Packers’ Quarterback Jordan Love Has Improved Greatly In Two Short Years


A.J. Dillon — who’s affectionately nicknamed ‘Quadzilla’ — draws a lot of attention for his remarkably large quadriceps.

Perhaps Dillon’s should get a little more acclaim for his prophetic powers.

Just more than two years ago, the Green Bay Packers traveled to Kansas City and gave a forgettable performance.

Jordan Love was thrust into his first career start after Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID. Matt LaFleur failed to adjust his game plan accordingly, and Love was under assault all day from the blitz-happy Chiefs.

With Love and the offense stuck in the mud, the Packers suffered a 13-7 setback. That outcome left the majority of Packer Nation wondering if Love could eventually become a successful NFL starter.

Dillon was in the minority.

“(Expletive), I was fired up,” Dillon said of Love’s first start. “He threw his first touchdown to (Allan) Lazard. The protection kind of broke down in that game, I remember, but we still made a few big plays.

“I remember leaving that game like, ‘Damn. Great job Jordan.’ I was really proud of him. I knew he could compete and it didn’t matter who he lines up against.”

Kansas City comes to Green Bay Sunday night, and it’s looking more and more like Dillon’s diagnosis was spot on. After an uneven start to the year — Love’s first as a starter — Love has been brilliant the past month.

In Love’s last four games, he’s completed 90-of-138 passes for 1,107 yards. Love has thrown eight touchdowns, two interceptions (both in the final 3 minutes at Pittsburgh) and has a stellar passer rating of 103.1.

Love has led the Packers to three wins in their last four games, which has vaulted them back into playoff contention. And Love is proving that Green Bay’s decision to move on from Rodgers was a smart one.

Rodgers turned 40 on Saturday and no one in the New York Jets’ camp should have been overly festive in what’s become a nightmarish season. Rodgers brought his over-the-hill buddies with him to New York, then tore his Achilles just four snaps into the season. Rodgers hasn’t played since and the 4-7 Jets haven’t won since October.

Meanwhile, Love and his young group of pass catchers get better by the week. And Love is coming off a Thanksgiving Day performance in which he threw three touchdowns, had a 125.5 passer rating and led the Packers to a 29-22 upset win.

“Now, Jordan’s got all of this confidence,” Dillon said. “He’s getting experience and we’ve got guys that really want to play for him and trust him and I think he’s a great leader of men.

“He’s proving that he’s a great quarterback and his story is not close to being written yet. He’s just in the intro pages or the acknowledgements or the dedication, whatever you call those. He’s just got to figure out who he’s dedicating this book to.”

Maybe it will be to Dillon.

Or general manager Brian Gutekunst.

That’s because there certainly weren’t many believers in Love following that trip to Kansas City in Nov., 2021.

Love’s final numbers weren’t awful as he completed 19-of-34 for 190 yards. He did throw an interception, though, finished with a subpar passer rating of 69.5 and led Green Bay to just one scoring drive in nine possessions.

“Obviously not good enough,” Love said that night. “I think we started off a little slow, I started off a little slow personally. I think we got into a bit of a rhythm later. Obviously it was too late. Just not good enough.”

In fairness to Love, he found out just four days ahead of time that he’d be making his first career start. Then his head coach didn’t do him any favors, failing to adjust the gameplan accordingly.

Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who’s been in the league 25 years, is known as one of the game’s heaviest blitzers. Packers coach Matt LaFleur didn’t seem ready for Spagnuolo’s pressures that night, as Kansas City’s rushers overwhelmed Green Bay’s blocking schemes and made life nearly impossible for Love.

“I was more disappointed with myself and our staff than with any of our players in that game,” LaFleur said this week. “Instead of just riding with what we game planned, we should’ve, I don’t want to say started over, but we should’ve had a better plan in place for some of the potential issues that were going to come up that absolutely came up in that game.

“I didn’t like the answers that we had for (Love), personally. So I put that on us. I’m sure there’s some things he could’ve done better, but there was a lot of things I felt like were out of his control.”

Still, Love’s uninspiring performance that night undoubtedly played a role in Green Bay signing Rodgers to a three-year, $150.8 contract extension in March, 2022.

At that moment, Love’s future in Green Bay seemed to range somewhere between slim and none. But Rodgers had arguably the worst of his 15 seasons as the Packers’ starter in 2022, Love’s play continued to ascend, and Green Bay stunned many by making a quarterback change last offseason.

Right now, it’s paying off in spades.

The Love that Kansas City will see Sunday is nothing like the one that was thrust into action two years ago. In addition to Love’s impressive numbers, his poise and leadership are beyond his years, and have helped the Packers recover from a 2-5 start.

“He gives off this confidence that everybody kind of feels in the huddle, relaxes everybody and everybody just goes out there and plays freely,” Packers right guard Jon Runyan said. “Plays that weren’t really hitting earlier in the season, things are really starting to develop and everything’s starting to hit its stride. It feels really good to have him back there, feeling comfortable and driving traffic.”

LaFleur agreed.

“He is a cool customer and you can have really good conversations with him,” LaFleur said. “I just never see him get too high or too low whether it’s going good or not so good. He’s just a guy that, he’s matured a lot over these last four years and it’s hard not to root for him, you know?

“He’s such a good person, first and foremost. I think all the guys in the locker room, they love him. I can tell you all the coaches love him. Just his approach, he’s consistent in terms of who he is on a daily basis. And he’s one of the guys.”

As Love left Arrowhead Stadium two years ago, it wasn’t clear if he’d be “one of the guys” for the long haul. Today, much of the fan base is wondering when the Packers plan to give Love a contract extension and commit to him for the next several seasons.

“I feel like it’s just comfort, being comfortable in the pocket,” Love said of where he’s improved the most. “Obviously getting more reps, more reps, being comfortable with my reads, understanding what the defense is doing, where I need to go with the ball and just growing and learning (from) every rep I get and obviously learning from mistakes, learning from the good plays. But I think it’s just comfort.”

Green Bay has become comfortable with Love — and vice versa. And the folks that had faith in him after that Kansas City game two years ago couldn’t be happier.

“We have the right guy to lead us when (expletive) might not go our way, where we might lose a couple of games, where guys might be down,” Dillon said. “In those moments, who can you lean on? Who can you count on? Who can you grow with? And the answer is Jordan.”

Which Dillon has been saying all along.


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