"I don't know how he just throws it like that," Bryant says, before mimicking Rodgers' classic flick of his wrist. "Just pretty ... dimes."
There is an elusive quality in the way Rodgers throws that is more badass than other quarterbacks. I miss it.
That Week 5 start in Dallas was the last fully healthy one of Rodgers' 2017 season, another reminder that his best is better than anyone else's best.
Cowboys coaches stressed all week about keeping Rodgers in the pocket, yet he still kept escaping, reducing Jason Garrett to rant desperately on the sideline, "He's gonna turn it into a playpen!"
With Rodgers now recovered from his broken collarbone, there are many reasons to believe he is ready to make life messy for the rest of the NFC again.
Rodgers won his first Super Bowl in the 2010 season and his first MVP in 2011, his fourth season as a starter. The second MVP came in 2014 and that throw against Dallas came in the 2016 postseason. It's as if Rodgers is roused every few years to remind the football populace it has never seen a player like him. And he's due again.
The three seasons since Rodgers' latest MVP campaign have included a mortal career's worth of memorable moments, but they have been his most uneven since his first season as a starter. He struggled to get in rhythm during the 2015 season and his yards-per-attempt average has dipped dramatically. Those numbers have a lot to do with the Packers' offensive scheme and the team's lackluster running game, but Rodgers enters this season with a little extra to prove at age 34. Never lacking salt in his media diet, it's been fun to see Rodgers' edge on display this offseason.
Rodgers should begin the 2018 campaign fresh, mentally and physically. The collarbone injury suffered against the Vikings in Week 6 prevented him from taking his usual season-long pounding, and he's already proven he can return from the sideline with authority. It's a small sample size, but Rodgers' most impressive season as a pro (2014) came immediately after missing seven games with his first broken collarbone.
Rodgers drives opponents crazy because he can beat the perfect coverage, the perfect play call. Defenses force third-and-long, keep him contained in the pocket ... and he can still navigate tight quarters like Tom Brady until a receiver uncovers over the middle, as he does in the first play in the video below. Coaches can dial up the perfectly timed blitz off the edge, get a free shot on Rodgers ... and he can release the ball too fast before taking the hit, like in the next play in the video. Or Rodgers can just escape out of the pocket with the game on the line, running through arm tackles:
"Tell those f------ on third down to get their head out of their ass!" Cowboys tight end Jason Witten yelled at a defensive coach on the sidelines, sick of watching another sequel to the same old Dallas horror movie.
As we saw in that portion of "All or Nothing," though, there wasn't much more the Cowboys could do. Even on a day where Rodgers was missing his Pro Bowl left tackle, there is no defense for the perfect pass. Which reminds me of another reason why 2018 sets up so well for Rodgers to lay waste to his competition.
Peak Bakhtiari and friends
Just 26 years old and coming off successive seasons as a second-team All-Pro, David Bakhtiari is perhaps the NFL's leader in dominance-to-hype ratio. This often happens with offensive linemen who bear hard-to-spell names, but it's especially pronounced with Bakhtiari, who only landed at No. 91 on NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2018", despite Pro Football Focus ranking him as the best pass-blocking lineman in football.
The next-best player on the Packers' offense, receiver Davante Adams, is similarly young (25) and primed to explode. The timing Adams has developed with Rodgers is off the charts -- and can rival what Jordy Nelson offered Rodgers at his peak. Whereas Nelson got open deep with physicality and speed, Adam's route running is a sight to behold. Adams emerging as the true No. 1 wideout will help Randall Cobb and tight end Jimmy Graham settle into their supporting roles.
So often last season, Rodgers was required to make the perfect pass into a non-existent window. It was breathtaking when he pulled it off -- like the throw below to Martellus Bennett -- but these plays should be the lagniappe of an offense, not the main course.
After seasons where the Packers' roster and coaching staff grew stale, Rodgers should get more help in 2018. Jamaal Williams has emerged as the team's RB1 and head coach Mike McCarthy recently said Williams is "poised to have a big year." Aaron Jones, while suspended for the season's first two games, has the rare ability among recent Packers running backs to make plays on his own. Ty Montgomery makes more sense as a third-down weapon rather than as a starter. The return of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin adds familiarity, while the addition of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine could be Green Bay's biggest offseason signing since Charles Woodson.
Too often, Rodgers has played with no margin for error, like in that aforementioned 35-31 victory over the Cowboys, where the Packers scored on all but two possessions. Green Bay hasn't finished in the top 10 in points allowed or total defense since their championship season, but the combination of a promising defensive line (Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Muhammad Wilkerson) and a suddenly-deep secondary offers hope that will change. Years after Dom Capers' playbook grew thicker and more confusing than his hair, Pettine could breathe new life into Rodgers' career by taking pressure off the Packers' offense. Not that he appears to mind having the team all on his shoulders.
Good, old-fashioned one-upmanship
I've tried to present some tangible reasons why Rodgers is ready to win his third MVP, why he's due to eviscerate an unsuspecting league again. But this argument is less about logic and more about a gut feeling that Rodgers has seen enough. He's seen Tom Brady expand what's possible from an aging quarterback over the last two years, temporarily putting to rest the GOAT arguments that Rodgers was supposed to join. He's seen the Vikings wrest control of his division, then upgrade at quarterback. He's seen another quarterback from Cal lead the NFC's "It" team.
He's seen all of this and surely believes that none of them can do it better than he can. No one in NFL history has combined the arm, athleticism and instincts quite like Rodgers. It's time again for Rodgers to let everyone know.