Aaron Rodgers Leaves Complicated Packers Legacy, Departures Like Favre – Green Bay Packers Blog
- March 17, 2023
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GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — Aaron Rodgers differed from his predecessor as quarterback for the Green Bay Packers in many ways — from the way he played to his public life.
It was intentional.
He wasn’t a ruthless gunslinger, the person who defined Brett Favre, whose interceptions were as spectacular as his touchdowns.
Rodgers often didn’t let outsiders get to know him until much later in his career — and then mostly only through his weekly appearances on The Pat McAfee Show — unlike Favre, who lived like an open book and shared everything about his addiction to painkillers in early career to grieving the unexpected death of his father to his wife’s recovery from cancer.
Rodgers even conducted his press conferences differently. While Favre preferred the podium in the media room and often shot his lip, Rodgers enjoyed chatting with reporters at his locker, where he gave thoughtful answers.
However, the ending looks like it will be the same for both of them.
Favre is gone, and it appears Rodgers will be too — leaving Green Bay via a deal with the New York Jets after either originally retiring (Favre) or speaking publicly about his retirement (Rodgers).
Rodgers left little doubt during a nearly hour-long appearance on McAfee’s show Wednesday that his days with the Packers are over and he’s ready to be traded to the Jets.
Rodgers said he went into the darkness for his final meditative retreat, “90 percent retired and 10 percent playing.” He figured at that point he could come back to Green Bay and play if he wanted to. But when he emerged from the darkness, he felt that something had changed.
While the Packers side of the story is likely to be told after a deal is in place, Rodgers laid his cards on the table during this lengthy interview.
“The Packers would like to continue,” Rodgers said. “They told me that in so many words. They have communicated this directly to other people. Because I still have that fire and want to play, and I’d love to play in New York, it’s just a matter of doing that at this point.
Like Brett Favre before him, Aaron Rodgers left Green Bay not to retire from the game but to pursue his career elsewhere. Stacy Revere/Getty Images
For all the sharpness that triggered Favre’s departure, it should not be forgotten that he actually wanted to return to the Packers after his brief retirement – only to be turned away and finally traded. A vocal majority supported Favre, blaming then-general manager Ted Thompson and team president Mark Murphy.
Rodgers has been vague about whether he would actually have preferred a return to the Packers, but he can argue that the Packers pushed him to do so by trading to quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, and he’d have a case.
But Murphy made it clear last week that the Packers were ready to move on regardless of what Rodgers wanted.
While Favre didn’t hide his displeasure at how things turned out for him in Green Bay, Rodgers took a softer stance.
“I have nothing but love in my heart for every Packer fan and everyone who works in the organization,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “My life is better because of my time in Green Bay. But we just have to look at the reality. You want to continue. They don’t want me to come back and that’s okay. They are ready to move on with Jordan. That’s great.”
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That ending tarnished Rodgers’ legacy, at least with the Packers. During Rodgers’ offseason hiatus in 2021, when he threatened to retire before ever playing for the Packers again, Murphy revealed that the late Thompson, who drafted Rodgers in 2005, once named the quarterback.a complicated guy.”
Now that Rodgers is set to play elsewhere, the same word — complicated — can be used to describe his Green Bay legacy.
If he’s not the greatest regular-season quarterback of all time, at least he’s in the group photo. The fourth NFL MVP honor he received in 2021 means only Peyton Manning has won more (five).
But the MVP is a regular-season award.
The playoffs, at least since the Packers won Super Bowl XLV to close out the 2010 season, tell a different story. Rodgers has had a 7-9 record as a postseason starter since his lone championship. Those 16 straight postseason starts without making the Super Bowl represent the longest streak by a quarterback in NFL history. And that streak includes a 0-4 record in NFC title games since defeating the Chicago Bears, who defeated the Packers to their only Super Bowl under Rodgers.
It might have been heartbreaking to hear former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan’s take on Rodgers after the Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round as the NFC’s No. 1 in 2021.
“The guy’s legacy is the fact that he came up short,” Ryan said, adding that Rodgers was the “best pitcher in football I’ve ever seen.”
After all, the Packers made it to the playoffs this season.
Last season, Rodgers couldn’t even get them there — he lost to the Detroit Lions in a win-and-get-in game in the regular-season finals at Lambeau Field. It capped perhaps his worst season as a starter. He threw almost as many interceptions (12) as in the previous three seasons combined (13). After consecutive MVP seasons, Rodgers threw for fewest yards (3,695) in each season in which he played at least 15 games. He didn’t have a single 300-yard pass play. He’s never had a season in less than three games for 300 yards.
He didn’t miss a single start despite playing with a broken right thumb for most of the season. He also dealt with rib and knee injuries. And his supporting cast was weaker after Green Bay traded receiver Davante Adams.
Whatever happens to the Jets, assuming a trade can be closed, Rodgers’ place in the Packers’ record books is as follows: He’s the franchise leader in touchdown passes (475), completion percentage (65.3) and passers -Rated (103.6) and ranks second behind only Favre in passing yards (59,055) and completions (5,001).
His 475 touchdown passes ranks fifth in NFL history and he has the best touchdown-to-interception ratio (475-105) in league history. He made 10 Pro Bowls and was selected as a first-team All-Pro quarterback four times (2011, 2014, 2020, and 2021 — all his MVP seasons).
“I would say that I’m hands down the best player in franchise history,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “I’m certainly in conversation.”
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Only four times in NFL history has a quarterback thrown at least 35 touchdowns with five or fewer interceptions in a season: three by Rodgers and one by Tom Brady. Rodger’s touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9.4 over the past two seasons is the best in a two-season span in NFL history, with at least 1,000 attempts, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
However, it’s not Rodgers’ fault that he played in the same era as Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion who set an incredibly high bar. Drew Brees faced the same situation and won the same number of Super Bowls as Rodgers, but not as many seem to think Brees is underperforming.
When Rodgers and Brees were set to face off in the 2020 season, ESPN used 2,278 words to explain why these two legendary quarterbacks had only won a single Super Bowl each. Three would have been enough: “It’s really difficult.”
“Is that the barometer?” said former Packers general manager Ron Wolf at the time. “Is that the only barometer of success in the National Football League, whether you’ve won a Super Bowl, two Super Bowls or not? Does that make you a great player whether you’ve won a Super Bowl or not? If you’re really a good player, it shouldn’t matter.”
Of course, it was Wolf who offered that infamous line more than a decade earlier after the Packers failed to repeat themselves as Super Bowl champions after the 1997 season: “We’re a year-old wonder, just a fart in the wind.”
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Perhaps it’s because Packers fans have seen two Super Bowl saves in 31 seasons with Rodgers or Brett Favre as quarterback in Green Bay — a town that calls itself “Titletown.”
There’s long been a notion that the Packers didn’t do enough to back either quarterback, but there’s also plenty of evidence that the quarterbacks did enough to protect themselves from further success — Favre with his Preference for interceptions and Rodgers with performances like the one against the 49ers in 2021.
Even Manning — perhaps the only quarterback with more regular-season success than Rodgers — won a second Super Bowl despite having to switch teams.
If Rodgers isn’t fully acknowledged for his accomplishments now, perhaps that will change over time. Such was the case for Favre, who was booed twice at Lambeau Field when he returned in a Minnesota Vikings uniform after his only season with the Jets. Now it’s like Favre has never played for any other team, let alone a bitter rival.
Rodgers’ departure may not be that troubling to the masses. There were calls for Love to replace Rodgers last season when things turned sour.
It’s now time to find out if those screams were justified.
“Jordan is going to be a great player,” Rodgers said. “He’s a damn great boy. He’s had a really good year this year and has been getting better and better on the Look team. He has a bright future ahead of him. They have a good young team. I have so many great friends on this team that I will always be good friends with. But the fact of the matter is, with the franchise aging over the past 15 years, it’s time to get it right.
If Love fails to continue the franchise’s remarkable streak of elite quarterback games and the Packers fade back into the darkness they experienced in the 1970s and ’80s, then perhaps those who were upset by Rodgers’ departure will be even more so be upset.
If Love does what Rodgers did and proves himself a worthy replacement for a legend, then maybe it doesn’t matter what Rodgers does from now until he retires.