Jordan Love's time in the spotlight will arrive this year, more than three years after the Green Bay Packers traded up to take the quarterback out of Utah State with the No. 26 pick in the 2020 draft.
When the Packers officially traded Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets for a bevy of picks this offseason, Love ascended from backup to starter. And while his career timeline looks, coincidentally, similar to Rodgers,' Love admitted it was tough to wait as long as he did.
"It seemed like three years, it seemed like a while looking back on it," Love told reporters Wednesday. "The first year was the longest. ... Definitely felt like a while."
The idea Love would take over for Rodgers in 2023 wasn't new. Speculation as early as the 2022 offseason signaled a possible quarterback change in Green Bay until Rodgers agreed on a three-year, $150 million deal to remain in Green Bay 14 months ago. That's when Love said he began to question his future with the Packers and reportedly pondered a trade request.
"It was kind of like, OK where do we go from here?" Love said. "What do I do?"
But after the Packers' 2022 season spiraled out of control and retirement rumors swirled around Rodgers, Love said he "approached" the offseason as if he'd be the starter. Rodgers was still on the roster, though, with no guarantee he'd end his NFL career or be traded elsewhere.
The Packers and Jets eventually completed a trade after months of negotiations, and now Love is finally a starting NFL quarterback. Love said he and Rodgers spoke after the trade and the new Jets quarterback wished Love "the best and said he'd always be there for me if I need anything." Green Bay even signed the 24-year-old Love to a sizable one-year extension for the 2024 season — a vote of confidence for a quarterback with only one start and 83 passing attempts in his career.
Love enters 3rd season with limited experience
While it's impossible to project if Love can rise to Rodgers' level, the similarities between their careers don't end at the timeframe in which they became starters for the Packers. Both didn't see much action in the regular season prior to taking over: Rodgers had only 85 passing attempts for 799 yards, one touchdown and one interception in seven games in his three years behind Brett Favre, while Love had around the same attempts but only 606 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in 10 games.
Love's lone start in 2021 wasn't spectacular, either. He completed 19-of-34 attempts for 190 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 13-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9. Love looked solid in relief of an injured Rodgers in Week 12 of this past season, completing 6-of-9 passes for 114 yards with a 63-yard touchdown to then-rookie wideout, Christian Watson. The Packers lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 40-33.
"Since college and since I've been here, I've improved drastically," Love said. "Just learning the scheme, learning how to play the scheme and just improving myself as a quarterback."
He'll have his work cut out of him with a youthful supporting cast and the worst odds to win the NFC North at +400, per BetMGM.
Veteran receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb joined Rodgers in New York, which left second-year wideouts Watson and Romeo Doubs as the only quality pass-catchers on the roster. Green Bay drafted two tight ends and a receiver in the first three rounds this year and running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillion are still reliable, but this isn't the same group of skill position players that went to the NFC title game in 2019 and 2020.