Aaron Rodgers' sentimental walk off the field following the Packers' season-ending loss to the Lions implied a seeming inevitability he had just played his last game for Green Bay.
The Packers quarterback gave some credence to that notion after completing his 18th NFL season, saying after the game, "It could be time to step away. But I could take some time and say, 'Hell, no. I need to get back out there and go on another run.'"
Rodgers is currently contracted to do the latter after signing a four-year, $200 million extension last March, the end result of a drama-filled offseason that included trade and retirement rumors for the now-39-year-old.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst on Friday referenced that deal when asked about what's anticipated to be another Packers offseason dominated by a Rodgers decision.
"We made a really big commitment to him last offseason," Gutekunst told reporters Friday. "As we did that, it wasn't certainly for just this year. He's gonna take his time. The communication will be pretty constant as we move forward."
With that said, Gutekunst was also sensitive to Rodgers needing time to make a decision on his future.
"We've had great conversations like we always do," he said of Rodgers' timeline. "I really respect the process he goes through after the season. He's done this for a long time. What he goes through during the offseason to get prepared for a season is significant, and I understand the decision he has to make on whether he wants to go through that. So I've always tried to give him that time."
A different element this time around, which adds some drama to the situation, is the promising development of QB Jordan Love, who played well in relief of an injured Rodgers against the then-undefeated Eagles in Week 12. Love was poised throwing the ball in that game, completing 6 of 9 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown and looking the part of a former first-round pick ready to take on a starting role.
Gutekunst also thinks the 24-year-old is ready for that responsibility after riding the bench behind Rodgers his first three seasons.
"I definitely think he's ready to play," Gutekunst said of Love. "I think he feels that way. I think he's chomping at the bit. But at the same time, we're going to do what's best for the Green Bay Packers and what gives us the best chance to win moving forward."
Asked if the Packers have a better chance to win with Rodgers at the helm, however, Gutekunst weighed the veteran's esteemed accolades against Love's inexperience.
"You're talking about a four-time MVP, right?" said Gutekunst. "We're very excited about Jordan and where he's at -- there's no doubt about that. But Jordan's never played a 16-, 17-game season, gone through all the stuff. It's no different from when we moved from Brett to Aaron, right? That's a hard thing to say. At the same time, where Aaron's at, the level he's at, there's not many teams he wouldn't give the best chance to win."
Gutekunst is doing his due diligence to ensure a diplomatic process going into the 2023 offseason, as has Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, who expressed his desire for a Rodgers return. The Packers GM did right by Green Bay by having the foresight to select a QB in 2020 despite the move causing conflict with Rodgers, but he will soon need to make a decision on Love's fifth-year option in the coming months.
Asked if he thinks Rodgers and Love can coexist on the Packers roster next season, Gutekunst described what is seemingly a best-case scenario for the organization in 2023.
"Sure. We really like the development of where Jordan is. We think he's ready to play. That's his next step in his development," he said. "But those guys work well together in the room. … It's like any quarterback in the National Football League. When they haven't done it, you go into that and there's some unknowns. They've got to handle a lot of different things, see a lot of different things before they can get to a point where they can win games in this league."