THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
The 2021 National Football League Draft took place over the last weekend, and most of it went off as expected in terms of picks filling their predicted spots. The hugely anticipated first pick, the one that sits around the selected player’s neck like a heavy millstone, went to the Jacksonville Jaguars and they chose Trevor Lawrence, the Clemson quarterback. The Jaguars need a sharp upturn in fortune, as quick as the downturn they have suffered in the last three seasons. These rebuilding projects take time though, so Jags fans may have to wait a couple of seasons to see the true worth of his talent.
This year was a good one if you wanted a stud passer for the future, and San Francisco clearly saw enough in Trey Lance, out of North Dakota State, to trade up to number three spot. Lance could not keep his emotions in check when receiving the call that announced him officially as a Niner. “Usually I call them and get elation, and by the time I give them over to Kyle [Shanahan, 49ers head coach] the emotion is starting to come to tears. I felt more of that this year,” said San Francisco general manager John Lynch. There were a lot of trades and deals that made this year’s Draft crop seem more human, an element that was missing from last year’s sterile event.
One story was that of the fifth quarterback selected, and number 15 overall. After a season of mediocrity, and one of course without Tom Brady, the New England Patriots need a spark again. You don't see many sparks when you think of Coach Bill Belichick, but his faultless planning and attention to detail has led to the Patriots being the most successful team in the sport over the last two decades. He is looking now to reset the flame and hopes that his choice of Alabama passer Mac Jones will be the one to carry the torch on and lead the team back into the postseason. Pre-Draft the future Hall of Fame coach was his usual deadpan self, “As always, there’s some interesting players.” he stated when asked about this year’s QB crop. Knowing that Covid had played a part in the way that many players performed in 2020, Belichick knew that the balance was a little skewed compared to a ‘normal’ year, so any selection will be at some added risk. Jones was far more upbeat when quizzed later in the evening after being made the new face of the Patriots franchise, “Secretly, I wanted to go to the Patriots all along. I’m really happy that happened. This quarterback class is really a good class. I’m just blessed to be part of it.” Jones said back in March during his Pro Day workouts. It just so happened that Jones was the only top rated QB on show that weekend and clearly got his head turned.
Staying on a quarterback theme, let’s look at one who is well established in the league and should be a shoo-in Hall of Famer. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers should have been forever linked with each other, but something has gone wrong, and the superstar wants away from Lambeau Field. It could be said that this potential break up has been brewing a while now, and that has only just come to a boiling point during the Draft weekend. Was it in fact the last Draft selection day that saw the Packers bring in Jordan Love after trading up from 30 to 26 to grab the man from Utah State? Of course, teams need to think ahead and future-build, but Rodgers is not one to shy away from 'the now' and he saw this as an immediate threat to his game. He is signed up until 2023, but with salary caps being tight and the Packers wanting wriggle room they could look to release Rodgers after the coming season.
You could look even further back at how Rodgers was left to stew in the 2005 draft until finally the Packers selected him at number 24, then let him stew even further for three years after tending to the needs of Brett Favre. The transition was easy but it could have come sooner in Rogers’ mind. Since then the triggerman has had a more than great career but now, as it starts to wind down, he finds himself in muddied waters. He has a wealth of talent on offense to play with but was let down this past year by a leaky defense. Last January he lost another NFC Championship Game, and is now 1-4 in Conference finals, something that will hang over him in a case of 'what night have been' when he looks back at his career. For now, though the Packers organization insist they want him to stay and is their QB1. They have an ace up their sleeve now if things go wrong, as they will look at Rodgers’ wantaway comments and can throw in Love and say it was all part of their grand plan. It does leave a sour taste though, that one of the leading players in the game can be cold shouldered in such a way, even more so by a leading franchise. So, for now Rodgers’ future in Green Bay is uncertain, and it is hard to see how the rift can be settled so that he stays and plays a meaningful role.