Aaron Rodgers has said goodbye to the Green Bay Packers, but his playing days aren’t over.
He’ll likely be traded to the New York Jets in the coming days. All signs and sources point toward this historic inevitability.
The long saga is wrapping up and it is simultaneously shocking and not shocking at all. History is repeating itself with a profound symmetry that is almost too incredible to believe… even though we’ve long seen the writing on the wall.
Aaron Rodgers sat behind one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history for three years. Then that quarterback, Brett Favre, was traded to the Jets after mulling retirement for a few seasons. Of course, this came after winning a Super Bowl and numerous AP MVP Awards in Green Bay.
Now Jordan Love has sat behind one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history for three years. Then that quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, will likely traded to the Jets (very soon) after mulling retirement for a few seasons. Of course, this came also after winning a Super Bowl and numerous AP MVP Awards in Green Bay.
Seamless — it’s too perfect to make up.
This bewildering symmetry doesn’t necessarily make this news easier to swallow for most fans. Aaron Rodgers is an all-time great Packer. He is a legend. He is one of the most fun players we’ve ever had the privilege of watching.
Him no longer being in Green Bay is going to be weird and uncomfortable. But then again, the last few weeks have been, too.
But it’s also undoubtedly exciting to turn the page to the next chapter in franchise history. We say ‘exciting’ because this franchise has been in this position many times before. And the team hasn’t folded yet. This sort of awkward transition is long-built into the DNA of the franchise.
Cheeseheads, the Jordan Love Era begins now.
And that fact serves as yet another reminder that no one, not even Rodgers, is big enough of a star to be guaranteed that their career will finish in Green Bay.
Before we move onto the legends that Rodgers joins by leaving the team, we want to share a few thoughts on the old quarterback.
12 Was Exactly What the Packers Needed:
After Brett Favre, many Packers fans were nervous about what the future held. Understandable, given that Favre not only helped resurrect the franchise and lead them to a championship, but kept them competitive for years. Of course, this followed the “Lean Years” that came after Vince Lombardi left town.
In Aaron Rodgers, the Packers (and their fans) got what they needed after Favre moved on.
He kept the franchise’s stability going, but more importantly, he protected the ball. The Favre Era was fun, but incredibly frustrating. The all-time great recklessly turned the ball over often, even at his peak. But Rodgers didn’t just protect the ball. He drove the ball down the field with a big arm similar to Favre’s — just without the interceptions.
Packers fans, us included, have been spoiled by Rodgers’ mastery of downfield throwing without many interceptions. He made games arguably even more fun to watch than those of the Favre Era because you didn’t feel like the big turnover was coming. And his sneaky-good mobility added another threat to the offense.
Admit it, you loved watching him do “the belt.”
Rodgers showed up every day, with a few exceptions, just like his predecessor. The team didn’t go from one reliable and tough quarterback to someone that was in and out of the lineup. Rodgers played through ample pain with the best of them.
He should get a hell of a lot of credit for that. He certainly gets it from us.
Rodgers was also meticulous in his studying and mastering of the offense, something that could never be said about Favre. Overall, he took the good from Favre and also took the bad as an example of what he shouldn’t be. He was nearly perfect in his role of leading the team after #4 left.
Some will say the Packers left a couple championships on the table during Rodgers’ tenure. And that may be fair, but it wasn’t because of Rodgers. Many of his greatest moments came in the postseason (not even mentioning his phenomenal Super Bowl XLV performance).
Think about the back-to-back Hail Mary’s in Arizona, the sideline throw to Jared Cook in Dallas, his utter-dismantling of the Falcons en route to the Super Bowl. He was an amazing postseason quarterback, just as he was in the regular season (four AP MVPs make that clear).
Luck, or whatever force you want to believe in, just seemingly wasn’t on their side after 2010.
Even so, Rodgers was what the team needed after Favre. Not only that, he blew past even the most wild expectations that anyone could have placed on him. He had to live up to the biggest living NFL legend and put together an even better career.
Favre won three MVPs, Rodgers won four.
Perhaps most importantly, Rodgers continued the domination of the Chicago Bears that Favre helped start in the 1990s. Their shared-brilliance allowed the Packers to launch the greatest comeback in the history of football. The Packers overtook the Bears in the rivalry’s all-time series. Then, in 2022, the Packers took over the all-time win record from the Bears. Rodgers did in fact own the Bears.
We’re thankful that we got to watch him play and cover part of his era with the Packers through this website. He’s a special player and we cherished every game.
All we can say is give ’em hell in New York, 12.
But just like the many Packer legends that came before him, all of that historic success wasn’t enough to hang ’em up while representing the green and gold.
In fact, he joins a list of NFL royalty that starred in Green Bay, but finished their careers elsewhere.
Below is the ancient tradition that Aaron Rodgers going to the Jets falls in line with.
Even if you’re still upset that he’s gone, please understand that it’s okay. Just look at the other legends that have left… while the Packers remained. It’s going to be okay.
Packers Legends That Left Green Bay For New Homes:
Let the gravity of the following names really soak in.
Ya know, the guy the Packers’ iconic stadium is named after.
He’s one of the two people with statues outside of said stadium. The guy who was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin and helped found the team. Their first star player, their first head coach, and the leader on the sidelines (and front office) that brought home their first six World Championships. Similar to what George “Papa Bear” Halas was in Chicago, Lambeau was the Packers’ everything.
Even he, with that resume, didn’t finish his career in Green Bay.
Instead, things went sour–as they often do–and he spent his last four seasons coaching in the NFL in Chicago (the Cardinals, not the Bears) and Washington.
If the guy who basically was the franchise can move on to a new team, anyone can. He set the precedent. And it has snowballed from there.
Ever heard of him?
He led the Green Bay Packers to five World Championships in a seven year span in the 1960s. Lombardi elevated the Packers to be the preeminent franchise in the NFL at the time when the NFL became America’s favorite sport. The word iconic doesn’t do him justice.
Mythical isn’t perfect either, but it’s sure as hell closer.
If there was anyone that could have been viewed as bigger, or at least equal in stature to the grandeur of the franchise as a whole, it would have been him at that time.
He walked into Green Bay and took over the worst team in franchise history and turned them into the greatest dynasty the league had ever seen (or has ever seen, in terms of success per season).
He, like Lambeau, spent his last season in the NFL in Washington.
Throughout Packers history there are plenty of examples of peculiar symmetry. Lambeau and Lombardi both ended up in Washington. The next man on the list and Rodgers both going to the Jets from Green Bay. It’s strange, but somehow comforting.
It’s almost like that’s how it’s supposed to go.
As previously mentioned, Favre ended his career away from Green Bay. He went to the New York Jets first, then finished his career with the Minnesota Vikings (we’re still recovering from that).
Now, let’s get this out of the way. Brett Favre has, allegedly, done some very horrible things over the last 12 years or so. We’re not going to comment on each accusation, but we’re not glossing over them either. It’s not great, but we’re sticking with talking about football here.
It’s hard to explain just how God-like Favre was to Packers fans of a certain age. He was the biggest breath of fresh air for a struggling franchise. He helped bring the Lombardi Trophy back. Who knows, the Packers may not have even remained in Green Bay without his supreme play.
The three-time AP MVP, Super Bowl winning quarterback was the NFL’s Iron Man. He was one of the most beloved players in franchise history. Hell, NFL history.
Even a player of his stature, and he had as large of a stature as any player in NFL history when he was still playing, wasn’t enough to ensure retirement in Green Bay.
But moving on from him was the right move.
In return for Favre, the Packers got a 4th Round Pick from the Jets. The Packers will likely do significantly better this time, probably getting at least one first round pick from Jets.
Probably, meaning, who no one knows until ink touches paper.
Reggie White was to the Packers’ defense what Brett Favre was to the Packers’ offense in the mid-1990s.
He is, perhaps, the greatest defensive player in NFL history. He famously made his way to Green Bay in 1993 as the first major free agency signing in NFL history. And he delivered on the hype.
White put up three sacks in a victorious Super Bowl XXXI performance. He then went on to win the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1998 at 37 years old. He was one of a kind.
And he still didn’t retire for good as a Green Bay Packer.
Instead, after a year away from football, he played his final year for the Carolina Panthers.
It’s strange, but many of the largest names in Packers’ history just didn’t retire as Packers. Football is a brutal, strange game. And it’s best to expect the unexpected, especially when all-time greats near the end of their illustrious careers.
When the time is coming to an end anything can happen, because at a certain point, teams just have to look forward.
Thank goodness the Packers are seemingly always looking toward the future. You can’t say it hasn’t worked out over the generations.
Gregg is right there as one of greatest right tackles the game of football has ever seen. He was named First Team All-Pro an incredible seven times, the second most honors in Packers history trailing only Don Hutson (the Babe Ruth of the NFL).
Again, only Hutson was honored individually more often than Gregg. He was an absolute pillar of the Packers’ finest era.
He still wasn’t transcendent enough to remain in Green Bay until he decided to hang up his cleats. Like another player on this list, his final NFL game came as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Green Bay Packers’ all-time leading rusher at the time didn’t get to finish his career in Green Bay either. Instead, he headed back home to play one final season with the expansion team New Orleans Saints.
Things just sour at the end of careers. The NFL is a young man’s game after all — and always has been.
The former AP MVP and four-time World Champion who scored the first rushing touchdown in Super Bowl history wasn’t able to retire a Packer. I bet no Packers fans in 1965 would have believed that would happen.
Many people don’t realize that Arnie Herber was the first true superstar passer in Packers history. Long before Bart Starr, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers was Herber. He led the league in completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and rating three times each. In doing so he helped the Packers win two World Championships.
He was honored on the NFL’s 1930 All-Decade team and was remembered as one of the great deep passers of the NFL’s first 50 seasons. Even so, his career ended while playing for the New York Giants.
Things change even when it feels like they won’t. And it’s been that way since the team’s earliest days.
There is little debate that James Lofton was the Packers’ best player of the “Lean Years” of the 1970s and ’80s (someone out there just yelled, “what about Gale Gillingham?” Someone else just yelled “John Brockington!” We see both of you). He’d go on to be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, like everyone else mentioned so far, but he did not spend his entire career in Green Bay.
He spent nine years in Green Bay and the final eight of his career elsewhere. Not even being the best player of an entire era, and being still in your prime, is enough to guarantee that you’ll stay in Green Bay. He’d eventually retire a Los Angeles Ram after a fantastic tenure in Buffalo.
Davante Adams also became one of the best players of his era, being named First Team All-Pro in his final two seasons as a Packer.
But he, like Lofton, left Green Bay to go play for the Raiders. Adams was not only the best player that Aaron Rodgers got to throw the ball to, he was one of the favorites both in the locker room and in the stands. At the conclusion of the 2021 season he was at the height of his powers!
Even so, he wanted to go play closer to family and have his best friend throw him the ball (that best friend, Derek Carr, is now in New Orleans — whoops).
We hope Adams stars for a few more seasons and ends up in The Hall. We miss him!
Ringo falls into a similar category with Lofton and Adams. He still had a lot in the tank when he moved on from Green Bay. His six First Team All-Pro selections are third most in franchise history, but despite this fact, he spent the final four seasons of his fantastic career in Philadelphia.
He helped the Packers win the first two Lombardi Era championships and was Bart Starr’s center (and great friend). And he still wasn’t a Packer until the end.
No one is guaranteed anything.
Brett Favre and Reggie White get the lion’s share of the credit for the Packers’ greatness of the mid-1990s. However head coach Mike Holmgren should get just as much. He was the coach that brought the Lombardi home for the first time since it was re-named after Vince Lombardi (following his death in 1970).
At one point in the 1990s, it seemed like he’d be the coach in Green Bay forever. Or at least until he retired. But things changed quickly and he was given the ability to be the coach and GM in Seattle and well, he took it. Also, he’s included with these greats because he SHOULD be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His resume stacks up well against many coaches that have been recently enshrined.
Johnny Blood got to Green Bay in his fifth professional season. His joining of the team, paired with Mike Michalske and Cal Hubbard who were also brought in at the same time, elevated the Packers to juggernaut status.
He was a touchdown machine and an elite pass catcher out of the backfield. The “Vagabond Halfback” was vital to the Green Bay Packers’ success of the 1930s, winning four World Championships. What a legend!
He retired in Pittsburgh.
If asked the question, “who is the best athlete in Packers history” Herb Adderley’s name might be the first one that comes to mind for many. And for good reason.
Five times First Team All-Pro, five times a World Champion, and twice the NFL’s leader in interception return yards. He recorded 39 interceptions and recovered 13 fumbles in Green Bay. He was a true ballhawk and was one of the first dominant modern shutdown cornerbacks.
The all-time great’s final three seasons came in Dallas.
The Packers’ feared left outside linebacker spent 10 incredible years in Green Bay. He was known for his pass defending and overall versatility. To this day he is remembered as a trailblazing linebacker that many look up to even in the modern era.
It is indisputable that he was one of the best players to be added to Lombardi’s Packers after their first two championships, if not the best. However his final two seasons came in Washington.
Dowler isn’t a Hall of Fame talent like most of the others in this list, but we figured he belonged. Being the top receiving threat of a dynasty means something and being Bart Starr’s favorite target sure as hell does, too.
The 1959 AP Rookie of the Year caught passes in Green Bay for 11 seasons, including for the entirety of the Lombardi Era. But his final season was, like Robinson and Lombardi, in Washington.
Quite odd, huh?
Hubbard was a dominant left tackle that came to Green Bay in 1929 and helped the Packers secure the first three-peat in NFL history (1929-1931). If he didn’t come to Green Bay perhaps the city of Green Bay is never–eventually–named Titletown, USA. Hyperbolic? Maybe, but he was a thoroughly modern offensive tackle, at 253 pounds, in an era of smaller linemen. He changed the game.
His final season was spent between New York and Pittsburgh.
For a bit it really seemed like Woodson was going to retire a Green Bay Packer. He had the best seasons of his NFL career as a Packer. This would, of course, include his 2009 AP Defensive Player of the Year Award. The following year he’d help lead the team to a Super Bowl championship.
But still, even with how dominant he was, he ended his career back with the Raiders. Being an all-time great for the Packers and then retiring a Packer clearly isn’t easy. This has been proven over and over decade after decade.
When only three players have scored more touchdowns than you in Packers history, you get included as an all-time great. Nelson’s 69 touchdowns are a testament to how dominant of a player he was for the Packers for nine years. He was Rodgers’ favorite target for the first half of his career.
Although like everyone else on this list, he didn’t finish his career in Green Bay. His final receptions came in Oakland.
So it goes.
We debated on whether to include Clay Matthews on this list, but he made one of the biggest plays in Packers Super Bowl history. He should have won AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and he put up an incredible 83.5 sacks in ten seasons in Green Bay. His place alongside these men is very much deserved. Like Nelson, he’s not a Hall of Fame talent, but he’s an all-time great Packer.
His final season came with the Los Angeles Rams.
…and now we add another all-time great to this incredible list.
We will have much more to say about Aaron Rodgers in the coming days and years, honestly.
He is a transcendent player and one of the most important in team history. He is, as Packers President Mark Murphy called him, definitely a “complicated fella.” But that doesn’t mean bad. He’s a different kind of guy and we appreciate that about him.
But on the field, few have ever been as good. We’re talking Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas… that level of quarterbacking skill and dominance doesn’t come around very often.
His legacy is firmly in place as one of the best Packers ever. Maybe even the best. Perhaps?
The conversation starts with Don Hutson and Bart Starr in whichever order you like, if you ask us. But after that? He has to be one of the next names that come to mind given that he started for 15 seasons in Green Bay.
And honestly, if you wanted to make the case for 12 as No. 1, well, we’d love to hear it. You could be right.
Rodgers’ longevity and ceiling of dominance is right there in the conversation with the best to ever play the game at any position. We firmly believe that.
We wish him nothing but luck in New York (assuming the trade goes through) and we’ll be watching his games. At least he’s (likely) still wearing Green, I guess! He has stated he wants to keep playing, but has said his goodbyes to Titletown, USA.
But please football gods, don’t let him ever put a purple jersey on.
Packers fans have been through enough.
To review, that’s 20 incredibly historic names in Packers lore. All finished their careers elsewhere. You may wish the ends of their careers would have been different, but we wouldn’t change a thing.
The Pain Is Worth It:
Here’s the thing about all of these legends going to different NFL teams after spending the best parts of their careers in Green Bay:
It’s worth it.
Sure, the separations can be messy and painful, but that’s only because what was accomplished before they left. Many of these legends won a championship, or many, in Green Bay. Most of them won a bunch of games and all gave Packers fans, of all ages, a bevy of memories.
We’ll take that tradeoff.
We can deal with these legends continually moving on before their careers are over because of greatness that is achieved in Green Bay first. Which makes sense. The separations of players or coaches from the Packers wouldn’t hurt if they weren’t great to begin with. No one cried when Matt Hasselbeck went to the Seattle Seahawks.
It’s a pain we can deal with — a good pain.
Remember, these legends continually leaving make room for the next guys to carve out their legacies in Green Bay. That’s what fans have to keep in mind. Especially those distraught over Aaron Rodgers leaving for the New York Jets. We get it. Feel your emotions. But don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.
The bigger picture? The Green Bay Packers, of course.
Not Every Legend Leaves:
Here are a few of the incredibly rare “Career Packers” that escaped the fate that awaited Aaron Rodgers:
Bart Starr, Don Hutson, Donald Driver, Ray Nitschke, Jerry Kramer, Willie Wood, Paul Hornung, Tony Canadeo, Henry Jordan, Bobby Dillon, Mike Michalske, Verne Lewellen, Sterling Sharpe, Bill Forester, Gilbert Brown, William Henderson, and Gale Gillingham to quickly name a few (and there are many more).
An impressive list, no doubt, but it doesn’t pack as strong of a punch as the names found at the top of the list of the Packer legends that eventually left Green Bay.
There are others that started their careers elsewhere and then stayed in Green Bay until their careers concluded. Names like Willie Davis and Lavvie Dilweg come to mind. We figured they at least deserved mention, too.
Many slightly less-heralded Packers, including many fan-favorites, have finished their careers outside of Green Bay, too, especially in recent years:
Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, Robert Brooks, Corey Linsley, Bryan Bulaga, Al Harris, Greg Jennings, Willie Buchanon, and Paul Coffman were the first that came to mind for us.
This list could easily go on for a very, very long time, but we figured that’s enough of a sampling to get your minds going. This fate awaits most impactful Packers, when you really look at it.
And then there are those rare players that leave Green Bay later in their career and then come back to finish as Packers. Antonio Freeman and Ahman Green come to mind.
It’s astonishing how many players have been fantastic Packers, but then moved on to finish their careers elsewhere. So many great Packers don’t end their careers with a ‘G’ on their helmet.
For better or worse, it’s a big theme that’s woven throughout Packers history. And we just have to accept that.
The Magnifying Glass on Green Bay:
The Green Bay Packers are one the NFL’s most historic franchises (we’d say the most historic). Their ample success over the decades built an enormous fanbase. The team is covered from every angle.
However, the Packers have such a unique relationship with the fans that the local media, despite Green Bay being a small city, is on par with the franchises in the biggest markets. This has been true from the team’s earliest days in the 1920s.
In many ways, the local Green Bay and Milwaukee media outdoes most (if not all) of the NFL in terms of local coverage of the team. We’d say all.
As one of the flagship NFL franchises, every move by the franchise and their top players is analyzed and discussed nationwide. From print to radio to television to podcasts to twitter to blogs and so on — the takes are aplenty.
Despite this, the team has demonstrated over the years they’re not afraid to move on from popular players when they decide the time has come. Even when they know the uproar will be loud.
The same goes for the other side, too. Numerous absolutely legendary players and coaches have decided that their time in Green Bay has come to an end and have chosen to leave the Packers.
It’s a strange, but interesting facet of Packers history. For some reason, many of the absolute biggest names in team history, and league history, end their careers affiliated with another team.
Why? We can’t say for certain.
But that’s just the way it is.
And that’s okay.
The Green Bay Packers have survived every time a legend has moved on to a different team. They’ve not only survived, they’ve thrived. Their 13 World Championships speak for themselves, but the fact that the team has remained so competitive, especially in recent years, is just as incredible.
Coaches come and go. Players come and go.
But the Green Bay Packers remain.
Lambeau left, Lombardi left, Favre left, White left.
And this time will be no different. The team will survive, and may actually thrive, after moving on from Aaron Rodgers. That may seem absurd.
But history is on the Packers’ side.
The fanbase was split on the Rodgers to the Jets idea, which makes sense. That’s how it was when the team moved on from Brett Favre. This won’t be the last time that the fan base is torn on an all-time great leaving the team either.
Wonder who that will be? Love? Perhaps.
Truly, we have nothing but gratitude for Rodgers and everything he brought to this franchise. The memories he’s given us will last forever. Few players have ever been as fun to watch. Five years ago we would have said of course Rodgers will retire a Packer!
But things change. And that’s also okay.
What’s not okay is gripping to the known, to the comfortable, at the detriment of the future. Life is about embracing the unknown, the new, and the next.
And Jordan Love is next.
We won’t put any expectations on him, but may he give us much to celebrate and be thankful for as the years go on. We’ll see. All we have to do is sit back and watch and find out.
Either way, we offer a sincere thank you to Aaron Rodgers.
And most importantly:
GO PACK GO!