For years, the NFL landscape has been similar.
The Steelers, Colts and Chargers pretty much owned the AFC North, West and South respectively. Yes, occasionally another team would win one of those divisions, but in most cases, it would not last long.
Since 2002, when the NFL broke the conferences into four different divisions, only the New England Patriots have dominated their division almost every year.
In 2002, the New York Jets, who were tied with the Dolphins and Patriots but won the tiebreaker for the East crown. In 2008, when Brady missed 15 games with a torn ACL, the East was won by the Miami Dolphins.
Every other year, the Patriots have owned the AFC East.
Yes, some of that credit has to go to coach Bill Belichick, and of course, some has to go to the other men that were on those teams with Brady. But make no mistake—if it were not for Tom Brady, the Patriots would not have ever been the team of the decade in the early 2000s.
When Aaron Rodgers entered the NFL draft in 2005, there was a lot of talk of who would be the first pick of the draft—Rodgers or Alex Smith.
The San Francisco 49ers decided to select Smith, and Rodgers fell in the first round from possibly the first pick all the way to the Green Bay Packers at pick 24.
Rodgers was going to have the benefit of being able to learn the game playing behind the legendary Brett Favre.
Rodgers did just that and was willing to hold the clipboard and learn the game, which is what he did through the 2007 season. In 2008, it was time for Rodgers to take the reigns and try to replace the legend.
Brady's first season vs. Rodgers' first season as a starter:
Brady (2001) - 264 of 413 / 2,843 yards / 18 TD, 12 INT / QB Rating of 86.5.
Rodgers (2008) - 341 of 536 / 4,038 yards / 28 TD, 13 INT / QB Rating of 93.8.
Now, some people would be quick to say that this season was more successful for Rodgers than Brady. Well, Brady actually missed the first game of 2001, and most of the second. It was when Drew Bledsoe was injured that Brady had to enter the game.
Rodgers had the entire offseason to get in rhythm with his team, and that without question would be the reason he had better numbers.
And, if you think that Rodgers had a better first season than Brady, look at this. The Packers would finish the season with a 6-10 record, landing them in third place in the NFC North.
In Brady's first season, the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
But, it is more than one season. If you look at the awards that Tom Brady has won throughout his career, the list is staggering.
Two-time NFL MVP
Two-time Super Bowl MVP
Fewest starts by 100th victory (131).
Most consecutive wins in postseason (10).
Most passing TDs (50 - 2007).
And there are 36 other awards Tom Brady has won. Currently, Aaron Rodgers has won the Super Bowl MVP once.
Tom Brady is considered one of the best that has ever played the game. Is he that same person that threw 50 TD passes? No. Is the team he is playing on as good? No.
If you look at the numbers this year comparing Rodgers and Brady, it would be hard not to give the nod to Rodgers as the better player.
Rodgers - 238 of 329 (72.3%) / 3,168 yards / 31 TD, 4 INT / 128.8 QB rating.
Brady - 238 of 360 (66.1) / 3,032 yards / 23 TD, 10 INT / 102.0 QB rating.
Now, this shows that Rodgers is superior this season, right? Not quite.
If you look at the defenses that the Packers have faced, and where they rank in the NFL, they are:
The Packers have played two teams that are in the top 10 in the NFL in pass defense. Other than that, the best they played is ranked 17th. That averages out to 18th ranked.
If you look at the defenses that the Patriots have faced, you will see that Brady has had much harder competition.
Jets - 6th
With four games against top 10 passing defenses, Brady has played against much superior competition than Aaron Rodgers.
Then, if you look at the players that are surrounding these two QB's, you would have to say that the advantage would also go to the Packers.
This article is not meant to bash Aaron Rodgers, or to glorify Tom Brady. I am not a fan of either team, and both of these teams have tormented my Steelers. The Packers won the Super Bowl last year against my team, while Tom Brady has sent the Steelers home in the AFC Championship game on numerous occasions.
But, the talk of Rodgers in the best of the best conversation is way too premature for me.
Rodgers is having a great season this year. There is no questioning that. But to look at the career of Tom Brady, Rodgers has a long way to go before he even catches up to him.