Green Bay Packers  

 

Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers tenure demands appreciation

Forget the young guns. Forget all the talk about the read option. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are still at the top of their games, but even they fall short.

You know what I'm talking about, right?

We are living in the Aaron Rodgers Era of Greatness. No quarterback in the NFL has been better since Rodgers became the Green Bay Packers' starter in 2008, and it's time to recognize.

The guy had an all-time great performance against the Washington Redskins last Sunday, and a nation sort of shrugged its collective shoulders. I centered my Monday column on Washington's defense getting torched by Rodgers, but few others wrote about it. The highlight shows didn't lead with it. It didn't dominate the NFL chatter.

Do we simply expect this kind of greatness, week in and week out?

The reality is, it's Aaron Rodgers' world, and we're just living in it. We need to appreciate and applaud; we need to stop and smell the roses. We need to call that Sunday showing -- in which Rodgers became the first signal-caller since Y.A Tittle in Week 7 of the 1962 season to throw for 480 passing yards, four touchdowns and zero picks in the same game -- what it was: one of the single greatest games played at the quarterback position.

He's en route to becoming one of the best quarterbacks ever. Still, less than 24 hours after throwing his way into the history books, Rodgers downplayed Sunday's effort for the ages in an appearance on "Schein on Sports" on SiriusXM Radio.

"I felt good throwing the football, but I feel that guys made good catches for me," Rodgers said matter-of-factly. "We had 280 yards after the catch, and it was pretty impressive. It was a good day for our offense, but there are still some things we can clean up, for sure."

Clean up?!

"... I did a poor job a couple times, of just not communicating enough with my backs on a couple of adjustment checks, and I also missed a couple throws I wanted to hit," Rodgers continued. "I think that's the great thing about being on a Mike McCarthy-coached team, with Tom Clements as our offensive coordinator and Ben McAdoo my quarterback coach. They hold me to a pretty high standard every weekend, and we like to be flawless."

Rodgers is the ultimate perfectionist. It's what makes him the best in the business. How can you not love watching him play with his pinpoint accuracy? How can you not love listening to him strive to be even better?

By the way, don't overlook his take on the great McCarthy. This offseason, I wrote that the McCarthy-Rodgers pairing is the elite coach-quarterback combination in the NFL. McCarthy and Rodgers share a brain and -- most especially -- they have trust.

Rodgers explained that he and McCarthy, to whom he gave "a lot of credit" for Sunday's win, "have a great trust, a mutual trust, and it's just enhanced when he gives me some latitude and I'm able to get us in good situations; it just continues to grow our relationship."

Just how well has Rodgers played under McCarthy? He's been the best; the games and numbers prove it.

Chew on these nuggets of domination: Since Rodgers became a starter in 2008, he's had the best quarterback rating in the league. He ranks second in passing yards and passing touchdowns in that time frame; he also has the second-lowest interception rate. Put simply, over the past five years and two games, there's been nobody better.

He'll further burnish his "elite" status with another Super Bowl championship -- which I'm sure he'll get eventually. His legacy will also be boosted by all of the wins he's stacked up. He simply dominates, whether he's dealing with shaky offensive lines, subpar running backs or hit-or-miss defenses.

Though the Packers are 1-1 this year, they are, without question, one of the four best teams in the NFL -- thanks to the greatness of Rodgers.

In many other areas, Green Bay doesn't rate highly. Consider how the Packers stack up against their Week 3 opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincy has the better defense, the better offensive line and a bit more sizzle at running back with Giovani Bernard.

Of course, the Packers are loaded at one spot in particular: receiver. Even with the offseason departures of Greg Jennings (via free agency) and Donald Driver (via retirement), Rodgers has a diverse cast of pass catchers at his disposal -- thanks to the savvy of general manager Ted Thompson -- in Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley.

Rodgers is especially pleased with the development of Finley, who is off to a great start in a contract season after long teasing us with his potential.

"I think he's just understanding coverages," Rodgers said, "understanding the timing of our offense even better, knowing when he has to be open, knowing when he can take a little bit of extra time on a route. ... He's making plays -- like his touchdown catch (Sunday) -- that he hasn't been able to make in the past. ... We're all happy for him, proud of him, and just trying to find ways to get him the football."

Speaking of getting people the football, how does Rodgers decide which of his many receivers to target?

"I think a lot of stuff goes into that whole process. It's preparation, and it is understanding what kind of scheme you're playing. And then a lot of it is reaction and the game. ... It just depends on the matchups; once you get into the game and the flow, I like to throw to the open guy; I don't feel like there is a 'go-to guy' on this team. I think that's what makes us dynamic, but also allows the guys to run every route to win."

Power Rankings: Steelers sinking
Things are bad for Big Ben and the Steelers -- as in, "hurtling toward the bottom" bad. Elliot Harrison ranks all 32 teams. More ...

The nature of such a varied attack means that a receiver might be extremely quiet one week -- Jones, for example, went catch-less in the season opener -- and extremely busy the next -- on Sunday, Jones hauled in 11 passes for 178 yards.

"That's going to happen sometimes ..." Rodgers said. "I think everyone was impressed by James' attitude after Week 1. Like I told him in the huddle as we were taking a knee, just make sure you're the same guy that you were this week as you were last week."

This past offseason was a bizarre one for Rodgers. For seemingly no good reason, Jennings and Driver foolishly took shots at him with critical comments. Then, Rodgers had to deal with the fallout that accompanied the revelation that his friend, embattled Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun -- whom Rodgers had publically supported -- was a steroid cheat.

Still, Rodgers has this uncanny knack for letting it all fall off his shoulders, for compartmentalizing and focusing on football. Ever since the Brett Favre nonsense that accompanied his ascension to the top job, Rodgers has handled "noise" with aplomb.

He's also a great teammate, always looking to spread credit and accept blame. Whenever we visit him at training camp, Rodgers insists on bringing out the backup quarterback or some other unsung hero, to share the publicity. It goes a long way.

Rodgers' one "yeah, but" has been his history against the San Francisco 49ers, having lost to them to open the 2012 season, then again in the postseason, and once more to open this season. Even so, he refused to use the "h-word" when asked about the hatred and bad blood between the Niners and Packers.

San Francisco is a more complete team than Green Bay and has a better chance of winning the Super Bowl this year. But don't let that distract you from Rodgers' greatness.

The Packers will have a chance for retribution -- because of Aaron Rodgers.

Though the matchups suggest the Bengals might win in Cincinnati this Sunday, I'm picking Green Bay -- because of Aaron Rodgers.

There's nobody better in the league right now. There's been nobody better since he became the Packers' starter.

You'll tell your grandkids you saw Manning and Brady, and you'll also tell them you saw Aaron Rodgers.

And here's the beautiful part: He's only just begun.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15