By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers can still perform “at a very high level,” Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst said Friday, with the Packers awaiting a decision on whether the four-time MVP quarterback wants to play next season.
The 39-year-old Rodgers didn’t approach the MVP form of his 2020 and 2021 campaigns this season, and the Packers went 8-9 to end a string of three straight playoff appearances. Rodgers threw 12 interceptions — the most since he was a first-year starter in 2008 — and had his lowest career passer rating as a starter.
He played much of the season with a broken right thumb and was adjusting to the absence of star receiver Davante Adams, who was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders last March after earning All-Pro honors each of his last two seasons in Green Bay.
“I think he was dealing with some moving pieces, some injuries and things like that,” Gutekunst said of his quarterback Friday. “It wasn’t a great year offensively for us as a whole, but you guys saw as well, he still can play at a very high level. I really like the way he led us. So again, I think as we move forward over the next month or so, we’ll start putting these things together and see how that transpires.”
Rodgers said after a season-ending loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday that he’d take some time to decide whether to return next season and noted the possibility that the Packers might want to move on.
Jordan Love, the 2020 first-round pick from Utah State, has been Rodgers’ backup for the last three seasons. Rodgers, a 2005 first-round selection, took over as Green Bay’s starter after backing up Hall of Famer Brett Favre for three seasons.
“We made a really big commitment to (Rodgers) last offseason, so I think as we did that, it wasn’t certainly for just this year,” Gutekunst said. “Like I said, he’s going to take his time, and the communication will be pretty constant as we move forward.”
Gutekunst also said he spoke with Rodgers this week about “the season, what went right, what went wrong, what he liked, what he didn’t. But not a lot of future stuff.”
Gutekunst said he believed the Packers feasibly could keep both Rodgers and Love on their roster next season, but must decide this spring whether they want to pick up the fifth-year option on Love’s contract for 2024. Love has made just one career start but performed well while relieving an injured Rodgers during a loss at Philadelphia this season.
Gutekunst was asked if he could look Rodgers in the eye and say the Packers were ready to move on if the team reached that conclusion.
“If we were, sure,” Gutekunst answered. “Absolutely. You’ve got to be honest with him, you know what I mean? I think he deserves that if we get to that point. We’re not at that point.”
Gutekunst also was optimistic about the future of the other Aaron — Jones. The running back had a career-high 1,121 yards rushing this season but also had five fumbles, losing three. His status had been the subject of speculation because his cap hit is currently projected to go from $5.9 million in 2022 to over $20 million in 2023.
Gutekunst acknowledged Jones’ contract could get restructured, but said the team expects to have the “dynamic player” back.
And about bouncing back from a season in which the Packers had their first losing record since 2018 after posting a combined regular-season mark of 39-10 in coach Matt LaFleur’s first three seasons?
“I believe in our group,” Gutekunst said. “I really do. I think every year’s new and this is a hard league, but I believe in the players. Certainly there’s going to be change within our roster — there’s no doubt about that — but I believe in the organization, how we do things. I believe in the process. Sometimes things don’t go your way and you look at it and you’ve got to be able to tweak things, but I believe in the people in this building, and I’m excited for 2023.”
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