Aaron Rodgers: Filling big shoes in Green Bay
When Aaron Rodgers was drafted as the 24th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, it was firmly as a back up to longstanding starting quarterback Brett Favre. Five years on, Favre has departed Lambeau Field and Rodgers has established himself as one of the league’s elite quarterbacks. He has a long way to go to emulate the legendary number four, but so far he is making a good fist of it.
In his 16 seasons in Green Bay, Favre led the Packers to triumph in Super Bowl XXXI, defeat against John Elway’s Denver Broncos in the following year’s Super Bowl, broke a whole load of NFL passing records and cemented his place as one of the great all-time quarterbacks. Favre’s star was the biggest in the NFL galaxy and the Lambeau Field faithful adored the man from Mississippi. However, in March 2008, he announced his retirement from the sport. Favre quickly changed his mind, but the Packers by this time had decided that it was a time for a change and so the man who had for so long been their talisman was allowed to leave for New York. This was a bold move by Green Bay’s management. Favre had poor seasons in 2005 and 2006, but not in 2007. In fact, his performance in 2007 was massively improved, with a return of 28 touchdowns against only 15 interceptions. His season passer rating of 95.7 was his best since 1996.
The man charged with replacing the seemingly irreplaceable was a young Californian named Aaron Rodgers. Perfectly built for a quarterback at 6’2 and 225 lbs, Rodgers impressed at the University of California and was tipped by some to be a top-five pick. This did not happen and his slide down the order became one of the draft’s major talking points. Eventually, Green Bay took him with the 24th pick overall and it is now starting to look like an incredibly good bit of business.
Rodgers remained patient in his first three years at Lambeau Field as he saw little playing time and had to deal with Favre’s ‘yes I am retiring, no actually I am not’ game. On one of the rare occasions he did see game time versus Tom Brady’s New England Patriots in 2006, he broke his foot and missed the remainder of the season. Things just did not seem to be going Rodgers’s way. All that changed when Favre was shipped out to New York and Rodgers was given the responsibility of leading the team.
In his first season, Rodgers impressed, proving his ability as well as his mental and physical toughness. The team however, did not, as it finished with a poor record of 6-10. Nonetheless, Rodgers had proved his ability as a starting quarterback, passing for 4038 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. This gave him a passer rating of 93.8 in his first season as a starter – more than respectable.
If Rodgers was good in his first season as a starter, he was sensational in his second, leading the Packers to the playoffs with a much improved record of 11-5. On a personal note, Rodgers passed for 4434 yards, 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. His passer rating of 103.2 was better than that of Peyton Manning and placed him fourth in the league behind Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers and no other regular starting quarterback threw fewer interceptions (Favre also threw only seven). His yardage total of 4434 made him the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4000 yards+ in his first two seasons as a starter. Furthermore, whilst he may not be a mobile quarterback in the Michael Vick mould, he proved his ability to run with the ball when required, rushing for 316 yards and five touchdowns. His performance looks even better when one considers the poor protection he was given by his offensive line which gave up 50 sacks.
It is not fair to dismiss the contributions of other Packers players such as Ryan Grant (who rushed for 1253 yards) and in the likes of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, Rodgers has very capable receivers. After all, what is the use of throwing a great pass if there is nobody to catch it? However, the fact is that Rodgers was the man charged with taking the Packers to the playoffs and he did. His impressive performances earned him a Pro-Bowl appearance where he ended up starting for the NFC team following an injury to Favre and Brees’s involvement in the Super Bowl. Once again he performed admirably, passing for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
In his first two seasons as a starter, Rodgers has established himself one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. His stats stand up against those of Favre, Brees, Manning, Roethlisberger etc. He has a lot to achieve before he can be considered a legend of the sport in the way his predecessor is, but if he can continue to perform at this high level for years to come, he just may be able to retire and say “yep, I filled Brett Favre’s shoes.”
Aaron Rodgers Quick Stats
Height: 6ft 2 inches
Weight: 225 lbs
College: University of California
Games Started: 36*
Passing Yards: 9741*
Passing Touchdowns: 67*
Passer Rating: 96.8*
Rushing Yards: 639*
Rushing Touchdowns: 11*
*Accurate as of Week 4 2010 season