Jordan Rodgers may not have lasted long as an NFL quarterback, but he approached his stint on "The Bachelorette" this season with all the precision of an elite athlete.
From his very first appearance, Jordan employed a shrewd strategy that ensured his victory on ABC's reality dating competition. His dedication paid off: On Monday night's finale, Jordan was crowned the winner when JoJo Fletcher accepted his marriage proposal, choosing him over runner-up Robby Hayes.
Like any hard-fought victory, the road was not easy. The "After the Final Rose" special was unusually somber, as JoJo and Jordan admitted it's been a rough few months. As the show aired, they had to see one unflattering tabloid story after another, many with the same narrative: that Jordan is a fake, fame-seeking narcissist who is just using JoJo to become a celebrity or get a football commentator job. (Not to mention theories about why he's estranged from his famous brother, Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers.)
JoJo told host Chris Harrison that although she should have been basking in the glow of being newly engaged, she was instead bombarded with negative headlines about how her fiance doesn't really love her. "That hurts me," JoJo said. "Not because I think it's true, but it's just hard to have that on you when it should be a really amazing time in your life."
If Jordan inspired this much vitriol, how did he even get this far? Again, it's all about game strategy — and after watching this entire season, here's how he pulled it off, easily becoming the most calculating winner in "Bachelorette" history:
1. He started strong.
First impressions really are everything. In the premiere, in May, Jordan landed the prime "first contestant out of the limo" spot and was the very first guy to greet JoJo at the "Bachelorette" mansion. Unlike some contestants, who arrive with nerves or terrible pickup lines or a Santa costume, Jordan strolled in as though he owned the place. JoJo was immediately taken with his suave confidence and spectacular hair; that same night, Jordan snagged the season's first kiss as the two demonstrated they had immediate chemistry. Jordan also got the coveted "first impression" rose, cementing him as a front-runner.
2. He was honest about his faults.
Unlike Robby, who looked panicked when confronted with rumors that he broke up with a longtime girlfriend to film the show, Jordan was smooth when JoJo asked him about his past demons. It's clear that Jordan had issues — after the premiere, one ex-girlfriend took to Instagram and accused him of cheating on her. Anyway, before "The Bachelorette" started filming, JoJo heard something along those lines about Jordan from a girl who dated him. On a date about halfway through the season, JoJo asked Jordan to clear up these rumors.
Instead of clamming up, Jordan did not deny that he was a terrible boyfriend, and he admitted he was too consumed with his fledgling football career to think about other people. As Yahoo recapper Kristen Baldwin put it, it was "a fairly mature answer for a dude who wears so much hair product."
3. He confided an emotional (and juicy) personal story.
It's especially crucial for every "Bachelorette" dude to prove that he has a sensitive side, and Jordan passed this test with flying colors several episodes ago as he confessed to JoJo that he has no contact with his brother, Aaron. Not only did the story show that Jordan could open up about his feelings, it provided a rare look into the inner workings of the family of a celebrity. Jordan did not go into much detail, but he demonstrated that he trusted JoJo enough to open up about something painful in his past — while also earning him sympathy points and even more publicity. It was a genius move.
4. He presented a challenge.
Playing hard-to-get is infuriating, but of course it usually works — everyone wants what they can't have. But how does one appear not too available when they're on a reality dating show? Just look at the masterful moves of Jordan in the penultimate episode. Jordan told JoJo he loved her early on, but when it came time for her to pin down his future plans, he was pretty shifty. Check out this conversation:
JOJO: "We have not talked at all about what the future would be like. So in your mind, what does the next year look like for you?"
JORDAN: "Um (long pause) … it's a tough question to answer."
JOJO: (nervous laugh)
JORDAN: "It kind of depends. I don't know what it's going to look like exactly, 100 percent."
JOJO: "I think that makes me nervous."
JORDAN: "Really? Why?"
Hmmm, Jordan, why do you think? Maybe because she's on a reality show where the whole point is to get engaged? After a prolonged discussion, Jordan finally relented with an answer that did not really reflect her original question ("I have a feeling when I'm with you that I've never had before, … I truly think I am a better person with you.") Yet JoJo professed to the camera that she felt much better after their talk. Somehow, Jordan was able to reel her in even more while maintaining an air of mystery and unavailability — which, as everyone knows, is annoyingly irresistible.
5. He knew JoJo was in love with him — and he told her exactly what she wanted to hear.
Jordan's language while talking about JoJo, both to her and to the camera has always been as cliche as it gets: "I'm here because I am so in love with JoJo. And she is exactly what I want in my wife." While that's par for the course in "Bachelor" land, Jordan took it to a new level in the finale, which featured another frustrating conversation after Jordan failed to ask JoJo's father permission before he proposed.
JoJo was angry about this, and they went around and around in circles about Jordan's intentions and whether he was ready for marriage. Finally, Jordan implied (in so many words) that he did not want to look like an idiot if he asked for JoJo's hand in marriage and she chose Robby.
Instead of this being a deal-breaker, JoJo seemed to take this as a sign of Jordan's vulnerability — they worked through it, and in the end, Jordan broke the rules and contacted her parents by phone, just to get their permission before he proposed. He confessed this all in a letter to JoJo, which naturally drove her to tears of joy, just before she accepted his proposal of marriage.