With Favre gone, Rodgers now has big shoes to fill

Dan Marino has long been retired and the Dolphins still haven't figured out how to replace him. Will the same problem affect the Green Bay Packers now that Brett Favre has opted to retire?

Understudies in Green Bay have come and gone during Favre's 16 years in a Packers uniform. Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, Ty Detmer, and Aaron Brooks are just a few of the guys who had to leave Wisconsin because Favre wasn't going to miss a game. Well, Aaron Rodgers was still in a Packers uniform when Favre finally called it quits, and now it's his turn to lead the Green Bay Packers.

Favre once said to a young backup quarterback, "Don't do things the way I do it." Favre was unorthodox, to say the least. He made you feel like you were watching a school-yard game. He was an improvisor who could flip an underhand pass to a receiver and then chase him all the way down to the end zone.

Rodgers, who has only thrown 59 NFL passes (just 8,700 behind Favre), has the biggest pair of shoes to fill that we've seen in a long time.

Rodgers was the first quarterback drafted by the Packers with the intention that he would be the replacement for Favre once he retired. As Ted Thompson, the GM of the Packers, said on Tuesday, "It is daunting to go forward without Brett Favre." Well, it's also daunting for Rodgers to take over and reach expectations that the Packers fans have for this team.

Can he use the knowledge acquired from three years on the bench to lead the Packers back to the playoffs in 2008? Rodgers has learned Mike McCarthy's West Coast system and he has weapons around him, but there is no substitute for experience.

The Packers need to put another QB on the roster for depth. A guy like Gus Frerotte would be an interesting candidate, but Rodgers should get a solid opportunity to be the man in Green Bay. He is a West Coast QB who knows where to go with the football, but he has to quicken up the decision-making process, which will come with repetitions.

He also needs to get rid of the ball, as he has been sacked nine times in his 59 pass attempts, or once every 6.5 passes. Rodgers has shown some escapability and that will fair well for him, as he probably will have to buy time and learn on his feet.

McCarthy has done a fine job with young quarterbacks in the past and is well down the road of getting Rodgers ready for this day.

I like the collection of talent around Rodgers, which will help in his transition. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and James Jones are a really good set of receivers. Donald Lee is a tight end who can split the seam, and Ryan Grant is an emerging running back.

Rodgers is capable of being a good system QB who can distribute the ball to all of his weapons. Rodgers has to believe in his offensive line -- Favre was only sacked 15 times in 535 pass attempts in 2007 -- and use it to his advantage. The Packers defense will also give Rodgers the support he needs.

Favre's retirement will mean $11.4 million more in salary cap space for the Packers, which means Thompson can go out and continue to build the youngest football team in the NFL. There will be speculation that the Packers may draft a quarterback in April, and they just might, but it won't be to replace Rodgers in 2008.

It's his team now and, if Packer fans can be patient, he will get the job done.

But it will never be the same at Lambeau.

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