What do you do when the greatest quarterback in your franchise’s history doesn’t want to let go of his seat? What do you do when he says he doesn’t want to be a mentor to you because “it wasn’t his job?” What do you do when you spend your first three seasons as a backup, with one of those seasons resulting in a trip to injured reserve with a broken bone in your foot? You do what Aaron Rodgers did. You power through it, and become the best quarterback in the National Football League.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be 31 this year, and he and his team are opening the season tonight against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in Seattle, where a cauldron of noise awaits. But this is nothing new for the Northern California native, who has been the starter for the Packers since 2008 after some ringer named Brett Favre did a non-retired retirement after 16 years with the club. In the span of six seasons as a starter, Rodgers has amassed nearly 24,000 yards and 187 touchdowns at a completion percentage of 66. I don’t know about you, but I can’t put up those numbers unless I play Madden on rookie mode, and to to be relative, there aren’t too many guys on the planet that can put up those kinds of numbers.
Most players of Aaron Rodgers’ caliber are courted and ranked highly coming into college, but as a high school senior, he only received one offer from the University of Illinois as a walk-on because scouts thought he was too small to play at a large school. So Rodgers took another route and spent his freshman year at Butte Community College, where he would go on to throw 28 touchdowns and soon receive a full scholarship from Cal. As they say, the rest was history.
When he was drafted in 2005, Rodgers was deemed the heir apparent to future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. He sat in waiting for three seasons, seeing limited time but remaining patient, even though Favre waffled and reneged on retirement, and the rumors of a feud spilled over into the media. Favre would leave in 2008, and Rodgers would have his chance. The question at the time was could Rodgers fill the shoes of Brett Favre? But not only could he fill them, he needed a bigger size.
By the 2010 season, Rodgers had solidified his spot as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and he would soon have the hardware to prove it. After leading his Packers to a championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rodgers received his first ring, first MVP award, and first Super Bowl MVP award that year. In 2011, he threw 45 touchdowns and six interceptions… six! He was efficient, he was making great decisions, and as he led his team to a 15-1 record it was apparent he was a force.
However, with all peaks there are valleys. The Packers would be knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual champion New York Giants, and the possibility of a repeat was out of the question. In the following season, the Packers would be eliminated by the San Francisco 49ers and some no-named quarterback called… Cap? Kapernicus? Kaepernick? Something like that. Anyway, adjustments had to be made. The Pack needed a running back to relieve some of the pressure for Rodgers, so they drafted Eddie Lacy, who came heavily regarded out of Alabama, and they also had to find a suitable replacement for Greg Jennings, who was an all-world wide receiver during Rodgers’ tenure in Green Bay. Rodgers would sign his monumental contract extension valued at around $110 million over five seasons, and the Packers were ready to go.
Then Week 9 comes.
The start of the 2013 season proved to be very fruitful for Rodgers and Green Bay. They started off 5-2 and Rodgers was playing like the MVP that he was and the Pack were paying him to be, but after being sacked by the Chicago Bears Shea McClellin, Rodgers broke his collarbone. Most figured his season was over. He did manage to come back for a crucial Week 17 matchup against Chicago and win, but against the eventual NFC champions and re-emerging rival San Francisco, Rodgers would soon find himself watching the Super Bowl with the rest of us.
2014 is shaping up to be a huge year for Green Bay, as they’re expecting to win their division and hope to get a full 16 weeks plus some with Rodgers. With Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb all coming back healthy, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t see an MVP performance from Aaron Rodgers. He has the experience, he has the offense, and he has the defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s photobombing a few Super Bowl photos in New York this February.
Follow Tommie on Twitter at @boneystarks