If it wasn’t Aaron Rodgers Sunday night doing all that he did, it’s almost a bigger story, isn’t it?
Like, if Andy Dalton or Ryan Tannehill did it, it’s almost more unbelievable, and yet we’re talking about it less.
He’s Aaron Rodgers, so of course that happened. How many Hail Marys have you actually witnessed in person or on televised games? Rodgers did it twice in one season, in that evening game in Detroit, and to force overtime in that classic game in January 2016 against the Cardinals.
Despite all the steps forward the Chicago Bears appear to have made, and the dominant first half Khalil Mack displayed in his Bears debut, Rodgers stole all the attention right back to Green Bay’s side, despite taking all snaps from the shotgun, and being notably more immobile than we’re used to. He’s magic. There’s no one like him, and maybe there won’t be again.
And yet, it feels the prevailing opinion among NFL types is Rodgers, despite his combination of talent, edge, magic, and resourcefulness, is almost a sympathetic figure.
Why? Just the one Super Bowl appearance. Yes, the Packers won that game, but that was eight seasons ago — there were supposed to be more. He won a Super Bowl at age 27. Brett Favre, Tom Brady, and Joe Montana won their first Super Bowls at age 25. Troy Aikman was 26. There’s a certain progression that we all thought the Packers franchise could ascend to with Rodgers at the helm.
Well, two things have intersected that don’t make sense — Rodgers has been even better than we all thought he ever would be after he won that Super Bowl against the Steelers in Texas in February 2011, that’s one.
And second, the Packers just haven’t accomplished what we thought they would or could once we all realized Rodgers was special.
Sure, a nine-game streak of going to the post-season is impressive. Who besides the Patriots and Steelers does that in modern football? But no more NFC titles. Two visits to the NFC Championship game – the bizarre loss to finish the 2014 season to the Seattle Seahawks after the Packers settled for field goal after field goal in the shadow of Seattle’s goal-line, and the blowout loss a couple years ago to the Falcons in Georgia. The score was 44-21, and it flattered the Packers, quite objectively.
So the question hangs there in mid-air. Does Rodgers need to go to another Super Bowl to be an all-time great?
If he’s doing it, it seems it’ll be as a lifetime Packer, following the monster extension of $134 million to be the Packers’ quarterback through the 2023 season, during which he’ll turn 40.
But that question has two layers — are we talking talent or are we talking accomplishments?
Tom Brady is the more accomplished quarterback, but the biggest Brady-backer will tell you Rodgers has more talent.
John Elway had more talent than Joe Montana, but can’t claim the same accomplishments. Dan Marino versus Eli Manning? I mean, we don’t need to be this cruel to Eli, do we? He’ll be dealing with enough pain and misery this season, as will his teammates.
Now, I thought Sunday evening what we all might have thought at halftime. Rodgers is done for the evening, and maybe the season. He’s 35 in December, a second straight season that goes up in smoke with a Rodgers injury.
But Rodgers survives being “carted off”, which may be the first time a starting quarterback has survived “The Cart” and certainly in such dramatic second-half fashion.
The Packers clearly can’t go where they’d like to with anything less than a Rodgers that’s more mobile than the miracle worker we saw in the second half Sunday night at Lambeau. But I’m not even sure they can with Rodgers at his very, very best.
For one, they haven’t in the last seven seasons. Rodgers has two home playoff losses at Lambeau Field, to teams quarterbacked by Colin Kaepernick and Eli Manning, and he was outplayed badly by both in those defeats. Secondly, there might be more question marks about an aging offensive line, and the lack of a consistent and reliable running back presence since Eddie Lacy’s second season four years ago.
Their secondary is a major question mark, new defensive co-ordinator Mike Pettine needs a lot of veterans to buy into a new system, and Clay Matthews just isn’t the edge rusher or tackler in the open field he once was now that he’s 32, and has had injury struggles the past two years.
So all this makes what Rodgers can or cannot do at least as fascinating as watching the progression of all the incredible young quarterback talents spread throughout the league. Ten of 32 NFL teams started quarterbacks in Week 1 with less than three years of NFL experience, and of course, it’s a good bet Carson Wentz, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen all get starts for their respective teams sooner rather than later.
I didn’t like the Packers’ chances coming into this season, and didn’t have them as a playoff team. That was hardly foreshadowing a Rodgers injury, and I’m not sure that ACL gets better this season without rest of a couple weekends in a row at some point.
But Sunday night makes me remarkably fascinated to keep watching Rodgers every chance I get. If you’re like me, you can’t get enough either, and it’ll be a shame if he never plays in another Super Bowl. Just as it was with Dan Marino only getting to one, and Warren Moon and Dan Fouts never getting there.