For 18 seasons, Aaron Rodgers, to quote him, has "owned" the Bears. The Green Bay Packers legendary quarterback has a 24-5 career mark against the Bears with a 64-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Bears haven't defeated Rodgers since Dec. 16, 2018.
Countless Bears rebuilds and regime changes over the past 18 years have been made with the sole purpose of catching and dethroning Rodgers atop the NFC North. General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus were tabbed last offseason to start an extensive rebuild that would eventually end with the Bears toppling Rodgers and the Packers to retake the North.
While the goal remains the same, the hunted changed Wednesday when Rodgers announced on "The Pat McAfee Show" that he intends to play for the New York Jets next season.
Rodgers told McAfee that the Packers and Jets are still working on compensation for the trade. He remains under contract with the Packers but will play in New York in 2023 if the two sides agree on a deal.
The 39-year-old claims he entered his "darkness retreat" in Southern Oregon with a 90-10 split toward retirement.
But that never seemed to be in the cards for the NFL's foremost free thinker and Ayahuasca enthusiast. From the moment Tom Brady announced his retirement in February, it seemed like a mortal lock that Rodgers would play at least one more season. A man who has craved and bathed in the spotlight as much as Rodgers isn't about to share his Hall of Fame induction ceremony with the greatest quarterback in history.
No, that day has to be all about him.
So, Rodgers is ready to saddle up for at least one more season, set to follow the same path as his predecessor. Years after bemoaning how Brett Favre handled his retirement jump rope sage, Rodgers became the very thing he loathed.
It's a humorous twist that Rodgers, a noted critic of the pharmaceutical industry (among other things), would choose to end his career working for the heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune. But, in some ways, that jives perfectly with who and what Rodgers has become.
For the Bears, Rodgers' exodus from Green Bay coincides perfectly with their planned ascent.
After Poles, Eberflus, and Associates Remodeling Company completed a full-scale teardown, the Bears entered the offseason with money to spend and a young ascending quarterback in Justin Fields.
Poles pulled off a blockbuster trade last Friday, acquiring 25-year-old star receiver D.J. Moore, along with the No. 9 and No. 61 overall picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, a 2024 first-round pick, and a 2025 second-round pick from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick.
The Bears opened the NFL's legal negotiating window by agreeing to deals with linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, guard Nate Davis, and defensive end DeMarcus Walker.
The roster builders at Halas Hall are still working on getting the foundation set. Poles knows the task he inherited wasn't a quick-fixer. It will take time, resources, and swift and savvy decision-making to turn a 3-14 team into a perennial contender.
Even with all the right moves, Rodgers still loomed large over the division. Even in a year the Packers missed the playoffs, the final eight weeks of the season were all about whether the aging gunslinger's fading aura could drag the Packers to an undeserved and unlikely playoff berth.
Stars like Rodgers are omnipresent. They command attention. Bend things to their will. But stars eventually succumb to that gravity, collapsing in on themselves.
When Rodgers emerged from a hole in the ground in Southern Oregon, his tenure in Green Bay finally folded in on itself, unable to hold up against the weight of the Shakespearean Favre reboot Rodgers elected to orchestrate over the past three years.
With Rodgers eventually off to New Jersey, there's a giant void to be filled atop the NFC North. A throne to take and hold for a decade-plus, just as Rodgers did.
Filling the vacuum Rodgers leaves atop the division will take work, luck, and big swings. But that's why Poles was brought to Chicago, and Rodgers leaves at the ideal time for a Bears team just planning its lengthy climb back to the top.