The debate is over. The book is slammed shut. Farewell, Brett.
However you want to put it, by leading his team to victory over Seattle 48-10 Sunday (and with the Giants losing to the Panthers 41-9), quarterback Aaron Rodgers has led the Packers to the postseason in only his second year as a starter. It’s a noticeable accomplishment in its own right.
In Green Bay, though, it’s so much more than that.
After two years of bickering within the Packer fanbase regarding what should have happened with Brett Favre, Packer Nation can finally unite behind Rodgers. Most fans were lining up behind Rodgers at the beginning of last year, but there was still a very small holdout amongst some fans given Favre’s performance with the Vikings this year.
With the Packers qualifying for the playoffs this year, the strong majority of Packer fans can now say to that small group, “Get on or get out!” and say it with legitimacy.
It’s the bottom line now and there is no doubt about it: The train is going full steam ahead and we will be going with or without you. It’s a statement that would bring tears to Mike McCarthy, who told Favre last season, “the train had left the station.”
Look at Rodgers’ statistics this season: 29 touchdown passes, four rushing touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. Just think; he did all this despite being sacked more than any other quarterback this season.
These numbers, and more importantly the Packers’ record, show what Rodgers is capable of. Rodgers put up solid numbers last year and improved this year.
In fact, Rodgers is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons as a starter. Look out, NFL.
Just think; if the Packers had a competent offensive line to start the season...the Vikings would instead have quite a battle on their hands.
They say hindsight is always 20/20 and the same rings true here. Packer fans no doubt will look at certain things this year and wonder, "What if?"
That said, enough of looking through the rearview mirror. Talk of a second “dark age” coming for the Packers after Favre left can officially be silenced. The franchise is in much better hands now than it was after Vince Lombardi resigned after winning Super Bowl II.
However, that does not mean McCarthy and Ted Thompson are exempt from criticism. They both made decisions this past year that deserved to be scrutinized. Scrutinizing is what fans do and should continue to do. It shows they care.
Now, Packer fans who have been in Rodgers’ corner all along should not be yelling, “I told you so!” to other fans that were not. Packer fans are better than that.
Instead, welcome them with open arms, accept any apologies (even though they shouldn’t be needed), and go forward as one. Cheeseheads take their reputation as "the best fans in any sport" quite seriously, and despite taking a slight hit over “Favre-gate,” there is no reason to think that reputation won’t hold into the foreseeable future.
So with Packer Nation united again, what will these past two seasons look like when examined 10, 20, or even 30 years from now? Tough call, as none of us can see into the future.
They will likely be seen as a civil war that ended up doing no long-term damage to the franchise. Thompson, despite any other questionable personnel decisions, will probably be lauded for standing up to a likely Hall of Fame quarterback and telling him he is not above the team. It will be used as a classic example of “what is right is not always popular.”
No matter what happens from here on out, Thompson made the right call last summer.
If there are any doubters of Rodgers left after this season, the argument they are likely to make is that he is a “fluke.” Wrong.
One good year followed by a few bad ones makes that good year a fluke. Two good seasons, in which the second showed great improvement over a pretty good first, are no flukes.
In fact, there is one word that would sum up the two seasons Rodgers had and it is one that will likely continue to describe his play throughout his career: excellence.
What remains to be seen is how Rodgers handles himself in the playoffs. Given everything he went through to become the starter and how he kept a level head during last season’s shenanigans, Packer fans should have nothing to worry about. His emotions will be kept in check and he won’t make the play that costs you the game.
The haze that settled in over Lambeau Field last summer has finally cleared. The albatross that has hung over Packers management’s head has been cut loose. Fans and media alike can finally stop debating about Favre, which will likely come as a great relief to those who run local sports talk shows.
The Favre era is officially over and the Rodgers era has arrived in a blaze of glory. This is Rodgers’ team and we are his and the team's fans.
Enjoy it, Packer fans. The Pack is back in the playoffs and without Favre under center.
It’s going to be OK.
In fact, it’s better than OK. It’s GREAT!