no NFL quarterback has a higher passer rating than Love's 118.8. He's one of five QBs who's yet to throw a throw an INT or lose a fumble in two starts.

"I'm fired up for him," fourth-year running back AJ Dillon said. "He's really stepping into that leadership role and demanding everybody is right there with him and keep getting better every day. I'm excited for him to continue and do my best to help him out back there."

Love feels his bond with LaFleur has aided his emergence. The two grew closer in the meeting room this summer and those honest conversations have spurred a lot of creativity.

Love and LaFleur recognize there will be challenges, including that 25-24 loss on Sunday in which the Falcons rallied back from a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit for the victory. But the future does appear bright.

On Sunday, Love becomes just the third quarterback in the last 30 years to start for the Packers in their home opener at Lambeau Field – and he won't be doing it alone.

Because when he runs out from the home tunnel, Love will be followed by a locker room that's stood behind him all summer. That team is now ready to rise with its young QB in every battle the Packers face.

"I'll go to war with him any day," linebacker De'Vondre Campbell said. "I got so much respect for him. The more he plays, the better he'll get. He's ready."

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