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Happy 39th birthday, Aaron Rodgers

Mike Florio and Chris Simms discuss the elephant in Green Bay, after Aaron Rodgers claims he’ll have “an open mind” about Jordan Love’s playing time, but also sent a message he wants to play out the season.

It’s unknown whether Aaron Rodgers believes in birthdays. Even if he doesn’t, today is his 39th.

The Packers quarterback sits one full year from 40 at a time when his career seems to be at a crossroads. After back-to-back MVP seasons, Rodgers has dipped this year. Yes, some can still point to impressive statistical achievements, but Rodgers isn’t the same guy he was last year. He’s not even close.

Is it the broken thumb? The avulsion fracture? While it kept him from hitting wide-open receivers two Thursday nights ago against the Titans, it didn’t seem to affect him four days earlier against the Cowboys.

Whatever it is, Packers fans (and owners) saw enough of Jordan Love on Sunday night to want to see more. Especially as the Packers have entered the playing-out-the-string phase of the season.

They could still win the final five games of the season, even though they’ve won only four of 12 so far. And they’re not mathematically eliminated, yet.

That leads me to another point. Rodgers has sent mixed signals this week as to whether he wants to finish the season. On Sunday, he said he wants to keep going until the Packers are mathematically eliminated. On Wednesday, he created the clear impression that he’d like to finish the season on the field -- and he linked the ultimate decision to what will happen in 2023.

It was ultimately a reminder to the Packers (and everyone else) that he has all the power for 2023. With a fully-guaranteed compensation package of nearly $60 million, the Packers can’t force him out. Unless he chooses to retire, they’re stuck. They can’t cut him without owing him the money and wreaking havoc on their 2023 and/or 2024 salary caps. They could trade him and take a huge cap hit, but what if he doesn’t want to leave? Who is going to trade for him if he doesn’t want to be there?

Rodgers had the chance to leave in 2022, and he decided to stay. At some level, he may be concerned that, if he got to a team where the deck is otherwise stacked and he fails to win a Super Bowl, the narrative will change from “it’s the team’s fault that Rodgers has only one Super Bowl appearance since he became the starter” to “it’s Rodgers’s fault that the Packers have only one Super Bowl appearance since he became the starter.”

So what will he do in 2023? Retire? Ask for a trade? Keep playing for Green Bay?

Whatever it is, it will be his choice and his choice alone. As birthday gifts go, being able to fully dictate your own professional existence over the next 12 months is about as good as it gets.