When the final seconds tick off the clock of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on the night of Feb. 3, 2013, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will once again be champions of the world. The Packers will win their fifth Lombardi Trophy—the second with Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy—and Rodgers will be a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
When that happens, Rodgers, already recognized as one of the best quarterbacks of this era, will enter the pantheon of greatest quarterbacks of all time alongside Brady, Manning and a select few others, and perhaps—dare I say it—above Brady and Manning.
Here’s why Green Bay will capture another Super Bowl crown, and why Rodgers is poised to enter rarefied air at the quarterback position:
They're Healthy and Able to Overcome Weaknesses
Yet again, McCarthy has the Packers poised for a run at the Lombardi Trophy.
The Packers defense is healthy for the first time in months. Charles Woodson is back, and his on-field leadership cannot be overstated. Clay Matthews has six sacks in the four games since he returned from injury. Rookie Casey Hayward has been a revelation at the cornerback position.
Rodgers and the offense seem ready to explode. All the playmakers are back and healthy. Rodgers will have a full arsenal at his disposal heading into the rest of the postseason.
With that said, the Packers aren’t perfect, and there are facets of the team that certainly give me pause.
The lack of a run game is troubling, but not extremely disconcerting. Remember, Green Bay didn’t muster much of a ground game on its incredible run to Super Bowl XLV; so, I don’t think it’ll hold the Packers back on their run to Super Bowl XLVII.
I also worry about Green Bay’s problems in pass protection. This season, the offensive line has too often resembled a moldy piece of Swiss cheese. Rodgers was sacked 51 times in the regular season, and another three in the Packers’ wild-card victory over the Minnesota Vikings last week.
However, I believe the greatness of Rodgers and the battle-tested Packers defense will be enough to compensate for the team’s issues.
The Road to New Orleans
Green Bay will beat San Francisco on Saturday. I just don’t see Colin Kaepernick taking down Mike McCarthy and the Packers in his first career playoff start.
Kaepernick has been good since taking over for an injured (and then healthy) Alex Smith, but, as I wrote earlier this week, his numbers declined as the season wore on; he wasn’t as accurate and his rushing numbers waned.
While my trust level in Kaepernick isn’t high, the main reason that the Packers will defeat the 49ers is the play of Rodgers.
In the excellent piece 60 Minutes produced on Rodgers, you received a mirror into the soul of one of the world’s best athletes and a look at what motivates him. In Rodgers’ case, it’s proving everyone wrong.
Rodgers is a sensitive guy; his teammates have said as much. He takes things personally. I’m not criticizing him. Whatever allows him to perform at the MVP-level that he’s consistently at is fine with me.
But, you just know that it burns him up when he thinks about the 49ers selecting Alex Smith first overall in the 2005 draft—starting Rodgers’ precipitous drop to No. 25. When you couple that with the fact that Rodgers both grew up a 49ers fan and attended college at nearby Cal, the revenge factor is through the roof.
Oh, and lest we forget, the 49ers absolutely smashed the Packers in Week 1, 30-22, at Lambeau Field, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. Say, you can’t imagine that Rodgers will be looking for payback, can you?
With all of this in mind, there’s no doubt that Rodgers and the Packers will emerge from Candlestick Park victorious.
Think about it: Would you really pick Matt Ryan and the Falcons to beat a red-hot Packers team, especially after the way Rodgers eviscerated the Falcons in the 2010 divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome?
Could Russell Wilson really lead the Seahawks to victory at Lambeau, without the help of the incompetent, clueless replacement referees? I don’t think so.
The Packers will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVII.
It’s there that Rodgers will take his rightful place amongst the all-time greats in the history of the sport.
60 Minutes from Immortality
When Rodgers defeats Brady or Manning to win his second Super Bowl, there will be no questioning his ascendance into the discussion of all-time great quarterbacks.
Rodgers has been the Packers' full-time starter for five seasons. In those five campaigns, he’s tossed a staggering 170 touchdown passes. In comparison, it took both Manning and Brady until their seventh seasons to throw 170 touchdown passes.
Rodgers has now started seven playoff games. In those seven games, he’s thrown 16 touchdown passes against only four interceptions. In comparison, Brady had seven touchdown passes against three interceptions in his first seven starts in the tournament, while Manning had 14 touchdown passes against seven interceptions.
There is no questioning the greatness of Brady and/or Manning. They are two of the finest football players I’ve had the pleasure of watching, and are obvious first-ballot Hall of Famers.
But, historically, if Rodgers is able to defeat one of them head-to-head this year in the Super Bowl, we’ll be forced to view this debate through green-and-gold colored glasses.
As great as Brady is, he’s lost two Super Bowls. While Manning has won a Super Bowl, he’s also lost one, and his playoff woes prior to winning Super Bowl XLI are well documented.
With three more wins in this year’s tournament, Rodgers would raise his postseason record to 8-2, with two Super Bowl titles and no Super Bowl losses.
I believe that will happen, and when it does, Rodgers moves out of the label of “one of the best quarterbacks in the league”, and into the pantheon of “greatest quarterbacks of all-time.”
And, if he stays healthy throughout the rest of his career, he’ll be on track to surpass both Brady and Manning.
Will Aaron Rodgers ever be viewed on the same level as Brady and Manning?
For the past 10 years, it’s been about Brady and Manning. Manning and Brady. Those two quarterbacks have defined this generation of football.
I’m here to say: Move over, guys. Make room for Rodgers.
After all, he’s going to go down as one of the very best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Nick Kostos is the executive producer of the "SiriusXM Blitz", hosted by Rich Gannon and Adam Schein, on SiriusXM NFL Radio. You can follow Nick on Twitter.