Green Bay Packers

C.J. Stroud’s Hot Take On Aaron Rodgers Isn’t the Burn He Thinks It Is

Photo Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Stroud took the NFL by storm in his rookie year. He came into the league with a high profile after an accomplished career at Ohio State, but nobody expected him to dominate the way he did. Stroud stacked up 4,108 yards, 23 touchdowns, and only five interceptions in his first year. More impressively, he took the Houston Texans from the cellar to the top of the AFC South for the first time since their full-scale teardown, solidifying himself in some serious conversations alongside elite, established quarterbacks. The explosion of his on-the-field play has led to a commensurate explosion of his profile and amplification of some of his absurd podcast takes.

The first one was truly debatable. Stroud prefers Eli Manning’s career to Aaron Rodgers’. His justification was simple: “You want the rings, dawg.” Fair enough.

A direct comparison shows a massive advantage in overall record, completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns, fewer interceptions, quarterback rating, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and individual accolades in Rodgers’ favor. His individual accolades include 10 Pro Bowl appearances to Manning’s four, five All-Pro honors to Manning’s zero, and, of course, four MVP trophies to Manning’s zero. However, Manning has the edge in the most important category – two Super Bowl rings to one.

Stroud is virtue signaling here. He is about the team and team accomplishments. He’s not here for himself. However, it’s also a reasonable opinion, even if Manning is not in Rodgers’ tier as an individual player. The rings argument can only go so far — Jimmy Garoppolo has two rings — but Manning earned his. His New York Giants defeated Tom Brady’s New England Patriots twice in the big game, including dramatically dismantling their 18-0 team. So, we’ll let that one slide. But it’s important context for Stroud’s next claim.

The second viral soundbite from Stroud’s podcast appearance earlier this week was as follows: “If you gave Matthew Stafford a chance like Aaron Rodgers had, I guarantee you he might have more rings for sure…He would have like three [or] four.”

Stroud has no qualms about going after Rodgers in particular. As polarized and politicized as the four-time MVP has become – due to his contrarian, often conspiratorial beliefs, quotes, and choices, I might add – he’s certainly an easy target. Some people also characterize his career as a series of highly unfortunate missed opportunities to cash in on his greatness. Therefore, it’s easy to see how Stroud, amidst his ascent to individual stardom, might point out that possibility and let his fanbase know that his ultimate goal is to bring championships to Houston. In a competitive AFC, we have already seen quarterbacks with generational upside struggle to attain team milestones congruent to their personal ones.

Matthew Stafford is a great quarterback. Better than Aaron Rodgers? No, sir. Rodgers boasts a 13-4 head-to-head record, an advantage in every relevant statistic, and Stafford’s trophy case is more barren than Manning’s. He didn’t win Super Bowl MVP, Cooper Kupp did. Stafford also has only once led his team to contention. He was not a relevant figure in December and January until the Los Angeles Rams put him on a team with Sean McVay’s mind, no offensive weaknesses, a bonafide No. 1 in Kupp, and a fantastic defense featuring two of the greatest players in this generation.

Rodgers has played with fantastic talents, from Davante Adams to Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings. But having a dominant defense on top of that? He only had that in 2010. He took a team that couldn’t stop the run to the NFC Championship in 2020, where Raheem Mostert went for 220 yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Rodgers also took a team that couldn’t stop the pass to the NFC Championship in 2016, where Julio Jones went for 180 yards in a 44-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. There are onside kicks, blocked punts, and a painful plethora of arbitrary yet history-altering intricacies of the game of football that you can pick apart and say, if just one of those moments went the other way, we could be living in an entirely different world.

All of this leads to the question: What chances? What magical opportunities did the Green Bay Packers give Rodgers to play in the number of big games he has? I’m pretty sure that the Packers made the runs they did, won the NFC North with the regularity that they did, and won most of their games in the last decade and a half because they had a four-time MVP, future Hall-of-Famer, and arguably the most talented signal caller of all time manning the game’s most crucial position. He created the chances that they had.

The Packers may have a new young star at quarterback, but they’ll have to fight to retain their title as the NFC North’s older brother. Why? The Detroit Lions made a run to the NFC Championship last season. Along the way, we heard shocking statistics about the city’s pain, namely that they hadn’t won a playoff game since the Soviet Union fell. If only they had a guy like Matthew Stafford for 12 of those years! But, no, I’d love to hear how Stafford would’ve scored 38 in San Francisco, 45 in Atlanta, or maybe even provided Brandon Bostick with the inspiration he needed to field an onside kick.

If you put Stafford in Rodgers’ shoes, Green Bay’s last decade would’ve looked more like Detroit’s than their own. If you can find three or four rings in there, you might just score an 18% on the S2 Cognition Test because that’s exactly what our friend in Houston did. As his career continues to take shape, I could not be more excited to see C.J. Stroud play football, but I can’t say I’m as amped up to hear him talk about it.

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