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'Does he have that something special?' Kurt Warner dissects QB Jordan Love
Nobody breaks down the quarterback position quite like this Hall of Famer. He's been studying the Packers all season and explains exactly why this offense has gone haywire.
Jordan Love is living a first-year quarterback’s worst nightmare this 2023 season.
Zoom out on this Green Bay Packers team. It’s not pretty.
His Pro Bowl left tackle played all of 55 snaps this season. His star running back injured his hamstring in Week 1, and still isn’t himself. His wide receivers are a combination of raw and injured and average. They’ve dropped touchdowns. They’ve run sloppy routes. This Joe Barry-led defense? Uh, yeah. This unit isn’t striking much fear into the opposition. Of course, it was gossipy and foul for Aaron Rodgers to mock his general manager as “Jerry Krause” in texts to teammates, painting Brian Gutekunst as their own Last Dance villian.
Yet, the talent level on the Packers’ offense sure hasn’t been far off from those Baby Bulls teams post-Jordan. (Maybe Eddy Curry can play left tackle? Perhaps Tyson Chandler has a fade route or two in him?)
All this said, Jordan Love must show more.
There’s a reason Gutekunst said this week that the final 10 games are “very important” for the 2020 first-round pick. Green Bay has averaged an NFL-worst 4.1 points per first half this season. As noted on the Ty & Bob Pod, no Packers offense has been this inept since 1988. The No. 1 objective for the Packers now is figuring out if Love should be the team’s quarterback in 2024. Despite all of the issues all over this roster, the team will need to see an element of special to the quarterback’s game.
Ron Wolf, Mike Holmgren and the Packers of ‘92 and ‘93 certainly saw such moments in their raw quarterback.
And from afar, Brett Favre himself likes a lot about Love’s game. We discussed at length this week on the podcast.
Favre screwed up plenty his early years in Green Bay, yet knows a throw here and a throw there went a long way. None more than his game-winning touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe in this ‘93 Wild Card classic. Whether you’re mobile or not, Favre knows all NFL teams must see a dash of “razzle dazzle.” That drive? That 2-minute drill? Favre called the wrong play. Sharpe converted his square out to a go. Favre started scrambling and looked left first.
“I’m young. I’m calling plays that just popped in my head,” Favre said. “Not because they’re the best play at that time. The razzle-dazzle part came out. I rolled to the left, looked for Sterling, he’s not there and I said, ‘Well, he must be on the other side.’ I turned and looked, throw one. It’s an impossible throw. I make the throw. He makes the catch. We win the game. Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf, both of them are on the sidelines. Ron had to have said to himself, ‘That’s why we got the guy.’ Not all the other stuff.
“Like my Dad used to tell me when I played for him in high school. He said, ‘Son, you have to learn to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.’ I don’t know how much clearer it can be.”
Favre added one more story from his college days. As a true freshman at Southern Miss, he was unsure what to do if Memphis blitzed like crazy. His quarterback coach’s message then? “Make some shit happen.” That line resonates today.
“We have to see some ‘Make some shit happen from Jordan,’” Favre said.
Starting this Sunday against the 3-5 Los Angeles Rams. Each game now carries long-term significance.
Forget wins and losses and statistics. This is the stuff everyone at Lambeau Field needs to see. With pressure mounting, this was a perfect week to check back in with another Hall of Fame quarterback: Kurt Warner. For my money, there’s nobody who studies film quite like Warner. All of his film work is exceptional. The ex-Ram, ex-Cardinal great has such a knack for explaining the position in terms we can all understand.
What’s wrong with Matt LaFleur’s offensive scheme? Why does this look so different than the other branches of the Shanahan Tree?
How is Love performing? What’s missing? Where does everyone go from here?
Warner eloquently elaborates on Favre’s “make shit happen” point.
Everything you’re seeing on the field should start to make a little sense.
Our conversation in full:
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A lot of Packers fans are wondering what in the hell is going on with this team and this quarterback. I thought you put it so perfect in that tweet last week — on throws simply not being available for him—and figured we’d go deeper here. What do you see?
Warner: The first thing you have to remember is they’re all really young. So I think they’re kind of growing together and they’re trying to get a feel for what they’re going to be offensively. What they can do. At the same time, get a feel for the NFL and what the NFL is all about and how detail-oriented you have to be and how the little things make such a huge difference. There’s a lot of little things going on. When you have a great player, they can make up for some of those little things, but when you have a bunch of young guys trying to figure it out together, it doesn’t look nearly as clean. And little things start stacking up and they cost you wins. So they’ve been in a lot of close games, but I would venture to say they haven’t really put a whole game together, a full 60 minutes to show themselves what they're capable of. It’s just been moments here and moments there.
With Jordan Love, he’s playing alright. At times, he plays good. His decision-making for the most part is pretty good. I think the biggest thing with him is it’s all about timing and feet and playing ready. Too often I see him in the pocket where — something’s coming open or he needs to be making a throw — and he’s not quite ready to make the throw. He’s bouncing in the pocket or he’s slow with his feet. That sense of urgency without playing fast. I always use the term “win with your feet.” And so you always want to try to be ready before you have to be ready. Now you don’t want to be ready too early, then that speeds you up the other way. But it’s being able to tie your feet to the route and making sure that you’re ready to take a hit when you need to throw it and that you’re playing in that ready position. And so I think by not doing that — some of the footwork stuff — the ball will hang on him. It doesn’t have the firmness that you need at times and that stuff can really hurt.
But again, there’s stuff across the board. Sometimes it’s scheme, and that’s kind of my point last week with the tweet. The scheme didn’t scheme a lot of guys open. There weren’t a lot of big plays to be had. Some of those deficiencies that you see with him right now — some things that he needs to clean up — show up.
He’s not playing great. He’s not playing awful. But I think they’re a team that needs him to play better, that needs him to make some of those special plays and that remains another question. Favre to Rodgers to now Love, does he have that something special? Not that he can’t be a good starting quarterback. But does he have that something special, something that’s different about him? I haven’t really seen that. I don’t really know what that is. So I think that’s the other thing that we’re waiting to see.
Will he be a starting quarterback? Will he be a good starting quarterback? Will he be a great starting quarterback? And we just don't have that answer yet.
You want to see a play here, a play there that’s special through it all. There is so much stacked against him and we can get into it, but maybe what’s lacking are those moments that suggest, “Man, when we do figure this all out around him, he’s really going to maximize it.”
Warner: Every team would like that, right? Every team wants to know that their guy's special, that their guy can do something special and the odds are just not in his favor. Whether it be the fact that it’s the Packers and they’ve had that special guy for 30 years now or just the fact that there’s only a handful of those special guys anyways. So, it’s not the norm. The norm isn’t to be a great starting quarterback. The norm is to be good, and he has shown himself to be more than capable of being a starting quarterback in this league. You just don’t know what else you get. And when you look at the young team — or a team that’s not great, that doesn’t do anything great — you need some of that from your quarterback to win these games.
We got into this way back in 2020, talking about Josh Allen. The experience you had in the Arena League and all the reps… on reps… on reps, so by the time you got your opportunity, you were ready. Myself included, we’re all praising Green Bay for developing a quarterback for three years behind the scenes. Not rushing. But sometimes you’ve just got to get out there and play to improve, right?
Warner: You have to learn what you can do at this level. I remember Marshall Faulk telling me a great story about Peyton Manning. About how he came into the league and they would be in practice and he tried to make this particular throw and it would get intercepted, and then he tried to make the throw again and it’d get intercepted again. He came to Marshall: “Man, what am I doing wrong? Because I made that throw so many times in college. I know I can make that throw.” He goes back and again gets intercepted. And then finally he came to Marshall and goes, “You know what? I guess I can’t make that throw at this level.” You have to figure out what throws you made in college that have to be different throws in the NFL. More velocity. Or more touch. Or more timing. What are those things that you have to make adjustments to because it’s not the same game. Windows close more. Athletes are better. I’ve got to make sure that my feet are clean because if I delay even the smallest tick in the pocket, I’m late. So all of those things get magnified now.
And so again, just playing ball and seeing and playing in different situations — which was so key for me. The Arena League was like a two-minute drill or you’re in the red zone every snap because the confines were so tight. And that’s an area that is always difficult. Between the twenties in this NFL is almost easy. It’s hard to play defense. But you get down in the red zone and everything speeds up and timing and the windows are smaller and you’ve got to start to understand what that looks like. And how to play. And how you have to be ready in those situations. If you hesitate, you’re lost.
I like a lot of what I’ve seen from the standpoint that he doesn’t look like he’s out there just throwing the ball up. Like he doesn’t have a plan or that they’re uneducated throws that he’s making — even if they’re getting intercepted. So that’s not the problem. And I think that’s some of the stuff that the three years helps you with. But what it doesn’t help you with is the fact that you’ve got to see it and throw it. You’ve got to play it. And you’ve got to make the throws that you’re supposed to make all the time. The difference between putting a throw on a guy’s back-shoulder and making him slow down or putting it on his front shoulder so he can keep running — those things are huge in this game. That’s the difference between first down and punting. So it’s not just completion percentage and there’s just so many little things that go into it. I just think he’s got to get better at those little things. Because the big things? I don’t say, “Decision-wise, there’s a bunch of negatives out there that he’s not seeing the field.” It's not that. It’s just understanding how it all fits together and making sure he’s the catalyst on every play and not just reacting.
So, it’s playing faster then? Love needs to spit it out quicker?
Warner: It’s a fine line. Yeah. A sense of urgency. I always say that if I threw a ball to a quarterback, I would hope that when they caught the ball, the first thing they would do is drop into a throwing position. When you have a ball in your hands, I want you in a throwing position. So the goal when you’re playing quarterback is to live in that position as much as you possibly can. If you get out of that position? Now, you’re in trouble. So the more you live out of that position and you have to try to create a throw or you have to get back into position to throw, that all takes time or it leads to inaccuracies. And that’s kind of the biggest thing with me. He doesn’t play in the position I want him in nearly enough. He’s bouncing. Or his feet are all over. Or his feet are moving a whole bunch. Or he’s not sticking his back foot in the ground so he can drive a throw on time or the throws are late coming out of his hands. And so that’s the kind of thing. It’s playing ready more than playing faster. Even though it is faster with a faster sense of urgency. But it’s really just playing ready. Living in that ready position, which he’s not doing nearly enough right now.
With the scheme, with what Matt LaFleur is trying to do out there, you said there really aren’t a lot of plays to be made. What’s lacking with the actual scheme?
Warner: I always think plays come down to details first. Spacing. Making sure that we’re understanding who we’re attacking on a play. In that offense, I don’t always like their spacing. I don’t know if it’s “scheme” spacing or whether it’s young guys not running it the way that they want them to in the offense. But there’s a lot of times where the spacing isn’t good, so it makes it harder on a quarterback when you’re not necessarily just attacking a particular guy or a particular area, so I know where the read is or I know where the timing of something is.
Sometimes, it’s creativity. To be able to get easy throws for your quarterback. That’s one thing. If you don’t have a lot of movement or you don’t have a lot of stacks or release patterns that create some easy throws for your quarterbacks, some easy opportunities — you watch some teams in the league that are good at offense and they always seem to create some easy opportunities for their quarterbacks. Easy big-play opportunities for their quarterbacks because the game is so much about that. If you’ve got to make 12- and 15-play drives all the time, it’s hard football. A mistake here, a mistake there and now you’re behind the chains and now you’re punting. So you have to be able to create some of those and I haven't seen them creating very many of those where it’s a wide-open guy, it’s an easy layup throw for Jordan Love. And so you look back at the scheme and go, “OK, is it the skill of the players? Is it the creativity of the offense? Is it lack of nuance and route running where you get the man-to-man guy, but he can’t separate and give you space to be able to make the big play?” I think it’s a variety of things, but it’s just not easy for anybody in that offense right now. There’s not anything easy sitting out there and Jordan's not making it easy with the things that we talked about. And so you start stacking all those things together and offensive football becomes hard.
I’m thinking of the Kyle Shanahan tree. Bobby Slowik with the Texans. Mike McDaniel with the Dolphins. That’s what they do. They make things easy. They scheme guys wide open and LaFleur comes from the same tree. That’s where this is so baffling. You would think that we would see some of the same stuff?
Warner: It is an offense that is very much predicated off of running the football and play-action. And the Packers haven’t been nearly as good at doing that as the 49er team. They’re so good at running the ball that now they create space off of it with their play-action. And Green Bay hasn’t been as good with that. They don’t do as much under center, hard play-action downhill. They’re a lot more in gun in Green Bay. And then again, they don’t have the playmakers on the outside either to be able to take short throws. That’s the other thing with San Francisco. Yeah, they do a lot of good things down the field, but they do a lot of good short stuff that turns into those big plays we’re talking about. The Packers don’t really have anyone outside of Aaron Jones that’s been doing any of that. So, again, they get nothing easy. Some of those little nuanced plays in a lot of these offenses now — the quick throws that turn into big plays — they’re not getting very many of those.
You just watched this past game against Minnesota. Was there one or two plays that really stuck with you and you said, “Ah, that’s what’s holding Green Bay back right now?”
Warner: You don’t watch it and go, “Oh, it's awful” or “That concept is terrible, or Jordan Love is playing terrible.” It’s just very lackluster. It’s not explosive. There’s not a guy that you’re going, “Oh geez, look at him! He’s the guy that you’ve got to get the ball to!” Early in the year when they won a couple, it was Aaron Jones. They’re throwing some screens to Aaron Jones and he's taking ‘em for 80 yards. They’re throwing a quick little choice to Aaron Jones and he takes it 35 yards for a touchdown and he’s making these difference-making plays and he’s their guy. But nobody else is really doing that. And Matt LaFleur is not creating those easy opportunities. So that’s just kind of what it looks like: “We’re not a great offensive team. We’re not getting big plays. So it continues to catch up to us, that all it takes is a negative play here or there and we’re behind the eight ball and we’re punting because we can’t make up for it with scheme or we can’t make up for it with playmakers.” Jordan Love isn’t making up for it with special throws, so it just becomes kind of this lackluster, average offense.
I know the Packers have 10 games left, but if you're running the show, would you want Jordan Love as your quarterback in 2024?
Warner: He’s shown himself capable of being a starting quarterback in this league. And so if you have one of those, you keep that guy. Do you have a guy that you win with or do you have a guy that you win because of and the guys you win because of are few and far between. Those guys are unique. The Packers have had one for 30 years. Do they have one now? I don’t think we know. But based on what I’ve seen, my answer would probably be, “I don't think so.” And again, I’m not going to make a judgment on a guy after eight games. But all we can do is go, “Well, what you’ve seen in the time that he’s played, do you think they have that guy?” I don't think they do. Is he a guy that you can win with? Yes, I believe he’s a guy you can win with. He’s done enough good things for me and he’s made good decisions for the most part throughout his time playing that I say, “Yeah, you can win with this guy.” You just need some other things around him to pick up for what he doesn’t have in that elite area or that special area.
Maybe he develops into that. I say it all the time. When you look at Tom Brady, Tom Brady wasn't Tom Brady until Year 4, Year 5. Drew Brees wasn’t Drew Brees until Year 4 or Year 5. We’ve got plenty of guys in this league — Ben Roethlisberger — that develop into special but don’t start special. So you can’t read into that in a guy’s first year playing. But you do try to hold on to those little things that you see: “OK, I'm going to memory bank that and let's see, three years from now, is he the same guy? Or is he able to take the skillset he had at the beginning and advance that and start to show more of what he’s capable of?” And that's to me what we’ve got to wait and see with Jordan Love.