I want to start by saying I was among the few Packer fans who applauded when Aaron Rodgers plummeted on draft day and Green Bay had the forward thinking to draft him. I was literally talking to the TV with each passing pick, hoping he would fall.
Subsequently, I was one of the Packer fans who questioned whether Rodgers would ever be half the quarterback Brett Favre was after he struggled to assimilate in a back-up role to a man he seemed not to realize was a legend and state hero (until recently at least).
Somewhere along the line though, he figured it out. He had his struggles in pre-season, like every young quarterback does.
He got some hand-off duty playing behind the greatest iron man in the history of professional football and maybe all of sports. But somewhere in there, it clicked for the former Pac-10 standout.
He showed up on a Thursday night after Brett Favre went down with a mysterious injury during a pummeling at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. Luckily it was on NFL Network, so no one really saw it. In fact, I had to go to a local bar and watch.
What fans saw that night was not the cocky California boy who didn't take kindly to a back-up role. No, what we saw was the transformation of a young player ready to take the next step.
Of course, Favre came back the next game, and Rodgers resumed his clipboard holding. But life had taken an inescapable detour for Aaron Rodgers. He had proven he was ready to take over for the only quarterback a generation of Packer fans had ever known.
No one needs to be reminded of what followed, from the famous Favre interception that cost the Packers a chance at a Super Bowl that year, or the retirement, reinstatement, trade, re-retirement, and potential re- reinstatement although it's not a re- reinstatement because he never officially retired, just wanted to play somewhere else and now my head hurts.
In his first full season as a starter, Rodgers dazzled, finishing fourth in the league in passing yards while tossing more than twice as many touchdowns as interceptions.
The stats are nice. It was one of the greatest statistical seasons in Packers history, including anything No. 4 ever put up. But the final board said six wins and ten losses.
That just won't cut it in cheesehead country.
John Madden once talked about how great Favre was in terms of his ability to impact not just one game, but the entirety of a season. He would say that Brett Favre was so good, that by himself he was worth eight victories.
In his prime, he definitely was. It is A-Rod's turn to put himself in that class.
The Packers have five legitimate threats at the receiver position, not to mention a proven tight end to go along with an extremely talented young one.
The running game should be improved with the health of Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson, not to mention some stability on the offensive line. Coach Mike McCarthy loves the play-action pass, and it could really help improve the Packers pathetic red zone offense.
Without these things in place, Rodgers put up incredible numbers last season, despite battling injuries himself. The Packers lost a ton of close games and could have very easily been a playoff team.
There will be no excuses this year, especially now that you know who isn't going you know where.
When the defense gets a huge turnover, it's time to put it in the end zone instead of between the uprights. When the team gets in the red zone, it is time to score 6 instead of 3.
When the game is on the line and you need a field goal to win it, it's time to get to the 15-yard line, not the 35-yard line. When you have a man running down the seam, it's time to hit him in stride instead of off target so has to make a diving catch, nullifying a sure touchdown.
What's more than that Aaron Rodgers, it is time to live the kind of maturity and growth you've talked about since what's his name left Green Bay.
If you want to be talked about on a first-name basis like Brett, or Peyton, or Tom, then it is time to show you are worth eight victories a year.
It is time to show you can carry a team to a division crown, a playoff berth, and be a threat in the NFC despite living in the biggest shadow in franchise history.
Packer fans were scared to let Brett Favre play in Minnesota because of what it might mean for that offense and that team next door.
It means more to Green Bay.
Because if Aaron Rodgers could have matched Brett Favre blow for blow in a head to head match-up, then not only was Ted Thompson right in letting Brett go play in New York, but the Packers have taken the next step. Aaron Rodgers had taken the next step.
Rodgers won't have that burden now, but that is all the more reason why he ought to succeed. In fact, with the confidence of the QB's in Minny shattered, the Packers have as good a chance as any to win the North outright.
The fans at Lambeau cheering for the Green Bay Packers are the best fans in the world. Everyone says that, but it is only true in Green Bay.
They're ready for Aaron Rodgers to take the next step. They want him to. Aaron wants it too. He seems ready. Now all he has to do, is take it. The elusive next step.