The thing that struck me the hardest was the impact of Aaron Rodgers throughout the playoffs, and especially when he was announced as the MVP of Super Bowl XLV. Every year, as soon as the Super Bowl is over, I love to study the winner's roster and really think about how the championship team was constructed.
Last year, there was a clear and resounding message that your team doctor needs to be ready to make the right medical decisions. Drew Brees took the Saints to a Super Bowl championship after the San Diego Chargers released him in 2006 because of a shoulder injury and the Miami Dolphins doctors suggested the team not sign Brees because of that injury. You see now that Miami is still looking for a quarterback to return the team to championship football.
This year, Rodgers pounded home another strong message too many teams, especially the ones that passed on him in the 2005 NFL Draft when he was the 24th overall pick. Do you realize how many things surround the decision not to draft Rodgers by the 23 teams that went before the Packers?
Seventeen of the 23 head coaches who passed on Rodgers are no longer with the team they were with when they had a chance to take the former California quarterback. There's no doubt a young, talented player like Rodgers would have saved any number of coaches their jobs.
Fifteen of the 23 players selected before Rodgers are either no longer in the NFL or have moved on to another team. Wide receiver Troy Williamson, who was taken seventh overall by the Minnesota Vikings, hasn't played since 2009. And he has just four touchdown catches to his career. Can you imagine where the Vikings would be today if they picked Rodgers over Williamson? To add insult to injury, the Vikings in the same draft also took Wisconsin defensive end Erasmus James with Rodgers still on the board. Now Minnesota has to chase Rodgers for the next six to eight years.
Then there's Matt Jones and David Pollack, taken by Jacksonville and Cincinnati, respectively, who are both out of football but were selected before Rodgers. Granted, neither the Jaguars, who had just drafted Byron Leftwich in the first round in 2003, nor the Bengals, who had just selected Carson Palmer No. 1 overall in 2003, had a reason to consider Rodgers. But both teams were unable to unload their picks because nobody behind them thought Rodgers was good enough to trade up. That's how the Redskins ended up stuck with Jason Campbell at No. 25, right behind Rodgers.
Then there are seven teams that picked a player with Rodgers still on the board who still have that player on their roster, but outside of DeMarcus Ware in Dallas do you think the others have some regrets right now? San Francisco (Alex Smith), Miami (Ronnie Brown), Tampa Bay (Cadillac Williams), Carolina (Thomas Davis), Kansas City (Derrick Johnson), and Dallas (Marcus Spears). The irony of the San Francisco situation is that Mike McCarthy was the offensive coordinator for the 49ers when the club selected Smith No. 1 over Rodgers.
The list of players NFL people thought were better than Rodgers, but aren't even with the team that drafted them back in 2005, is just staggering. Meanwhile, Rodgers is just entering elite status.
We all make mistakes, especially in personnel decisions, but if you don't learn from them quickly then you are doomed to repeat history. For example, look at the Raiders before and after Rodgers. In the 2004 draft, Oakland passed on Ben Roethlisberger and took offensive tackle Robert Gallery, who now plays guard. Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings. In 2005, they passed on Rodgers and selected cornerback Fabian Washington. Rodgers makes it three Super Bowl rings from quarterbacks Oakland passed on since 2004.
Washington only played three seasons for Oakland and is now a member of the Baltimore Ravens. In the 2006 draft, the Raiders passed on Jay Cutler and took safety Michael Huff. Cutler led the Bears to a division title this year. But in 2007, Oakland topped those other three years by selecting JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall, and as we all know he was bust and isn't even in the league anymore.
Cleveland is hoping Colt McCoy is the real deal, but they took Kellen Winslow in 2004 with Roethlisberger on the board and Braylon Edwards over Rodgers in 2005. They were also just two spots away from Jay Cutler in 2006, but opted to stay put and take Kamerion Wimbley. None of those players are still in Cleveland, but they did select Brady Quinn in 2007 (no longer in Cleveland, either).
Sure there is luck involved, but at the end of the day the Packers had Brett Favre under contract and still thought it was a good business decision to take Rodgers. Now general manager Ted Thompson and the franchise are Super Bowl champions, and both McCarthy and Thompson are in line for big contract extensions.