Comparing Packers’ Jordan Love to other NFL quarterbacks in their debut season as starters and tracing his journey

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Jordan Love was the league’s biggest question mark heading into the season but has since turned into a beautiful mystery for the Packers. Nothing is set in stone, but most signs are pointing toward stardom. 

He’s been a top-five QB since the Packers GM admitted Love’s play was “up and down” through the first half of the season. There’s still a bit of uncertainty, but we are getting a clearer picture every week why Green Bay gave Love the reins. 

He’s been a fringe top-10 QB over the course of the year through all the peaks and valleys, ranking 11th in passer rating, fifth in EPA per dropback and 10th in ESPN’s Total QBR. 

His counting stats are especially jarring as he ranks third in the NFL with 30 touchdown passes. He already has more touchdown passes and passing yards in his first season as a full-time starter than any QB has in a season in Bears history. He’s one of 10 QBs in NFL history (and first Packers QB) to hit the 30-TD threshold in his first season starting at least half his team’s games. 

Most pass TD in first season as full-time starter in NFL history

Patrick Mahomes (2018)

50

Kurt Warner (1999)

41

Lamar Jackson (2019)

36

Daunte Culpepper (2000)

33

Sonny Jurgensen (1961)

32

Brock Purdy (2023)

31

Justin Herbert (2020)

31

Jordan Love (2023)

30

Vince Ferragamo (1980)

30

Daryle Lamonica (1967)

30

It’s an impressive list that made me curious where this stacks up among the best seasons by a QB in his first as a full-time starter. Using one counting stat like touchdown passes, although impressive on the surface, would not be fair across eras. To get a better idea I looked at Pro Football Reference’s ANY/A+ metric. This stands for “adjusted net yards per attempt index” and is regarded as a better version of passer rating that is era adjusted where 100 is average. 

Love’s ANY/A+ this year is 108 and ranks 45th among 266 QBs in their first season as a full-time starter dating to 1978, when the NFL went to a 16-game schedule. He’s right there with Aaron Rodgers (112) and Brett Favre (106) in their first full seasons with Green Bay. He’s also near the company of Russell Wilson (114), Baker Mayfield (108), Justin Herbert (108) and Jim Kelly (109).

First season as Packers full-time starter

Favre

Rodgers

Love

W-L

8-5

6-10

8-8

Comp pct

64%

64%

63%

Yards per attempt

6.9

7.5

7.0

TD-INT

18-13

28-13

30-11

ANY/A+

106

112

108

It’s not in the same stratosphere as Patrick Mahomes (136), Lamar Jackson (125), Kurt Warner (134), Dan Marino (131), Dak Prescott (125) and C.J. Stroud (121), but it’s a very encouraging start for Love. 

What’s even more encouraging is how he’s playing lately. Love has 16 touchdown passes and one interception in his last seven games, a stretch Green Bay entered with a 3-6 record. Now with a win on Sunday they can be the 10th team ever to make the playoffs after a 3-6 or worse start through nine games. Love ranks top five in pretty much everything during this span, including first in EPA per dropback (0.25). 

His stats aren’t quite Rodgers “run the table” good but between the turnaround and video game numbers they are definitely in the ballpark of Rodgers’ 2016 finish (15 TD, 0 INT in last six games to make playoffs after 4-6 start). There are also parallels to Trevor Lawrence’s run with the Jaguars last year. He went 7-2 with 15 TD and 2 INT in the Jaguars’ last nine games to make the playoffs after a 2-6 start. Lawrence was in his first season with Doug Pederson. 

What makes Love’s season different from anybody’s, though, is the youth movement he is leading in Green Bay. The Packers have the youngest team in the NFL. If they make the playoffs with a win over the Bears they will be the youngest playoff team since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. That’s right, this could be the youngest playoff team in over four decades. 

Love has not completed a single pass to a wide receiver in his third season-or-later this year. In fact, the Packers have the most catches (280), receiving yards (3,356), receiving yards per game (209.8) and touchdown grabs (29) by first- or second-year players in NFL history. 

He’s performing well in the shadow of Bart Starr, Favre and Rodgers all with a supporting cast that most would be able to use as an excuse if they weren’t playing up to par. 

The level of inexperience from his WR room helps explain his slow start. Chemistry doesn’t happen overnight. Remember, the Packers drafted two WRs and two TEs in the first five rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft. 

The Love we are seeing in the second half is a result of a QB getting comfortable with his teammates and what he is seeing on defense. 

His poise and confidence are evident with how he’s handled blitzes and pressure in the last two months. He ranks sixth in yards per attempt (7.1) and tops in TD-INT ratio (6-0) when pressured since Week 11 (16th in yards per attempt prior – 6.2). 

This was probably the most pivotal throw in the Packers’ statement win over the Chiefs in Week 13. Love found Romeo Doubs on this deep ball on fourth down with Chris Jones in his face. 

That play was a little bit of a prayer, but shows Love’s confidence to put the ball in a spot where Doubs could make a play. This play a few weeks later was filthy.

Love has also shown how he’s becoming confident calling out coverage and making changes at the line of scrimmage. He did this on multiple occasions vs. the Vikings’ exotic blitz package last week. He also did it on this Christian Watson touchdown pass vs. the Chiefs.

He saw man coverage and gave Watson a chance to make a play vs. heavy pressure against Kansas City’s blitz. The play featured motion, illustrating how Matt LaFleur has been helping Love, too. 

LaFleur is getting more creative down the stretch. The Packers are using motion 67% of the time since Week 11, compared with 54% prior. Love is averaging 8.0 yards per attempt with motion and 6.6 without it since Week 11. 

Add poise and confidence to a QB who already has the arm talent, a quick release and can throw from a variety of angles and you have a blossoming star. Of course, Love and the Packers are still dealing with the growing pains of a young QB and inexperienced team. They lost two straight games to the Giants and Buccaneers earlier this month. The big knock on Love was his inaccuracy early in the season and he still flashes inconsistency there. A fourth-down misfire to Jayden Reed on a would-be touchdown set the tone in a loss to Tampa Bay. 

I love how he redeemed himself and made almost the same exact throw for a touchdown late in a close win against the Panthers a few weeks later. He clearly had the confidence to go back to the same throw and execute it this time.

What’s next

Love now has an opportunity to put an exclamation point on his inaugural season with Green Bay and do something even Rodgers couldn’t do last year, win a win-and-in game at home against a divisional rival in Week 18. Love faces a big test in a Chicago team that leads the NFL in scoring defense since Week 12 and has played much better since Montez Sweat arrived. 

If Love keeps doing what he’s doing, he should be in line for a monster contract extension this offseason as he will enter the final year of his contract. While the recent extensions given to Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts that were all five-year deals worth over $50 million per year would seem steep for Love, that’s how the QB market goes. The 49ers once made Jimmy Garoppolo the highest-paid player ever after five starts. Love should certainly get a bigger deal than Daniel Jones’ four-year contract worth over $160 million. 

The beauty for Love is his stock is soaring right now and it has an opportunity to go even higher if he can lead Green Bay to the playoffs and beyond.

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