While they exhibit different qualities in their games, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre have shared similar career paths.
By: Jim Boyce
I still remember where I was the day Brett Favre “retired” from the Green Bay Packers. I was in Physics class, it was my senior year of high school, and the news floored just about everyone I talked to that day. I skipped my lunch later that day to watch Favre’s press conference with a couple other guys and a teacher cool enough to let us do so. I remember getting choked up when Favre began to cry as I, like everyone else in Wisconsin, had grown so attached to him over the years. My focus shifted shortly after however, to what Aaron Rodgers could bring to the table. I am a naturally optimistic person when it comes to my sports teams, I thought Rodgers could succeed. That being said I could not have predicted he would play at the level he has since taking over the starting QB job at 1265 Lombardi Ave.
With Brett Favre headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in a couple weeks I could not help but reflect upon his career, and also the career of Rodgers. While the individual style they bring to the QB position is different, Rodgers career thus far has paralleled Favre’s in several ways.
Both players arrived to Green Bay under somewhat unusual circumstances. Brett Favre, after a forgettable rookie season in Atlanta, was traded to Green Bay for a first round pick. If that was not enough of a gamble by then new GM Ron Wolf, the fact that Wolf signed off on the trade despite Favre failing his physical certainly was. Obviously that worked out very well for Wolf and the Packers, but there was no shortage of risk in trading for Favre back in 1992.
Rodgers arrived to Green Bay in different, yet equally bizarre fashion. Considered a top five pick throughout the draft process, Green Bay and then new GM Ted Thompson probably figured they had no chance at drafting Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Yet 23 selections went by with teams passing on Rodgers for reasons that we may never truly know (Thanks San Francisco).
Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson were both new GM’s who hitched their futures to that of young QB’s that other teams had deemed questionable. The payoff for each was everything they could have possibly imagined.
Both Favre and Rodgers won the Super Bowl at age 27, Favre in 1996 and Rodgers in 2010. Each played magnificently in their Super Bowl victories. Rodgers was MVP of the 2010 game, Favre likely would have been MVP of the 96 game if not for an extraordinary performance from Desmond Howard.
From a personal standpoint, both QB’s have put up record breaking numbers. Favre was league MVP three times in a row from 1995-1997. Aaron Rodgers has won league MVP twice, 2011 and 2014, and likely will remain a candidate to win a 3rd MVP throughout the next handful of seasons.
THE QUEST FOR A SECOND TITLE
This might be the most interesting aspect of each QB’s career, and is just as much a reflection of the team around them as it is about Favre and Rodgers themselves. Each QB has faced similar struggles in getting that elusive second Super Bowl win.
Obviously Favre’s book is closed, but he came painfully close to a second ring on several occasions. The Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos is still hard to talk about, as Green Bay went into that game a clear favorite. In 2003 Green Bay jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the NFC’s top seed, the Philadelphia Eagles, in the divisional round. After Mike Sherman’s decision not to go for a 4th and 1 to potentially run out the clock, the defense yielded the infamous 4th and 26 play. A Favre interception in overtime and suddenly Green Bay was heading home. In 2007 the Packers hosted the NFC Championship game against the Giants, they played poorly and missed a good shot at appearing in the Super Bowl. While this will make all of us angry, Favre also had a good shot at a ring with the hated Vikings in 2009, but Minnesota literally fumbled away the NFC title game in New Orleans.
Since winning the big game after the 2010 season, Rodgers has endured some similar heartbreaks. After going 15-1 in 2011, the Packers more or less didn’t show up to play at home against the Giants and got beat up 37-20 in the divisional round. In 2014 the Packers held a 19-7 lead with 4 minutes left against heavily favored Seattle in the NFC title game. That choke job remains one of the more baffling I have ever seen.
I’m not suggesting the Packers would have won the Super Bowl each and every year, but in my opinion these instances were the best shots the Packers had during the Favre and Rodgers eras. With each QB the Packers were almost always a playoff team, but while this may sound spoiled it would be slightly disappointing if the Favre-Rodgers era ends with two Super Bowl titles. Rodgers has quite a few years left to change that narrative however, so there is no need for doom and gloom just yet.
In closing, Packers fans have been blessed to watch Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. The ugliness of Favre’s exit in 2008 may have caused some to choose sides, but it shouldn’t. We are witnessing 25 plus seasons of hall of fame QB play which most fan bases would kill for. Brett Favre’s plaque in Canton is well deserved and I can’t wait for his Hall of Fame speech. In the not too distant future, but hopefully not too soon either, Aaron Rodgers will join his predecessor in football immortality.