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December

Aaron Rodgers at 30: Where He’s Been and Where He’s Going

Aaron Rodgers’ finest hour….for now.

I recently celebrated a milestone: I turned 30 in September. It was what I expected as I took stock of everything I had done in life up to that point.

Then an ever bigger surprise hit me: Aaron Rodgers is about to turn 30! (Rodgers and I are both proud members of the high school class of 2002)

It’s hard to believe Rodgers has now hit the big 3-0, a milestone in and of itself but perhaps it’s even more significant for an NFL quarterback.  Rodgers can no longer (and really hasn’t been for the past two years anyway) be considered one of the “young gun” quarterbacks in the league yet he also isn’t part of that “aging veteran” group either.

So where does that leave the Green Bay Packers quarterback? Well, that would mean he is in his prime.  Current injury aside, that should make any opposing defense shudder.

With his career arc perhaps at its peak, it’s time to take a look back at Rodgers’ career so far as well as what lies ahead for the 2011 NFL MVP.

This is Rodgers’ ninth year in the NFL but only his sixth season as the Packers’ starting quarterback. Given how much has occurred in his time in the league, it seems like Rodgers has been around forever yet hard to believe that he’s now in his thirties. It seems like it was just yesterday he took over for Brett Favre yet it’s like he’s always been around.

Such is the odyssey of Aaron Charles Rodgers.  It all starts with the 2005 draft.  Knowing what we know now, he had absolutely no business falling as far as he did in that draft.  Then again, if he hadn’t, would that chip on his shoulder that has propelled him to superstardom been as large had he ended up in San Francisco?  That’s a debate for another time.

Everyone knows what happened. Rodgers was expected by many to go with the first overall pick in the draft to the San Francisco 49ers where he would learn from an offensive coordinator named Mike McCarthy.  Instead, the 49ers drafted Alex Smith and Rodgers plummeted all the way to Green Bay at number 24.  Rodgers shook it off and Paul Tagliabue told him “good things come to those who wait.”

Those first two years in Green Bay, Rodgers could not have been too sure. Favre was still entrenched as the starter and that first year was rough for the rookie out of Cal.  Favre took little to no interest in tutoring Rodgers, saying it “wasn’t in (his) contract” to prepare Rodgers to play.

Mike Sherman was fired after a 4-12 season in 2005 and was replaced ironically by…McCarthy, the offensive coordinator Rodgers would have learned under in San Francisco.

Good things come to those who wait.

Favre’s first serious flirtation with retirement came after 2005, and after a lengthy delay he decided to give the McCarthy regime a shot.  After going 8-8 in 2006 where the Packers won four straight to close out the year, Favre fairly quickly decided to come back.

2007 was a magical year for Favre and the Packers. Favre played MVP-caliber football and Green Bay won the NFC North at 13-3. During a game in Dallas against the Cowboys, however, Favre went down and Rodgers got his first real extended NFL playing time.  Rodgers played brilliantly but the Packers still fell to Dallas and Favre started the next game, keeping his iron man streak intact.

No one knew that what Rodgers showed that day was only a glimpse of what lied ahead.

The 2007 season ended in heartbreak and Favre finally retired (for the moment).  Rodgers was now the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers and was in the most unenviable spot in football: the guy who followed Favre.

Then the Summer of Favre in 2008 happened.  No matter where you stood during that summer, poor Rodgers was caught in a crossfire he had no control over.  Favre eventually was traded to the New York Jets and the Packers sent a clear message: this was now Rodgers’ team.

The passionate Packer fan base however was not fully in Rodgers’ corner yet, however.  Before the Favre trade, every incompletion or interception in practice was greeted with either boos or sarcastic applause.  They didn’t appear to affect Rodgers on the surface, but those boos were some of the seeds that eventually sprouted into one of the best stretches a quarterback has had in NFL history.

Green Bay struggled to a 6-10 record in 2008, but Rodgers played brilliantly for the most part. He displayed poise and incredible accuracy as well as being much smarter with the football than his immediate predecessor.  By the time the Packers finished 11-5 in 2009 and made the playoffs (heartbreaking loss notwithstanding), Rodgers had basically won everyone over.

In 2010, the Packers won Super Bowl XLV thanks in large part to a brilliant march through the postseason by Rodgers. His performance in the divisional game against the Atlanta Falcons will go down as one of the best by a quarterback in an NFL playoff game.  Three weeks later, he was named Super Bowl XLV MVP in a feat no Packers quarterback since Bart Starr had achieved.

Rodgers followed that up with the best season ever by a Packers quarterback in 2011 and was named the NFL’s MVP. His 45-touchdown, seven interception season was downright dominant and was marred only by a loss in the divisional round against the Giants.

2012 saw more of the same as Rodgers continued to build a Hall of Fame-caliber career and he signed a contract making him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL.  2013 saw its ups and downs before Rodgers, behind a resurgent running game led by rookie Eddie Lacy, had the offense rolling as the Packers started the season 5-2.

Then Rodgers broke his collarbone and, boom, here we are.

Hard to believe all that has happened in nine years isn’t it?

Now that we have looked back at Rodgers’ career up to this point, what lies ahead for the quarterback?

Well, the end of 2013 has yet to be written. If Rodgers is able to play against the Falcons and the Packers somehow are able to get into the playoffs, this will be one of the finest hours in team history.   It would be a “phoenix rising from the ashes” tale for Rodgers and would help turn him from icon to legend.   Not to put any more pressure on him, mind you.

In fact, that’s what Rodgers will be building as he enters his thirties.  There have been few iconic quarterbacks in the NFL and even few of those go on to be considered truly legendary. Starr, Unitas, Montana, Elway, Marino, Peyton Manning, Brady, Favre.  Rodgers easily could join that list. He doesn’t even need to win another title per se to do it. He just needs to continue to win.

In order for Rodgers to do that, the Packers’ management staff needs to continue to surround him with talent.  Eddie Lacy finally gives Rodgers a star running back in the backfield and the quarterback’s chemistry with Jordy Nelson could very well rival that of Montana/Rice and Manning/Harrison.  It might sound crazy, but do you really want to count Rodgers out?

Of course, you also have to look at the current leadership of the Packers and consider it very likely will change.  General manager Ted Thompson is 60 years old and could retire within the next five years, much like Ron Wolf did.  McCarthy is in his eighth year with the team and given how coaches burn out sometimes when they are with one team (see: Andy Reid and Mike Shanahan), McCarthy may only be in Green Bay five more years as well, maybe even less.

Given how Rodgers has basically only played for McCarthy (he only spent one season under Sherman), that would perhaps be the biggest challenge that Rodgers has remaining to overcome. Tom Brady lucked out with Bill Belichick and it’s not uncommon to see players play for multiple coaches with the same team.

Now for the scariest thought of all: the Packers are only perhaps five to seven years away from drafting Rodgers’ successor (pause for screaming).  That means first post-Rodgers quarterback is roughly anywhere from a junior in high school to being in the seventh or eighth grade.

When that time comes, everyone will watch and see what Rodgers does. Will he do what Favre did to him and hopefully have that light a fire under his successor or will he do the opposite and help groom him?

No one knows, but knowing Rodgers’ personality it’s likely it will be the latter.  Rodgers has said he wants to go down as one of the best men in the league and grooming his successor will only help secure that legacy.

There is one other scenario that no one really wants to talk about: is it possible Rodgers finishes his career somewhere else than Green Bay?  In short, yes it is. No one thought it would happen to Favre and it did. Same for Peyton Manning. Tom Brady is the current exception to the rule, but you never know.

It sounds preposterous right now, but the NFL is a crazy business.  You never know what is around the corner. That’s what makes it so fun.

As for Rodgers, the next chapter has begun.  It’s up to him to write it. The first part has been an incredible story of perseverance and toughness. He’s shut up the critics (well, except for Skip Bayless) and has won the respect of players, coaches and fans all over the league. He’s well on his way to a spot in Canton.

He can secure it as he begins his thirties. 2013 may very well turn out to be a lost season, but it’s just one small stain on a canvas that is otherwise covered in brilliance.

All the pieces are there for a masterpiece of an NFL career. Now Rodgers just needs to put it together for us all to stand back and marvel at.

——————

Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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---- Get AddToAny

36 Responses to “Aaron Rodgers at 30: Where He’s Been and Where He’s Going”

  1. Razer says:

    I think that your point about management needing to surround Rodgers with talent is the key to this story. I fear that the experiments and projects on the O-line will be the governing factor on his success. He has taken a ton of hits behind chronically bad lines.

    The other handicap that Rodgers will need to overcome is MM’s playcalling. It is obvious that Rodgers making adjustments is a huge factor in making the offense roll. Rodgers is making yards even when the defense knows what we will do. Image what he could do if we had an OC that designed and called creative schemes.

    The bottom-line should be…let’s not waste Rodgers career.

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    • Bedrock says:

      Completely agree with surrounding A-Rod with talent. While we’re at it, surround CMIII with talent too. How about we just get more talent?

      Completely disagree with the rip on MM’s play calling. I don’t care if the other team knows what is coming. Execute! Lombardi was said to have 6 offensive plays. Scheme against my 11 guys winning their battles against yours! If MM has a weakness, it’s loyalty to coaches that are getting the maximum out of the talent TT provided. (Now, with the injuries, you cannot squeeze blood from a turnip.)

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      • Bedrock says:

        *loyalty to coaches NOT getting the maximum out of the talent…

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      • Rymetyme81 says:

        It sure seemed to help the Patriots.

        I will give you props for your loyalty, but MM has recently been outcoached as badly as the players have been outplayed. Rodgers covers up many of MM’s playcalling deficiencies.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

    • Archie says:

      Excellent points Razer. My fear for Rodgers is that he has to spend the prime of his career toiling under TT/MM. I truly doubt TT is capable of assembling a defensive team and we all know about MM’s poor and unimaginative decison-making. AROD deserves to be working for a team with a master GM and HC. It just ain’t gonna happen anytime soon in GB. This is the curse of the 2010 miracle finish. It shall haunt for the rest of AROD’s career in GB I fear.

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      • Rob says:

        So what you’re saying is failure is the fault of the coaches and management but success is because of the players in spite of the coaches and management?!

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  2. GBPDAN says:

    To me, Rodgers turning 30 only intensifies the situation this team is in. We are all hoping that the Packers can get ,at least , one more ring with Rodgers. But now that Rogers is out, it has shed a light on how much separation there is between the Packers player talent and the Elite teams that stand in their way to a SB. Watching Seattle last night, with their ability to tackle, cover and block , showed how many light years ahead they are then the packes. If Rodgers would have never got hurt, the pack would be 9-3 right now (we would have still lost to the lions with our D and crappy oline) and we would have finished the season at 13-3 or 12-4 . We would all be pumping our chest and excited about the playoffs, then would have got crushed by one of the physical teams like niners, seahawks, and probably the Panthers and maybe the saints because brees would shred our D.

    This is what happened the last few years and it would have happened again this year, because rodgers is covering up tge underlying mess this team is. If the niners, seahawks, or Panthers lost their QB for a stretch, they would win more the 50% of their games because they have other players that can block, tackle and cover, we don’t.

    Your article , yesterday, on the Packer fans o overreacting was valid to a degree, but what a lot of fans are reacting to is the mess that was exposed, regarding the personal on this team, after rodgers went down. Yes, we are spoiled I guess, but if winning is everything (namely titles), like Vince said, then why cant we react to the lack of talent, desire and leadership this team is displaying? The DBs have been confused for years, the team cant tackle, they play soft with little passion and they quit in the Lions game. Not to mention the BLUNDER at back up QB! I guess we are not supposed to complain about any of this because we might be overreacting. …

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    • Jack says:

      you stated that the Packers are years behind the Seahawks, Panthers and 49ers, but I disagree. As soon as the Seahawks are forced to resign Lynch, Sherman and Wilson they will be forced to use up a lot of their cap space like the Packers have with A-Rod and CMIII. The same will happen to the Panthers (Newton) and the 49ers (Kaepernick). This will force them let go of key players like we have been forced to do (Woodson, Jennings, Wells). The one thing that will remain is the QB and AR is certainly the best.

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  3. JH9 says:

    There’s no doubt Rodgers has been brilliant. His injury this year just shows how much of an MVP he truly is. I, for one, want to know when (if) he’ll win another Super Bowl ring for the Packers.

    Watching how Ted Thompson operates over the years, I expect McCarthy will be the HC for at least another two years. After the debacle in Detroit last week, I think there should be real concern regarding McCarthy’s ability to get this team back on track to realistically having a chance to win another Super Bowl. As we saw earlier in the year, Rodgers seemed to question McCarthy’s play calling. I just wonder what AR is thinking now about McCarthy’s ability to lead after watching this team fall apart.

    The only solution I can see that might have a chance to quickly turn around this team is if there is a maximum effort made by TT and MM to make a full-scale change to the defense. By that I mean getting a first-rate new DC and coaching staff, one or two top-tier defensive FAs, and a couple of high round defensive draft picks.

    I feel if we can infuse new energy and get defensive shut down production, Aaron Rodgers and the offense can do the rest. Another Super Bowl ring for Rodgers then might not be so far off.

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    • Archie says:

      The problem with that solution is that TT/MM have never hired a good coach and TT can’t draft defense – just not in his DNA. He’s assembled a SB worthy offense, particularly for 2014 when everyone is back to health. But I just don’t see a way out on the defensive side. When a team starts AJ Hawk for a decade that kind of tells you they are clueless on defense. Their CBs are too small. Their S can’t do anything. Their ILB are soft while their best ILB, Lattimore, isn’t allowed to play. Maybe Nick Perry will stay on the field and become an adequate complement to CMIII. The DL is a mess. Thankfully, Raji wants to exit GB. Paying him $8MM would certainly seal our fate defensively. Time for Pickett to call it a career. Jolly, who knows. But the 3 HIPPO defense backed up by two soft ILBs is more than I can stand watching. Daniels and Jones may be the beginning of a renaissance on the DL. They need a couple more just like them. Mike Neal seems useful. With a high draft pick, TT is almost sure to pick another Hawk, Harrell or Raji. And if he does….game over!

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      • Razer says:

        Typically I have defended TT’s draft record but I do agree that defensively, he has been below average. We have progressively gotten worse on defense and the talent is just not there. On numerous occasions he has reached and in some cases he has simply ignored the need. Since he was a journeyman linebacker, I am surprised that he doesn’t have a good feel for this side of the ball.

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  4. Savage57 says:

    Very well done, Kris. I hope that in that brief period between this season’s end and the re-tooling for the next one, the Packers brain trust has some of the similar reflections you’ve posted here, and realizes what’s been missing most for Rodgers, and sadly for Favre before him, to claim more Lombardi’s has been a dependable defense. Not dominant (although how nice would that be?), just dependable.

    To TT’s credit, he’s tried. He’s spent two drafts trying to bring in players to shore up the historically weak link in the Packers roster make-up, but to no avail.

    Now, faced with the reality that AR’s window with the Packers is finite, will he set aside some of the rigidity he’s shown and engage the entire range of player acquisition modes available to a NFL GM? Or, will he stubbornly hold to a formula that in the presence of AR has limited the Packers chances to seize the brass ring and in his absence made consideration of the same objective laughable?

    Or is the defensive talent there, and is the problem with it being no more than the fact that the unit is coached and deployed by a man who no longer has connection and relevance to an evolved style of play in the league?

    The answer to both of those questions are beyond my pay grade, but I am absolutely certain that no good answer will be revealed without a significant and systemic change in one or the other.

    It is either the players in the system, or how the system fits the players. What’s crystal clear is that there’s a pretty big disconnect somewhere. QB’s like Favre and Rodgers come along once in a generation for most teams if they’re lucky, but the Packers won the QB lotto and got them back-to-back.

    Time to take the odds on AR and push the pile of chips to the middle of the table and go all in.

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  5. Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

    Rodgers is great. But in order for the team to win another Super Bowl or two, the defense is going to have to be better.

    IMO the OL is average (bad the last 4 but very good before that).

    S, DT and ILB need reinforcements. Quickly. TT has tried – so that means to me it’s the coaching. Time for Capers and Co. to move on.

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  6. Since '61 says:

    Well done Kris. As a Packers fan who watched Lombardi’s Packers in the 60′s and then waited 29 years for another NFL title the Favre/Rodgers jackpot is our reward for those 29 years of patience. Many of our younger bloggers would do well to keep that 29 year waiting period in mind when they rip up the current team and our current HC and GM over a 5 game bump in the road when you consider the last 22 seasons since 1992 when Favre appeared. As for Rodgers he is probably the best player the Packers have ever had. He combines the smarts and ball security of Starr with the arm strength and gamesmanship of Favre. Given a solid defense he and this offense, if healthy should win another SB or 2. But we have seen how fragile those plans can become in the current NFL. The league through the salary cap has made dynasty building close to impossible. And it’s working based on the revenue growth the NFL is experiencing. To JH9, in a normal season I would be able to predict when the Packers will win another SB but my crystal ball is injured and out for the season on IR. So all I can say is wait ’till next year. Thanks, Since ’61

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    • Archie says:

      I’ve been an avid Packer fan for as long as you so I guess it’s OK for me to state my criticisms of the current regime.

      I strongly maintain that the quickest and probably only path to another SB with AROD is to blow up current management starting with the GM. Everything that happens on that field traces directly back to the GM, especially when that GM has been in charge for 9 years!

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      • Bedrock says:

        Blowing things up? Can you imagine what would happen if fortune 500 companies did that? You don’t blow up, you evolve. “Blowing up” decreases the window of opportunity.
        That’s the beauty of TT. If he sticks around long enough, TT will have a plan for this team after A-Rod’s departure. I’m guessing he already does. He is years ahead of the rest of us in his planning. Do all of his plans work out? Of course not, only 1 team wins it all each year.
        I imagine, he even has a plan for his succession. GB will be competitive for a long time. Enjoy the ride.

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        • Barutan Seijin says:

          I wouldn’t be surprised if TT left on his own sometime in the next couple of years. Considering the front office / coaching exodus of the past few years, the effect would probably be the same as a “blow up”.

          Succession? Is he that much of a control freak? I think that he’d walk away because he wanted to do something other than worry about the Packers. Maybe golfing iin Hawai’i or consulting for the Chargers or whatever.

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      • John Rehor John Rehor says:

        Without stating that I agree or disagree with your blow it up and start over approach, what would you do if you were in charge? Who would you hire as GM, Head Coach, etc?

        Interested to hear your thoughts

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        • Since '61 says:

          Archie – I don’t know if the blow it up approach would result in another SB or not. What I do know is that it will take a few more seasons of Rodgers career to find out and in the end we could be worse off then we are now. I have been saying for a while now that there ain’t no Nitschkes on this defense, so I am OK with bringing in a new DC and defense staff. But with a new DC we still need DTs, ILBs, a safety and shut down corner. But if you pull out MM and TT also, you are starting new everywhere. And remember a new HC might want his own QB. Rodgers and MM are tied at the hip like Favre/Holmgren , Brady/Belicheck. If you don’t think the Packers are well run why are teams like Miami and KC and others hiring our assistant coaches and management personnel? Because we have good people and other teams want to emulate our success. That is the highest compliment from other professionals and tells us something about the GB organization. Call for change and criticize all you like but think about the implications of change short and long term. I believe that our current struggles are short term and based on TTs/MMs record of succes, 88-45 prior to Rodgers injury since 2006. I’d rather take a big picture view and give them the opportunity to correct our issues. Thanks, Since ’61

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          • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

            ” And remember a new HC might want his own QB.”

            If a new HC gave off any sign that he wouldn’t want Rodgers as his QB…he’s the wrong guy and a loser.

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      • Stroh says:

        So you want to blow up the current GM/HC combo for what? Thompson and McCarthy rate in the top 5 combo’s in the NFL. If you blow up the current regime, your far more likely to get worse than better! But go ahead and bitch anyway… Finding a combo as good as Thompson/McCarthy and Wolf/Holmgren is a blessing. Blow it up and your far closer to the 70′s and 80′s than you are another SB!

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        • Two Bears, One Cup says:

          I think people don’t recognize MM/TT the way they do Wolf/Holmgren – yet.

          How many people out there really think Rodgers became as great as he is all on his own? Do people really think he succeeded in spite of – not with the assistance – of Mike McCarthy?

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  7. packett says:

    I hope they just take AR off the field the rest of the year. Too risky being out there with the patchwork line. Let them play run, run, run, run. Either the O-line will learn to run block, or all the 3&outs will ensure the defense gets 40+ minutes per game of reps and practice. It’ll be good either way for next year. AR can regenerate…and maybe will help his longevity as well…getting another year or two by this mini-bye year for him.

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    • Dobber says:

      I disagree: playoff hopes are on life support but not dead. The objective is to win and to get to the dance. Just find a way to do it. That means AR plays if he’s able.

      I will think much less of this coaching staff and management if they put a piece as valuable as AR on the shelf when he’s able to play. It’s a different matter if you’re evaluating backup talent who have starter potential. It’s a different matter when you know AR is your guy for at least the next 3-5 years.

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    • Razer says:

      Tanking a season is not an option. Only losing organizations think and behave this way. If Rodgers can make it back, we are still in this race. He won’t improve the defense, other than to keep them off the field for longer stretches. Remember this is an article about maximizing our time with Aaron Rodgers. Throwing in the towel and hoping for a better draft is like procrastinating to bank time. Don’t leave your stallion in the barn – run him.

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      • Barutan Seijin says:

        I think one reason NFL teams haven’t tanked is because they play so few games compared to teams in other sports. It’s one thing to go into tank for the final stretch of an 82 game season another when it’s a whole quarter of your season. If the fans don’t watch or come to the games, you’re taking a big hit financially.

        And, as others have pointed out above, unless you get the top pick or close to it, a few pickes one way or the other probably won’t make a huge difference.

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      • Two Bears, One Cup says:

        Tanking is the stupidest option I could think of.

        What better way to create a culture of losing than to send the message that it is okay to lose because we want a better draft pick?

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  8. Archie says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Dobber says:

      With all due respect, Archie, this isn’t the NBA. You don’t tank or trade away talent to try to get a “lottery” pick.

      The draft is such an inexact science that the difference between pick 10 and pick 20 isn’t much more than preference and need.

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  9. Big T says:

    Good article. I believe Rodgers is the best qb in the league. I believe if MM and TT keep pissing down their legs and not protecting Aaron he should play for another team. Now if they get their heads out of each others behinds and make the necessary changes, then Aaron can be a Packer for life…

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  10. J204 says:

    I think it is clear AR is the leader of the franchise and not McCarthy. He is just a passenger. When AR threw his clip-board vs Detroit, that was pre-snap. He knew the play sucked from the beginning.. There has been frustration shown the past year and half between AR and Mike. I think AR just changes the plays everytime they come in to what he wants to be honest. I doubt this will happen but I wouldn’t be shocked if AR wanted a coahcing change in the off-season.

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    • Razer says:

      I didn’t see the game so I am not sure what you are referring to BUT I don’t doubt that Rodgers is getting tired of the playcalling. If it is not Rodgers, very little of MM’s playcalling will either fool or challenge opposing defenses.

      I am not a Brent Favre lover, but I could see him completely ignoring McCarthy’s vanilla offense. If nothing changes, I can see Rodgers walking down this very same path. If the coach isn’t well out in front of his talent then he needs to get out of the way.

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    • Two Bears, One Cup says:

      How do you know exactly what Rodgers was thinking when he threw down the clipboard? How do you know he wasn’t frustrated at seeing his team lose as he’s unable to play? When they showed him it was a replay. How do you know exactly when he threw his clipboard?

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  11. funcrusher says:

    Rodgers has a long career ahead of him. With all the rules that are being enforced to protect the quarterback, he could be playing at a high level till he’s forty years old. Look at Manning and Brady. They show no signs of slowing down.

    There’s no doubt in my mind, Rodgers is gonna win at least one or two more super bowls before it’s over.

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  12. Newhaven says:

    Time for a new DC & secondary coaches who emphasize tackling. Get an experienced OC to handle the play calling. MM calls horrible plays!

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