Heading into the 2008 season, Aaron Rodgers was arguably under more scrutiny than any player in the history of the National Football League. A former first-round pick, Rodgers had not accomplished much more than two season-ending injuries during his four years in the league. Many fans believed that legend Brett Favre had been kicked out of town by management, and now all eyes were on Rodgers to see if he could follow in the footsteps of the team’s biggest legend.
The bullseye on Rodgers’ chest only expanded when he was rewarded with a huge contract extension in the middle of the season. Now the former Cal quarterback was not only the team’s quarterback, but the future as well. That season, Rodgers responded with a 4000-yard, 28-touchdown performance that brought a few more followers into his corner. Despite the six-win season, Rodgers showed the poise of a veteran quarterback and commanded the offense better than most expected.
Entering 2009, Rodgers has been the man from day one and is taking over a Packers team that is on the rise in the NFC North. Two weeks into the preseason, Rodgers is looking like a player ready to go from “good” to “great”. Mike McCarthy’s West Coast Offense has done wonders for Rodgers, who ranked in the top ten in passing accuracy last season.
Also, the supporting cast that Rodgers is working with this season is one of the fastest and deepest in the league. Rodgers and number one wide receiver Greg Jennings are forming an excellent chemistry that could become one of the best combos over the next few seasons. Veteran Donald Driver has been the beneficiary on Rodgers’ accurate arm and still runs the slant prettier than most. James Jones and Jordy Nelson are both up-and-coming youngsters that will mesh with Rodgers as time goes on.
A new weapon for Rodgers to use this season is tight end Jermichael Finley, who is expected to move into a starter’s role, or at the very least see the majority of the snaps at the tight end position. All these receiving weapons, combined with an improved run game and offensive line, make Rodgers a prime candidate to move into elite status.
In his first preseason game, Rodgers went five for 10 for 102 yards and a touchdown. He looked patient and under control and found Driver for a 52-yard score in the first quarter. Against Buffalo last week, he was almost perfect, going eight for nine for 98 yards and two beautiful touchdown passes to Driver and Jennings. His only incompletion was a drop by Driver on Rodgers’ eighth attempt. He has looked crisp, under control, and confident in every throw he makes.
More so than the success that he has seen in the first two preseason games, Rodgers is going to succeed because he has put in the time. He has been the typical story of grooming a quarterback for a few years instead of throwing him into live fire right away. He was able to both stay healthy throughout the whole year and play with minor injuries, showing his true competitiveness.
This year it is Aaron Rodgers’ team. Last year, a lot of the locker room was torn on whether or not Rodgers was the right decision over Favre. The 17-year-veteran was coming off a year in which he led the team to the NFC Championship Game, and Rodgers was in the direct middle of it all.
While many could see why Favre going to Minnesota and playing the Packers and Rodgers twice a season could be a distraction to the Green Bay signal caller, most of the pressure is on Favre, if anything. Rodgers knows that he has succeeded in the league while Favre has struggled over the last few years. It will be important to see who comes out on top in those games, but no one is comparing Favre’s stats to Rodgers’ anymore.
As the 2009 season begins, Rodgers is the team leader and has the respect of everyone in Green Bay. The fans know that he can perform at a high level and was definitely the better option than Favre. His teammates know that he is going to fight for them at all times and put the team is a spot to win every week, and management knows he has the tools to become one of the best in the game. Everything is in place for Rodgers to progress as his career goes on, and it is looking like this will be the year that he makes that jump.