Green Bay Packers

It Was A Blast To Live In Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood

Photo credit: Mike De Sisti-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to focus on how it ended: the playoff disappointments and the perennial offseason drama. It’s easy to say it’s time to move on. Heck, I’ve been ready to move on for 14 months.

But at this pivotal moment in Green Bay Packers history, I find myself back in the Lambeau Field press box on an ungodly cold January evening in 2008, just moments after Brett Favre threw his last pass as a Packer, an interception of course. The ensuing field goal by the New York Giants ended the Pack’s magical 2007 ride. It also ended a 15-year run with Favre that had resurrected the franchise and helped me land a coveted hour on KFAN every Sunday morning to talk Packers in the heart of Vikings country.

So it was time to turn the page. For most of us, Aaron Rodgers was the unfortunate sap who would have to replace a legend. The kid who was going to be hated by half of a fanbase, blamed for the “premature” end to Favre’s story. Despite being a first round pick, there were no expectations, other than the likelihood that the Pack would join the rank and file — just another team.

But the story took a surprising turn and Rodgers did the unthinkable. He developed into an unquestionably better quarterback than Favre. And for the better part of 15 years, the Packers took the field in virtually every game knowing that they had the best QB in the game. Rodgers gave the Packers a legitimate chance to win every time they stepped on the field.

As a football fan, you can’t ask for more than that. He cemented his greatness on the way to his lone Super Bowl title, with three road playoff wins. First over the Philadelphia Eagles. Then with a masterful, surgical, near perfect performance in Atlanta. And finally, with an emphatic win over the hated Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. (One of so many over Chicago. His ‘ownership’ of the Bears is probably what I’ll cherish most fondly about his career.) I was fortunate to be at that game and the Super Bowl win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was astounding the Pack was back on top — the student had become the master.

We all expected more Super Bowls after that amazing run. And we know there easily could have been a couple more, if not for some crazy bad fortune at the end of a few postseason games. Some playoff exits can be blamed on Rodgers; most were the fault of the defense or special teams.

Indianapolis Colts fans expected more than one with Peyton Manning. New Orleans Saints fans expected more than one with Drew Brees. A lot has to go right for a team to get to the promised land. But there’s no sugar coating it: winning only one with Rodgers is a disappointment.

In future years and generations, when someone asks who is the most talented quarterback ever?, Rodgers will always be in the conversation. His lack of hardware will always keep him out of the ‘best ever’ conversation. But the most talented QB? In ten years, my Mount Rushmore will likely include Rodgers, Tom Brady, Manning and Patrick Mahomes.

So now we venture into the great unknown again, and history has repeated itself. Rodgers’ last pass as a Packer was an interception and now he is off to the New York Jets. His understudy has been waiting in the wings for three years, just like he did.

Can we expect another 15 years of quarterback greatness from Jordan Love? No chance. Impossible. Right? Right!?

But what if he emerges as one of the better QBs in the NFC in 2023, after watching and learning from Rodgers, Matt LaFleur and Tom Clements for three years? I mean, the competition is not overwhelming.

If that happens, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears fans may just implode.

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Photo credit: Mike De Sisti-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

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