Jim Souhan
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Saturday could mark Aaron Rodgers' last game as the Green Bay Packers' quarterback.

Even if the Packers defeat San Francisco, this could be Rodgers' last postseason with the only NFL team for which he has played.

Rodgers has repeatedly embarrassed himself with his stances and lies regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. Such are the oddities of athletic intelligence that he has also proved himself over the last two decades to be one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league.

If he would like to salvage any vestiges of his reputation as an intelligent human, Rodgers should ace his next big decision.

Win or lose on Saturday, win a Super Bowl or fail in the NFC title game again, Rodgers should stay in Green Bay.

It's the only rational choice.

He may be tempted by Tom Brady's path. Brady left a team with which he won six Super Bowls and won another in his first year with a new franchise.

Brady's circumstances then and Rodgers' circumstances now are dramatically different.

Brady was playing for a team that, for all of its success, had failed to bolster its offense. He made do with overachieving receivers for much of his stay in New England, but by the end of his run there he was being asked to play with mediocre pass-catchers. He knew that the Patriots needed a reboot if not a rebuild, and he knew that he didn't want to waste his final seasons guiding that process.

He was also able to choose a team that had an excellent coaching staff and roster, a team that simply needed a boost from a great quarterback.

Rodgers faces a similar decision but different circumstances.

He has worked with head coach Matt LaFleur for three seasons. In all three seasons, whether or not Rodgers spent the offseason pouting, hiking, pout-hiking, pout-sulking, goading NFL analysts into wild rumors, or running his fingers through his magnificent hair, the Packers have won 13 regular-season games.

That is a credit to LaFleur. It is a credit to Rodgers. And it is a blunt commentary on the recent status of the NFC North.

The NFC North stinks.

Rodgers gets to play in the NFC North, for the best coach in the division, the best general manager in the division, with the best receiver in the division, and behind the best left tackle in the division.

He is the princess, and the Packers' drafting of Jordan Love is the pea. He doesn't know how good he's got it.

Playing in the NFC North these days is like getting an extra bye.

The Vikings are underachievers. The Bears are a rolling crisis. The Detroit Lions are so bad that their new head coach elicited praise and inspired optimism this season — while finishing 3-13-1.

The bar for the Lions is so low it's wrapped around brontosaurus bones.

It is not coincidental that the two teams that secured first-round playoff byes this year came from the two worst divisions in football: the Titans from the AFC South and the Packers from the NFC North.

Perhaps the most logical destination for Rodgers this offseason, should he force a trade, would be Denver. The Broncos have a strong roster, draft capital to trade and a void at quarterback.

But if Rodgers forced his way to Denver, he'd have to play four games a year against Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, and presumably another two against Derek Carr, who rallied a mediocre Raiders team to the playoffs this year.

Rodgers' margin for error would be severely reduced, and he would no longer have a superstar receiver or a head coach thought of as one of the game's top offensive thinkers.

If Rodgers stays in Green Bay, he will be competing with the Lions, a Bears team in free-fall, and a Vikings team that is completely dependent on a quarterback who just got his coach and general manager fired.

Foolish behind a mic, brilliant behind center, Rodgers will soon get a chance to prove he's intelligent when it comes to managing his career. I think he knows enough about football to stay in Green Bay.

Jim Souhan is a Star Tribune columnist. His podcasts can be found at TalkNorth.com.