ProFootballStaff discusses the man who makes the Packers tick.
Replacing a legend is never easy. It took the Chicago Bulls several years to rid themselves of the ghost of Michael Jordan. The legend of Babe Ruth still echoes through the area surrounding Yankee Stadium. Nobody will confuse any of the recent Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks for Fran Tarkenton.
That's why Green Bay Packers fans initially dreaded the day that Brett Favre would retire and pass the torch to Aaron Rodgers. With the eventual successor having so many questions surrounding him, there was no way he could live up to his predecessor and keep Green Bay on top.
But he did. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV. Rodgers has evolved into one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.
Following a five-game winless stretch that includes a 40-10 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Detroit Lions, Pro Football Spot has fired up another edition of Around the Spot to discuss Rodgers' importance to the Packers and his sudden rise to stardom.
Seth Keysor - Chiefs Team Journalist
Aaron Rodgers is the NFL’s most important player.
That statement used to be up for debate. People talked about his wide receivers, saying they were underrated and a major part of Rodgers’ success. I thought it was insane, especially considering how time after time, receivers kept producing for Rodgers. With no proof either way, it became the NFL's chicken-or-egg question.
Then Rodgers got hurt. The Packers, scored 20, 13, 13 and 26 (needing overtime for this one) against a bunch of weak defenses before getting dominated by Detroit. Suddenly, Jordy Nelson looks like an okay receiver, James Jones is decent, and Jarrett Boykin isn’t a huge threat. In other words, a receiving corps that looked elite with Rodgers (even without Cobb) looked—average.
The reason is simple: Rodgers is the chicken AND the egg. He's the alpha and the omega. He is what makes the Packers not just Super Bowl contenders, but playoff contenders. Without him, this team must fight and claw at home for a tie against one of the NFL’s worst teams. Without him, this team goes two consecutive games where they can’t score more than 13 points (Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants).
Rodgers does more with less than Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady. He doesn't have Manning’s receivers. He doesn't have a freak of nature tight end to throw to. He doesn’t have Sean Payton or Bill Belichick.
You take Rodgers away from the Packers, then you’ve transformed a potential SB contender into a team that needs a miracle to reach the postseason, even after a 5-2 head start.
Rodgers is a one-man army. Not only does he have one of the NFL’s strongest arms but he has the accuracy of the other elite quarterbacks. Unlike the other "elite" quarterbacks, Rodgers can run like a demon (I'm not sure he isn't one). He can throw on the run better than most quarterbacks can throw from the pocket.
For years, Rodgers has worked with some of the NFL’s worst pass protection. Yet, Rodgers has made it work. He makes his receivers look elite.
Rodgers can do anything.
Maybe there’s one good thing that has come from this injury: It has put to bed the silly idea that Rodgers isn’t the NFL’s most important player. Take away Manning and the Broncos might still contend for a wild-card spot. Take away Brady and the Pats may finish 11-5 (2008). Take away Brees and Jimmy Graham will still score 30 touchdowns a year.
You take away Rodgers from Green Bay? You can't beat the Vikings in your house. You get killed by the Lions. It has been finally confirmed for those who suspected it for years: Aaron Rodgers IS the Green Bay Packers.
Colin Bruns - Vikings Team Journalist
Aaron Rodgers has missed the last five games with a collarbone injury. Since then, Rodgers has made his strongest case that he is the NFL MVP. His numbers won't be anywhere close to Peyton Manning's. What Rodgers’ absence has done is prove that he’s the most valuable player to his team.
The Packers were 5-2 heading into a Week 9 matchup against the Chicago Bears. The Packers were averaging more than 30 points a game. They appeared as the favorite to win the NFC North. Rodgers had his team playing their best football of the season, making a case for Super Bowl conversation.
Five games later, the Packers have an uphill battle to make the playoffs. They’ve yet to win a game. Matt Flynn had to lead this team back from 16 points down against a 2-8 team who dominated Green Bay at Lambeau Field. The Packers are now averaging less than 17 points a game.
As a Vikings fan, I can't stand Rodgers. Time and time again, Rodgers shreds the Vikings’ helpless secondary. His passer rating against the Vikings is the highest career passer rating for any quarterback against one single opponent. Ever.
I hate watching Rodgers. Regardless, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a player. Like many great NFL quarterbacks, Rodgers makes it look so easy. We Vikings fans know that it isn't easy.
Rodgers makes solid receivers look elite. Let’s go back to a Week 8 matchup against the Vikings. Rodgers showed that he doesn't need an elite group of receivers to thrive. Without Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and James Jones, Rodgers led his team to score 44 points on the road.
The Packers have sustained a number of injuries to some big names. Clay Matthews, Finley, Cobb and Jones have all missed time this year. No. 12 helped this team stay afloat, even succeeded. Rodgers is the one guy that this team cannot succeed without. If he comes back in the next week or two and leads the Packers into the playoffs, he should get serious MVP consideration.
If Rodgers can’t return, then the Packers have no chance to make the playoffs—even in the weakest division.
Alex Crowe - Bears Team Journalist
I’ll just say it: No one player means more to his team than Aaron Rodgers does to the Green Bay Packers.
Think about it.
Their defense is absolutely awful. That has been the downfall of the Packers during the last two postseasons. Even with Rodgers running the show on offense, the Packers and their defense were at the mercy of Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.
Rodgers started 2013 in good health. Once again, the Packers looked poised to win the NFC North. After a rough start, the Packers had finally gotten things together and looked as if they were ready to dominate the Chicago Bears at home on Monday Night Football. This would project them to the top of the NFC North, fitting right in line with yet another midseason run.
Packers fans couldn’t imagine what would happen next. Rodgers was ousted by Shea McClellin. It was revealed that Rodgers had a broken collarbone. This would keep him out for at least a few weeks as he recovered from his injury.
Next up was Seneca Wallace, and after he didn't work the team tried Wisconsin Badgers grad Scott Tolzien. Just two quarters after Tolzien spun his way into the end zone and did a Lambeau Leap, he was benched for Matt Flynn, who had been signed by the team earlier in the week.
The Packers still haven't won a game without Rodgers on offense. They came close against Minnesota, but after five quarters of football in the freezing cold Green Bay air, neither a winner nor a loser was chosen. The game ended in a tie.
For Green Bay to have any hope at making the playoffs, Rodgers must return immediately. For them to have any chance at winning the NFC North, they must win out when Rodgers gets back. That shouldn't be a problem for them. Green Bay's last game of the season—possibly fighting for a playoff spot—will be on the road in Chicago. Rodgers will seek revenge. More importantly, Rodgers will try to get his team into the postseason yet again.
Don't write off the Packers just yet, but their entire season's fate lies in when Rodgers will return from injury. This is a spot the Packers haven't been in for more than two decades.
I said it before and I'll say it again, No one player means more to his team than Aaron Rodgers does to the Green Bay Packers.
Jonathan Machlin - Jets Team Journalist
Rodgers is the kind of quarterback one would want for his or her Madden team. Rodgers throws it deep, has great accuracy, and can make plays with his feet. Rodgers has Randall Cunningham's athleticism, Kurt Warner's accuracy and Brett Favre's deep ball—all mixed into one.
What Rodgers seems to lack, however, is a defense to support him. He wouldn't need to constantly put up monster numbers if his defenses weren't so terrible. If you gave him the kind of defenses that even middle-tier teams like the New York Jets, New York Giants, or Arizona Cardinals have? Rodgers may have three Super Bowls.
Kenneth Goit - Titans Team Journalist
Aaron Rodgers: one of my three favorite quarterbacks in the league. Rodgers is the model of excellence for quarterbacks. He's athletic, accurate, charismatic, intelligent, and he has a powerful arm. What more could you want out of your quarterback?
As a Tennessee Titans fan, I've been dying for an elite quarterback for a long time. In fact, when Jake Locker is healthy and playing at his prime, he looks like a poor-man's Aaron Rodgers. He can roll out, make great throws on the run, launch it deep, and has accurate passes.
There's one difference though: Locker is always injured. I know that doesn't seem like as much of a difference with Mr. Discount Double Check out with an injury now, but this is rare. He's usually always healthy, where my Locker is usually injured.
If Locker can stay healthy, his ceiling is Aaron Rodgers, which would be awesome. If he can't, it'll be time to go back to the drawing board.
Also worth noting: the Titans drafted before the Packers in the NFL Draft and took Adam "Pacman" Jones. Yup.
Gary Althiser - 49ers Team Journalist
Aaron Rodgers is the most important player to a team in the NFL. Bill Belichick won 11 games without Tom Brady. John Fox went to the second round of the playoffs with Tim Tebow. The Packers are nothing without Rodgers.
He's the NFL’s best player.
Truth Hurts Huffman - PFS Project Manager, Packers Fan
Young Green Bay Packers enthusiasts are spoiled rotten. We’ve become the rich person who’s rewarded with Heaven. This person gets the best of both worlds. He or she enjoys a worldly life with enough money, a rewarding career, perfect health, enough resources to meet all of his or her lifelong goals, and a loving family. Once this person passes away, he or she enters into an afterlife with even greater riches and unconditional love.
Brett Favre was the symbol of worldly life, 1992-2007. While the Chicago Bears started more than 20 different quarterbacks during that span, Packers fans were raging over Favre’s indecisiveness, decision-making and inability to string multiple playoff victories together for a Super Bowl run. Damn those First World problems.
Rich people don’t live forever. Often, scripture is interpreted as though few of them will enter Heaven. Likewise, Favre wasn’t going to play forever. Management had the near-impossible task of replacing him with another player of his caliber. It took approximately 25 years before the franchise found a suitable replacement for Bart Starr.
Favre moved on. Next man up: Aaron Rodgers. Packers fans went from watching a Hall of Fame quarterback to a quarterback who, statistically, has possibly had the greatest four-year stretch in NFL history. It’s just like someone who enjoys an abundant life on Earth before he or she passes into an existence that’s full of Heavenly ecstasy. Life after Favre is the best!
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings sold their souls for two years of Favre. Three seasons later, they have a three-headed monster that includes a triumvirate of Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman. Isn’t life after Favre the best!
Go back to Favre's 16th and final season as Green Bay’s starting quarterback, his 17th overall. The 2007 Packers had finished a 13-3 season with an NFC Championship loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Initially, Favre intended to retire instead of pursuing his second Super Bowl championship. His verbal retirement was considered as a passing of the torch to the former 2005 first-round pick.
What a golden opportunity that lied ahead for the 24-year-old quarterback. Rodgers was ready to take over a young roster that was hungry to finish what they had started from the previous season. He spent three seasons preparing for this moment. Rodgers had extra motivation from when he witnessed his draft stock plummet. The projected No. 1 pick wasn’t selected until No. 24.
Then June came around. Favre’s cravings came back. He wanted to return. And so he did.
Chaos ensues. A fan base quickly became divided. Some fans weren't ready to part with the past. Others were fed up with Favre's offseason shenanigans. Some fans wouldn't forgive him for the overtime interception that all-but-doomed Green Bay's chances to give the New England Patriots that sole loss in their unsuccessful quest at perfection. They had seen it too many times before.
Everyone knew that Green Bay had a very deep and talented roster. Did it make sense to turn down a proven Hall of Fame quarterback who was coming off one of his best seasons for a fourth-year quarterback who had never made a start? His NFL resume was little more than a 2007 Thursday Night Football fill-in against the Dallas Cowboys: 18-of-26 for 201 yards with one touchdown plus 30 rushing yards. The Packers lost 37-27.
General manager Ted Thompson was ready to turn the page. He stood up to Favre, denied him the starting job, and eventually traded him to a New York Jets team that finished the previous season at 4-12. Neither the Packers nor Jets finished that season with a playoff appearance. Following a 4-3 start, the Packers lost seven of their next eight games, six of which came within four points. The Packers finished that season with a 6-10 record.
A seven-win drop off from the previous season. Favre increased the Jets’ win total from four to nine. He led the 2009 Minnesota Vikings into an NFC Championship appearance. Once again, Favre tossed a game-changing interception that kept his team out of the Detroit Lions—I mean, Super Bowl. Favre retired after the 2010 season.
Favre’s 2008 and 2009 successes didn’t help Rodgers’ perception. It just created an even larger ripple effect among the fans and skeptics. A lot of people viewed those 2008 and 2009 Packers teams as a superstar quarterback away from Super Bowl contention. The argument wasn’t whether Rodgers was better than Tom Brady; it was whether he was better than Mark Sanchez.
Let’s fast forward to 2013. Rodgers is in his sixth season as a starting quarterback. He has a Super Bowl ring, Super Bowl MVP and 2011 NFL MVP award. He has led his team to four consecutive playoff appearances. Favre has admitted that “Barring any injury he'll shatter everything I ever did there except for maybe consecutive games.”
Remember how Rodgers was largely blamed for those 2008 and 2009 teams taking a step back? Critics ignored shoddy special teams and a defense that kept surrendering 30, even 40-plus points to top-tier quarterbacks (e.g. Kurt Warner, late-2000s Ben Roethlisberger). No lead was safe because these two units always fell apart.
Piggybacker Rodgers? More like everyone piggybacks on him. What five seasons can do toward the perception of a team and its entire franchise.
This 5-2 Packers team loses Rodgers to a broken collarbone. Suddenly, they lost three consecutive games to fringe playoff contenders. They’ve gone five consecutive games without a win. They lose back-to-back games at Lambeau Field. The No. 2 quarterback lasted one series into his first start. The No. 3 quarterback was benched late into his second start. Matt Flynn hasn’t silenced his skeptics.
Rodgers hasn’t just played up to the level of his Hall of Fame predecessor; he has exceeded him. Former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith lost his job, largely because he went from owning Favre to Rodgers owning him. The Packers went from one of the most reckless passers to one of the most protective.
Maybe the most incredible thing that Rodgers accomplished: he made a spoiled fan base even more spoiled. Rodgers has played so far above the average quarterback’s ability that Favre has become an afterthought. He’s perceived as the indecisive quarterback who spent his last two seasons suiting up with the arch rival. Had Rodgers turned into Mark Sanchez, then fans wouldn't need more time to forgive Favre. Holding a grudge is easy when everything is fine and dandy.
Just remember these three games with Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien. You don’t truly know how those Cleveland Browns or 1990s Chicago Bears teams suffered until that three-game stretch turns into a vortex of ineptitude that lasts 15-plus seasons. In Chicago, things have gotten so bad that Jay Cutler has been hailed as a savior.
…Hallelujah? HalleluJay? HalleluJosh?
Without Favre and Rodgers, Green Bay endures a similar fate. Don’t discredit either quarterback for his weaknesses; be grateful for both.
Chris Schad - Vikings Team Journalist
I think I can sum up my thoughts on Aaron Rodgers with one sentence: "F... Aaron Rodgers."
It sounds like an incredibly vulgar message that shouldn't be thrown out in public, however, it's not what you think it means.
It started back when Rodgers was the backup for Brett Favre. After Favre had put in his retirement papers, it was going to be Rodgers who took over the reins as the new quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. Such a thought terrorized some Packer fans, leading to some personal conversations in which they swore they would never watch a game if Rodgers started under center.
That's where my first "F... Aaron Rodgers" statement came into order: "Free Aaron Rodgers."
It was time to give the kid a chance. Rodgers had sat behind Favre for three seasons. He deserved the opportunity to be "the guy" when Favre made his tearful goodbye several months before. It was time to find out what they had and give their 2005 first-round pick a chance.
That lead me to my second "F... Aaron Rodgers" statement: "Finally! Aaron Rodgers!"
Throughout most of my childhood, Favre had tormented me with multiple fourth quarter comebacks and the sort of dominance against the Vikings reserved for the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. The passion that everybody had towards him was ridiculous. He was a football god. All Minnesota could hope for is that Randall Cunningham or Jeff George had one last good year of football in them. It was time for the Packers to get theirs.
When the Packers turned the keys over to Rodgers, there was no way he could have been as good as Favre. After seeing Packer fans celebrate year after year in front of me, it was about time that I got to do the celebrating while the John Deere Cult cried in their beers while toiling in mediocrity.
But then a funny thing happened...he was better than Favre.
Instead of a gun-slinging, tough as nails, son of a gun that Favre was, Rodgers developed into the cerebral assassin that had only been seen in Indianapolis and New England. He limited his mistakes and allowed the Packers to become an even more dangerous team that would win their fourth Super Bowl.
All of this became too much to bear as the Vikings relied on Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder and even Favre to solve their quarterback woes. It made me utter a new comment...and it's exactly the one you thought I was going to say at the beginning of this article.
If there is one person I can not stand, it's Rodgers. His arrogance on the football field makes me want to smash my head through a windshield. The way the Packers win every week makes me want to go and vomit in front of the Vince Lombardi statue at Lambeau Field.
And his fans...oh his fans. Remember those fans who claimed that they would never watch a down of Packer football after he became the starting quarterback? That vow was short-lived when they won Super Bowl XLV. All of them ran out and bought green and gold No. 12 jerseys.
Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a church somewhere in Green Bay where they're writing a song like...
Everybody on your knees in the land of beer and cheese!
Aaron Rodgers saved the day! He made Brett Favre go away!!
Hoooooo-oooooh--ooooly Rodgers! Savior of the Packers!
Don't get me wrong: Rodgers is a terrific quarterback. If he wore purple instead of green, I might be the one establishing the Church of the Holy Rodgers somewhere in Northern Minnesota. But for now, he is public enemy No. 1 in my book.
Someday, I know that the Packers will have a bad quarterback and that I will be able to remember it. Until then, I'll watch Rodgers increase his sterling stats against the Vikings as I cry myself to sleep.
Thank you for joining us for Around the SPOT! Get well soon wishes go out to Aaron Rodgers as he recovers from his collarbone injury. Stay tuned for future editions of ATS featuring: Calvin Johnson, Russell Wilson, LeSean McCoy, Drew Brees, players that should be in the Hall of Fame, Roger Goodell evaluation and potential rule changes.
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