Yep, we're going to do this again.
We're nearing the end of the regular season, meaning it's just about time to start asking Aaron Rodgers about his future plans. That also means it's time for Rodgers to be intentionally vague, which inevitably keeps the conversation going and fuels hours upon hours of sports debate shows.
Get used to seeing the "Where will Rodgers go??" lower third. This topic isn't going away any time soon.
"I wouldn't rule that out," Rodgers said Wednesday when asked if he's decided against retiring after 2021. "I think that I'm just enjoying this season for this season. I think that playing next year will definitely be in the thought process. One of the things, wanting to not be a bum on the way out and still be able to play, I think, is important to me."
Rodgers has certainly proved he is still very much not a bum, posting another excellent season that has him in the conversation for Most Valuable Player one season after taking home the award. He hasn't thrown for an outrageous passing total, currently ranking 10th in passing yards at 3,689, but his 33-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio is precisely stellar.
He's the favorite to win MVP with two weeks left, and there aren't any signs he's not going to make it two straight.
"If this year has taught me anything, it's that I still can play, I still have love for the game I'm still super competitive and I still enjoy the process of the week," Rodgers said. "I miss practice and it's tough to not be out there, week after week now. But I still do love competing and I love being out there."
Rodgers has missed practice due to a toe injury suffered during a stay on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but he's been able to play through it by spending the week resting and only taking mental reps. At this stage in his career, he doesn't need practice to stay sharp. He just needs to be out there on game day to give the Packers their best chance of success.
Those chances include a shot at the Super Bowl. Green Bay currently owns a one-game lead for the NFC's top seed, which would buy the Packers a week off to rest and prepare for whomever it is they'll face in the Divisional Round.
Should the Packers finally close the deal, get over the NFC Championship Game hump that has sent them home early in each of the last two seasons, and win the Super Bowl, it's not inconceivable to foresee Rodgers ride off into the sunset as Peyton Manning once did after triumphing in Super Bowl 50. But the key difference is in ability: Manning was clearly at the end of the road in terms of performance, while Rodgers is still playing at an elite level.
It sure would be tough for a competitor to walk away from the game when he knows he can still play with the best of them. But the Packers are also on a franchise timeline of succession.
Yes, it's time to rehash the circumstances surrounding Rodgers: Green Bay spent a 2020 first-round pick on Jordan Love, sat him his entire rookie season, then slotted him in as the backup to Rodgers once the future Hall of Famer met with Packers brass, mended fences and officially returned for the 2021 season. Love played one game this season while Rodgers was out due to a positive COVID-19 test, and his performance didn't exactly pressure the Packers to speed up their succession plan.
Green Bay's best chance of victory remains with Rodgers taking the snaps. The main question, then, is simple: Does Rodgers want to continue his pursuit of football glory? And does he want to do so in Green Bay, the only place he's ever called home in the NFL?
"There'll be a lot of things that I'll weigh in the offseason," Rodgers said. "Saying that doesn't mean, or any of the comments I've made, doesn't mean I'm thinking about elsewhere, I do want to clarify that. The things that I've said about the team this year, about (general manager) Brian (Gutekunst) and I's relationship has been heartfelt and genuine and I do appreciate a lot of the things I've seen from the team that are directly related to conversations we had in the offseason, and that was meaningful to me.
"I've enjoyed being a part of conversations that directly affect my job, which I talked about in the offseason. And Brian has taken a lead in that, and I do appreciate the way our relationship has grown."
Such conversations included instructing the Packers to acquire an old friend, Randall Cobb, via trade. Cobb has filled a supporting cast role, catching 28 passes for 375 yards and five touchdowns this season and confirming Rodgers' belief Cobb could help the Packers win games.
The trade also helped improve the once-rocky relations between Rodgers and the Packers' front office. After a tumultuous offseason that included threats of Rodgers sitting out of the 2021 season, things are now peachy between the two sides.
That leaves Rodgers with one more mountain to climb, with a Lombardi Trophy awaiting him at the top. It's something he hasn't been able to do since the 2010 season, and with time running out, this might be Rodgers' best shot at again winning a title.
That's the goal. The rest can be handled later.
"I'm just savoring this year as much as anything," Rodgers said. "It won't be something where I'd drag it out months and months. I'll have conversations with my loved ones after the season, with Brian and Mark (Murphy) and Russ (Ball) and the coaching staff and then make a decision at some point. I'm not going to hold the team back from anything. And then once I commit, if it's committing to move forward here, then it'll be a quick decision."
Rodgers' decision will have to wait -- for now. Rest assured, though: We'll certainly hear plenty about it once the 2021 season is decided.