Intangibles minus 12

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.’

Former U.S. Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld

The impact of a Hall of Fame quarterback departing, even late in his career, on the teammates left behind is what Don Rumsfeld might call “a known, unknown.”

For veterans like Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Aaron Jones, Preston Smith and others, what is their mind space heading into their first season without the “big-brother HOF” quarterback to bail them out?

12 does not equal 22 or 53

I’m not saying Aaron Rodgers did bail them out. Yes, led some great rallies and sometimes pulled out games by virtue of his elite talents. But football is a team game.

Still, how many times have Packer players heard NFL commentators, media and even opposing players imply that their talent didn’t matter? What is the intangible motivational juice from having heard you weren’t the reason the packers won? That it was always about having a generationally great player on their side to bail them out, never mind the other players on the team.

The known unknown

Surely, his teammates know Aaron Rodgers was an exceptional talent. They also know that “they” as a team, were more than just Rodgers. They’ve also noticed that his ability to carry his team to playoff or big game wins wasn’t evident of late. You won’t hear it out loud, but you have to believe many of them won’t miss the Rodgers drama and persona sucking all the air out of the locker-room.

Good mojo or confidence killer?

The guess here is guys like Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, and even Rodgers close friend David Bakhtiari might have something they’d like to prove, without number 12.

Throw in Matt LaFleur and you have a critical mass of professionals looking to show they’re more than free loaders on Rodger’s coattails. They may be freed, challenged, determined, and confident. But they may also harbor some doubt. What if the doubters were right? What if Rodgers did make them look better than they were?

It’s impossible to gauge the impact of such an intangible. Most players and coaches won’t even acknowledge it’s a thing. But no one can tell me these thoughts are not in the air, and in the minds and hearts of Rodgers former teammates and coaches. More than any other year going forward, they can establish their talent and value on their own. What they do in 2023 will not be shared with the big brother who’s commanded all the attention. Packer fans are waiting to see if the “no more A-Rog” intangible is a motivator, or a curse.

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