Nov. 28, 2010: Aaron Rodgers sprints away in the Georgia Dome. He's gunning for a playoff legacy on par with Packers legends.
“Rodgers vs. Ryan—between the two NFL quarterbacks—who is better?”
That’s the question I wanted to ask in the headline, but I used the one you see. I hope you enjoyed it. As for who is better, I’ll give you my opinion somewhere in the friendly analysis within this column.
An analysis and comparison is especially appropriate now. The two teams the quarterbacks lead are going head up in the NFC playoffs on Saturday night.
One of them is going home as an NFL Divisional Playoffs winner for the first time. The other one will have next year to look forward to. With a win, Aaron Rodgers could fall under .500 or go to (2-1) in the playoffs.
Falcons coach Mike Smith and Ryan were the first rookie head coach and quarterback combination to make the playoffs since 1945. They’re looking to beat the team behind the Lombardi Trophy and add a title to their own resumes in Atlanta.
Green Bay, Wisconsin—“Title, Town, U.S.A.”
Since 1967—that’s how long they’ve been having Super Bowls. The Green Bay Packers won the first two. Winning the NFL Championship—the precursor to the Super Bowl—in 1961, '62 and ’65, they were the team of the ‘60s. Bart Starr was named the MVP of both Super Bowl wins.
Except for tight end, the Packers have a Hall of Fame player for every position—including Starr and two head coaches: Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi.
Rodgers replaced Brett Favre—a future Hall of Fame inductee—and barely missed a beat.
He’s been in rhythm with his receiving corps almost ever since. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 4,000 yards in his first two starting seasons. In this his third, the 27 year old threw for 3,922. I’m guessing Packers fans aren’t missing Favre right now.
It would be the final seal of approval on Rodgers replacing him if he joins the Packers championship legacy. Stranger things have ironically happened on the road to the title.
Matt Ryan owns a title: NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year (2008).
Scooped up at No. 3 overall by the Falcons, after a strong preseason he got the starting job over Chris Redman. He became the first Falcons rookie quarterback to do so since Steve Bartkowski in 1975—before the bicentennial.
Smith probably wishes Ryan could be his quarterback for a centennial. In their first NFL regular season game together, Ryan’s first pass went for a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins. The last quarterback to throw a touchdown on his first NFL pass was Michael Bishop in 2000. Mike Smith looked oh so right didn't he? So far so smooth.
The Packers drafted Rodgers in the right spot with the 24th pick in the first round in 2005. He didn’t become a full-time starter, though, until 2008—like Ryan. He sat behind the seasoned Brett Favre until No. 4 got traded to the Jets and signed with the Vikings.
Sacked only 23 times this season, Ryan made every start. He and Joe Flacco were the first rookie quarterbacks to lead their teams to the playoffs after starting all 16 regular season games.
Ryan is also the only rookie quarterback (except for Peyton Manning) to pass for over 3,000 yards in a single season. He racked 3,440 yards, 17 touchdowns (one rushing) and 11 interceptions in 2008.
In 2009, the Falcons posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. Make it three straight in 2010. At (13-3) they are the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Rodgers led his team to a No. 6 seed, but he missed a game due to a concussion. He was sacked 31 times in the regular season. For comparison, the interception prone Jay Cutler—prone in the back of our minds and on the turf—was sacked a league-leading 52 times.
In terms of his touchdown-interception ratio, Rodgers is 87-32 for his career with a 98.4 quarterback rating. He’s been to one Pro Bowl (2010) and started in it. Favre didn't make the roster.
How do you like Vick now? I’m sure a witty remark about karma playing a role would be good here, but I’m not a good enough writer to figure it out.
“Matty Ice” has quietly written the Falcons perfect transition away from Michael Vick. A four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, Vick is at home—possibly reading this article. Correct me if I’m wrong, Mike.
On January 31, 2003, you led the Falcons to an upset victory over the heavily favored Packers by the score of 27-7. You ended their undefeated playoff record at Lambeau Field.
In 2005, you helped win the Falcons last NFC Divisional playoff game, 47-17, over the Rams. It was Atlanta’s second ever playoff game at the Georgia Dome, which opened in 1992. It was their first home playoff game since 1999. You set a playoff record for quarterbacks with 119 yards rushing. You were good money.
After reportedly filing for bankruptcy back in the day, rumors are Vick is living on a strict budget these days. His replacement in Atlanta has been good money so far. After he got drafted, he signed a six-year contract worth $72 million with $34.7 million in guaranteed greenbacks.
Dough boy Aaron Rodgers signed six-year $65 million contract extension through 2010 on October 31, 2008. This season, he threw 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
His financial future should be secure—like Ryan’s—but stranger things have happened on the road to a title.
People talk a lot about Vick and the quarterback rushing crown he wears, but Rodgers can run it when necessary. This season, he had 356 yards rushing and four touchdowns (5.6 yard per carry).
As the top-rated passer in the NFC, his quarterback rating was 101.2. He also had a 261.5 passing yards a game average.
Ryan had a 91.0 quarterback rating this season. While he passed for 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions—almost identical to Rodgers—he’s not as good a runner. Or at least, he has yet to show it. He only rushed for 122 yards (2.7 yard average) and zero touchdowns. His career passer rating is 86.9. Rodgers’ is 98.4.
They’re about equal in terms of playing experience. Who is the better quarterback between these two above average ballers? NFL types already know—it’s whoever wins the next game.
What do you think?