GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – After last year’s loss in the NFC Championship Game, Aaron Rodgers sat down at a Zoom podium for what felt like the 100th time in the 2020-21 season.
He started the press conference with a long sigh. He called his future “a beautiful mystery.” He foreshadowed what would turn into a long, tumultuous offseason.
Saturday, after a stunning, too-soon, almost unceremonious 13-10 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, Rodgers didn’t make any broad statements. He didn’t send any cryptic messages or make any allusions to his “Last Dance.”
Aaron Rodgers, simply raw with emotion, said it was too soon to make any decisions.
The 38-year-old quarterback, likely about to win his second consecutive MVP, fell short as a top seed again at home. For the second time in his career, he failed to throw a touchdown pass in a playoff game.
“I didn’t have a great night tonight,” Rodgers said. “They did a good job of kind of getting me off the spot, and a better job of taking away some of the quick game we got going last time we played them. I missed a couple reads. I probably should have taken a couple hole shot chances a couple times.
“Obviously if I hit Allen on that deep in on the last drive, that probably gets us out to about midfield and then we’re a couple first downs away from being in field goal range. So definitely disappointed by some of the decisions I had tonight. I definitely take my fair share of blame tonight.”
Like his teammates who stepped up to the Zoom podium Friday night, Rodgers used a short but powerful descriptor about the emotions of the night – “raw.”
The gravity of the moment, for the 13-4 Packers to falter in a Divisional Round game to the 49ers at home, seems all the more painful with the high hopes surrounding the team. The path, the personnel, even the mindset seemed to line up for a memorable run.
But in 60 minutes of football, the dream was ripped away from the 2021 Packers in one swift Robbie Gould kick of the pigskin.
“A little numb, for sure,” Rodgers said. “Didn’t think it was going to end like this. Ah, you know, disappointed in the offense — 10 points is obviously not enough. The defense, man, played outstanding. Special teams obviously hurt us, taking points off the board and giving them points. But offensively, scoring 10 points, never good enough. Felt good about the first drive, went right down and scored. Had a good drive going on the second drive, threw a turnover, and then just didn’t put a whole lot together after that.”
Did this loss hurt more?
“Well, they all hurt. And each team has an opportunity to make a run,” he said. “I really think with Z coming back, with Whitney out there, with Ja out there and the possibility of Dave coming back that we truly had a Super Bowl-caliber team.
“In other years, it feels like sometimes you need things to go your way, but that didn’t feel like this season. IT felt like getting these guys back and the way we were playing on offense and the way we could play on defense with those guys – and obviously they played excellent tonight …. you just felt like this was a team that could really win it and didn’t need a bunch of things to go their way. We just needed to make the plays in all three phases and then one of the phases played excellent, we didn’t have a great night and obviously special teams didn’t either.”
In a stunning moment reminiscent of the 2014 and 2020 NFC Championship Games, No. 12 walked off the field in defeat on the final night of the season. And this latest chapter of heartbreak – combined with the Packers dire salary cap situation and a potentially different-looking roster next season – will have him mulling over his future a little more deeply in the coming weeks.
“Yeah, I mean of course it does, but there’s obviously a lot of decisions to be made,” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of players whose futures are up in the air, so definitely will be interesting to see which way some of those decisions will go, but I’ll have the conversations with Brian in the next week or so and get a little bit more clarity and think about my own future and how much longer I wanna keep doing this.”
Rodgers, who said he considered retirement last offseason, didn’t close the door to potentially hanging up the cleats before August.
When pressed on the matter, however, he reiterated that it was too soon to make any decisions.
“It’s tough to say at this point,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to anybody or myself to really go down those paths at this point. It’s disappointing, sad and fresh, so I’ll have conversations in the next week or so and start to contemplate after that.”
“I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing, so a lot of decisions in the next couple months.”
In his 17 seasons in Green Bay, Rodgers has become the franchise’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns and countless other statistics. But like his predecessor, Brett Favre, he hasn’t been able to get over the hump to a second Lombardi Trophy, as the ultimate prize continues to be elusive for the Green & Gold.
Unlike last season, Rodgers has mostly deflected questions about his future down the stretch of December and January. However, when prompted about his legacy this week, he noted how quarterbacks in general are judged on their performance on the big stage – and how this was potentially a legacy-defining moment for him and his teammates.
Whether or not this is 12’s last ride in Green Bay, he knows the legacy he’s left transcends the football field.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish here,” Rodgers said. “Thankful – deeply thankful – for so many years here in the organization and all the incredible teammates and coaches that I’ve had over the years.
“That’s part of the legacy, I think—the friendships, and the memories on and off the field. But I don’t know. I’m still super competitive, still know I can play at a high level, so it’s going to be a tough decision, I have a lot of things to weigh in the coming weeks.
“But man, just so much gratitude for this city and this organization and such a long, long career here that I’m proud of and really thankful for all the men and women that work here, the men I’ve gotten to cross paths with, coaches and players over the years.”