Aaron Rodgers is the best player at the most difficult and important position in the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers QB is a step above everyone else in the league, not only because of his tremendous stats (although those certainly don't hurt), but because of the way he combines the best elements of those around him.
Intelligence of Peyton Manning?
Rodgers has 44 fewer interceptions over the course of his first four seasons as a starter than had Manning during his first four NFL campaigns.
Accuracy of Tom Brady?
Rodgers has finished in the top 10 of NFL starting QBs in completion percentage each of the last four seasons, including besting Tom Brady in 2011.
Requisite Super Bowl ring?
Rodgers won the Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl MVP award for the 2010 season.
Surprising athleticism and mobility?
Rodgers is lethal outside the pocket, with over 1,100 career rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground.
This is not to say the former Cal Bear is some super-human cyborg, but at 28 years old, he is just entering the prime of his career and is playing at a consistent MVP level.
Let's break down the factors making him the best overall player in the NFL:
The best quarterbacks are not always the ones with the strongest arms (JaMarcus Russell, anyone?). Instead, placing the football in the proper place consistently is going to produce the best results.
And while Rodgers does have enviable arm strength and velocity, it is his accuracy that makes him elite.
Rodgers completion percentage has increased in each of his four seasons as the Packers starter, while his yards-per-completion number has also gone up every year.
Want even more proof that QB accuracy translates to wins? Let's look at last season's most accurate QBs and the records of their respective teams:
The five most accurate QBs have a combined record of 49-21.
As for the five least accurate starters?
A combined record of just 20-59.
For a further breakdown of what makes Rodgers accuracy so critical to the success of Green Bay's offense, check out this Sports Science video:
Aaron Rodgers is not changing plays and throwing out decoy signals at quite the frenzied pace that Peyton Manning might, but that does not mean he does not embody the prototypical "intelligent quarterback."
Rodgers rarely makes a bad throw, as evidenced by his 45-6 touchdown to interception ratio last season.
He can detect a blitz, move around in the pocket, and deliver an accurate pass even when scrambling away from the rush.
Few quarterbacks are as quick to recognize different coverages and blitzing schemes as Rodgers, an ability that is perfectly highlighted in this video from ESPN's Ron Jaworski.
Aaron Rodgers has missed only two games over the past four seasons, so clearly he is physically tough. However, that is not the type of toughness I am referring to.
Rodgers is as mentally tough as any QB in the NFL today.
His draft day story is almost as legendary as Brady's, and the way Rodgers' epic fall through Round 1 has fueled he development of his craft and his skill is remarkable. Even if he is not always quick to admit it, Rodgers has an unmistakable chip on his shoulder after falling to pick No. 24 in the 2005 draft. He had to sit behind Brett Favre for three seasons before finally assuming the starting role, and then dealt with the media circus that engulfed Favre's unceremonious retirement/exit from the franchise.
All the while, Rodgers never complained, never lashed out, and never wavered in his belief that he could lead the Packers.
This may all seem like unnecessary sprinkles on Rodger's story, but it is an essential piece of what makes him the best player in the NFL today. Nothing is going to shake him. Rodgers has already been through the trials and tribulations this league has to offer, and his singular goal is winning championships.
Just listen to what he had to say in this E:60 interview to dig a little deeper into Rodger's motivations:
Let's face it, the best players find ways to win games. Barry Sanders almost single-handedly turned the Detroit Lions into playoff contenders in the 1990s.
Tom Brady was able to get the New England Patriots to the elusive promised land in 2001.
Ray Lewis compensated for a lackluster Baltimore Ravens offense in 2000 and led the team to the Lombardi Trophy.
This is not to say Aaron Rodgers is the sole piece of talent on the Packers roster, but he is a clear catalyst for their recent success. The Packers are 42-22 since Rodgers became the full-time starter in 2008 and have one Super Bowl title in that time span.
Plus, Rodgers holds the record for not only the best QB rating in a single season, but he is the all-time QB-rating leader in both the regular season and the postseason.
What about Tom Brady or Drew Brees?
There is a fair argument that can be made in favor of Tom Brady or Drew Brees as the best overall player in the NFL. After all, both also play the game's most demanding position, both have Super Bowl rings and both consistently lead their teams to double-digit win seasons.
But, let me ask you this. If the three are on a somewhat even playing field right now, shouldn't the youngest one be considered the best?
Rodgers is only 28 years old and yet has already reached the level of the 35-year-old Brady and 33-year-old Brees.
Rodgers has thrown 131 TD passes compared to just 37 interceptions in his four years as the Packers starter. And he has a 104.1 QB rating for his career.
With most of his NFL career still in front of him, and a talent-rich Packers offense that can only ensure his continued success, Rodgers is undeniably the best player in the NFL today.
Aaron Rodgers is not a one-hit wonder and since he has already claimed the Lombardi Trophy, no Dan Marino-esque questions will ever lead to an asterisk being placed next to any assessments of his career.
Rodgers has overcome his draft-day troubles and Brett Favre questions to become the league's best QB, and the best overall player the NFL has to offer.
A title he will not likely relinquish anytime soon.
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