TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady were supposed to meet in the NFC Championship Game.
The NFC West had other plans.
The 49ers defeated the Packers in Green Bay 13-10 while the Rams pulled off a 3-point upset of their own, defeating the Bucs 30-27. Both won on game-winning field goals.
Aaron Rodgers' future with the Packers has been called into question for almost a year now as he almost didn't return to the Packers ahead of this season. Now, the likely MVP winner will be evaluating his future, with some reports indicating he could be swayed to another team, including the Denver Broncos.
Meanwhile, peculiarly right before the Bucs-Rams game, a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington said sources with the Buccaneers and sources close to Brady “all recognize” that Brady “remains noncommittal” to playing beyond this season.
So with the early exits, what does this mean for their futures?
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After the loss, Rodgers was promptly asked about his playing future in Green Bay.
"I don't think it's fair to anybody or myself to really go down those paths at this point," Rodgers said after the game. "It's disappointing, sad and fresh. I'll have conversations in the next week or so and start to contemplate after that."
While Rodgers won't have interest in a rebuild, some teams he could think about joining include the Broncos, the Steelers and possibly even the Eagles, who made the playoffs and are currently favorites with the Broncos for Rodgers' next team, according to oddssmakers.
"It's hard to see what you do now, in part because this team, by necessity, is going to look very different," Locked On Packers podcast host Peter Bukowski said. “One of the reasons why this is so gutting is because there’s no clear path forward. Where do you go from here? What do you do? This 2021 team was the favorite, not just in this game, but they were the favorite to win the Super Bowl going into the postseason and they blew it. That’s it.”
There also could be mutual interest, potentially, from the Packers to officially move on from the likely 2021 MVP, given their shortcomings in the playoffs over the past decade.
"There's a lot of question marks, people wondering can we actually retain him? I think he has a $46 million hit against the salary cap next year but if they trade him, they will actually save $19 million," Locked On NFL Insider Isaiah Stanback said. "Davante Adams, their number one weapon is not under contract. He's an unrestricted free agent. He possibly can be tagged but he, I imagine, will go where Aaron Rodgers goes. So Green Bay is in a lot of limbo right now."
Tom Brady was asked after his loss about his future, as the 44-year-old is reportedly not ruling out retirement.
"I haven't put a lot of thought into it so we'll just take it day by day and see," Brady said after the game.
Brady led the league with a career-best 5,136 yards passing while also throwing for a league-high 43 TDs during the regular season.
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It's hard to see a scenario in which Brady wouldn't at least return for one more season, given the team he has and the stats he put up this season.
It gets especially hard when you realize that Brady has won the Super Bowl every other year since 2015 (2015, 2017, 2019, 2021). Given that, next year should be his year, right?
"I don't believe that Tom Brady is willing to walk away from the game of football under these circumstances," Locked On NFL Insider Isaiah Stanback said. "He's a winner, his legacy has been all about winning. Knowing the kind of competitor he is, it would eat him alive to walk away from this game, knowing he didn't give himself an opportunity at another Lombardi."
Certainly both quarterbacks' situations in the coming weeks will be reported on heavily and we should have an understanding soon about where Brady and Rodgers stand.
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