The Saints are coming off 2009 as the defending Super Bowl champions, and Drew Brees has placed himself in the discussion of who's the best QB in the NFL along with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers climbed into the elite QB and top 5 QB discussion after improving in his second year starting from his first year. He's still overshadowed by the previously mentioned QBs though, but the following reasons state why he will get into the spotlight as the NFL's best QB.
First, let's go over the Brett Favre issue. Yes, the Vikings beat the Packers twice after Favre joined them, and congratulations to him on that, but last season for him was much easier than this year will be. Firstly, the Vikings had the second easiest schedule in the league. Secondly, Favre had Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin healthy, and he didn't have a hurt ankle that he'll have to worry about this year. Rodgers has an improved offensive line, and he has his receiving corps back, and Jermichael Finley looks ready to establish himself as an elite NFL tight end, who the Packers didn't have in the first half of the season. The Vikings won't sweep the Packers again, and in my previous article, I stated the Packers would finish ahead of the Vikings, so superior stats and more wins will definitely make Rodgers better than Favre, and Ted Thompson's critics will be silenced once and for all.
As I mentioned earlier, Manning, Brady, and Brees are both considered to be the NFL's best QB. Brady has had a Hall of Fame-caliber career, but he suffered a torn ACL in the 2008 season, and he didn't seem to back in full form last year. He seems like he'll improve this season. Manning led the Colts to the Super Bowl last season but fell short. Both of those QBs are known for being clutch, although some people would beg to differ about Manning.
Aaron Rodgers' critics say he isn't clutch, and that was true about his first season, but is it really fair to judge a QB on not being clutch in his first year starting? He did in fact show some clutch moments in 2009. For example, he threw the winning TD pass in the opener against the Bears. He had plenty of would've been clutch moments to go along with that, like the game against the Steelers. It's the defense's fault for allowing the winning TD pass in the last second, as Rodgers threw the go ahead TD in his final drive. He also led an amazing comeback in the Wild Card Game against the Cardinals when they were behind 31-10. Yes, Rodgers fumbled on the final play, but all young QBs experience growing pains, and if the defense had performed decently, the Packers would've won. Many of the greatest QBs ever have lacked clutch ability in their first few years starting. Rodgers will show more clutch ability in his third year.
Another reason Rodgers has critics is the number of times he was sacked last year and his problems on holding the ball too long. That's a reasonable argument, but much of those problems stemmed from the subpar offensive line, which improved in the second half of the season, and Rodgers' sack number decreased. His problem holding the ball too long is a minor issue that's correctable, and he seems to have corrected it. He's never been sacked this preseason, and he's doing excellent at getting rid of the ball quicker, as I noticed in the game against the Colts, so his sacks should defintely go down, and an upgraded offensive line helps matters a lot. Look for him to improve his numbers.
One thing that Rodgers can do that the other elite QBs can't is use his feet. To go along with his excellent passing stats(4,434 yards, 30 TD, 7 int, 103.2 rating), he had 316 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. He's a dual threat, and the only dual threat with excellent passing ability. Vince Young and David Garrard are mediocre passers.
Another thing that not many football fans know about Rodgers is that he led the NFL in 3rd-down passing with 1,710 yards, 14 TDs, zero interceptions, and a 133.5 rating. Plus, he's excellent outside the pocket. Is 3rd-down passing not clutch?
Nobody would've said that Drew Brees would be the best QB in the NFL before the 2009 season. They would've said Peyton Manning would be, but Brees beat him, and he didn't throw 16 interceptions like Manning did. Rodgers definitely doesn't throw interceptions either, but we all know who does at the worst times. I think the Packers will improve their defense, win the NFC North, and make a deep playoff run as they already have a potent offense, which will help Rodgers' case as the NFL's best QB. I'm by no means saying he'll be better overall than Brees, Manning, Brady, or Favre as they have all had Hall of Fame careers, but in the 2010 season. All Rodgers needs to do is throw the ball away quicker, which he's shown impressive improvement on, and more experience and awareness will lead to him being more clutch. With those, he'll be right there with Manning, Brees, and Brady.
I believe that he will have a similar season to Drew Brees, and Rodgers even said he's modeling himself after him, and there's no doubting his work ethic and determination. Right now, he is still behind Brees, Manning, Brady, and Favre, but I believe he will take the next step forward and vault himself into the debate of who the best QB is.
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