No matter how Jordan Love’s season ended, it was an unmitigated success. He put himself in position to secure a bag from Green Bay this offseason, obliterated the Dallas Cowboys with a 3-touchdown performance in his playoff debut, and was an all around feel-good story despite the unhappy ending. But Love does comes with a warning label that was previewed in the Packers’ season finale. In the capstone moment of his and the Packers season, Love reverted back to his primordial form. Trailing 24-21 to the San Francisco 49ers with a minute and change to go, Love was matriculating the ball downfield with ease.
However, on a first and 10 from their own 36 in the final minute, Love escaped the pocket as Nick Bosa shed a block, charged towards him with malice, then sailed it across his body in the middle of the field when a throw away would have sufficed. Dre Greenlaw easily picked it off, putting a pin in the Packers season.
In that fight or flight moment, Love’s core instincts return and we caught a whiff of why he tumbled in the draft three years ago. Most quarterbacks are subject to ups and downs, but that gravity affects Love more than most. Brett Favre was famous for those road rage moments where he’d make irrational decisions with his arm when he found the offense stuck in traffic. He famously made a similar throw with the Vikings during a tie game in the 2010 NFC Championship Game.
Likewise, Love will occasionally get that urge to address an express package to the defense. He’d remained immune to the turnover-bug as a starter this season, but the last time Love rode this high, he regressed under the limelight after a radiant 2018 campaign where he threw 32 touchdowns and six picks with a senior year where he led the entire country in interceptions. Gun slinging is in his DNA.
Given that Rodgers possessed the lowest interception percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio in league history, Love’s tendencies were even more of a concern to Packers skeptics when they scooped him in the first round. Love benefitted from being a developmental player, but has been the same Jekyll and Hyde passer with Green Bay.
In his most recent start against the Niners back in the 2022 preseason, Love threw a trio of picks in another showing that left Packers fans wondering if he’d grown out of that gunslinger phase.
At the beginning of November, Love ranked 33rd among qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage, was 25th or worse in interception percentage, yards per attempt, and in passer rating. Meanwhile, the Packers offense had failed to eclipse 20 points in five consecutive weeks, their longest streak in 18 years.
Ultimately, Love’s blistering pace down the stretch of the regular season put those rocky moments in his rear view mirror until the final drive Sunday — when he left Packer nation wanting more. The fact that it feels like he was close to reaching the NFC Championship Game after so much skepticism surrounded him while he stalked the sidelines for years as Aaron Rodgers’ reaper is a testament to his talent.
There would have been riots in Chicago if Love had finished that drive with an endzone foray or won it in overtime. For decades, the Bears have scoured the top prospects in the drafts to no luck while the Packers keep finding diamonds on the street. Not only that, but they narrowly avoided a possible NFC North Championship Weekend showdown.
The key to an encore performance for Love is proving that regression isn’t around the corner and that his season-ending throw was an aberration. After a decade of consistency from Rodgers, Green Bay is back in the crosshairs of another gun slinger, for better or worse.