Rodgers is on the verge of taking the next step

Over the past two years, fans and pundits alike haven’t questioned Aaron Rodgers’ talent, just whether or not he could win. Brett Favre was a winner, so it wasn’t enough that Rodgers put up good numbers: He had to win, too.

In his second year, Rodgers has proven that he can be a winner. Yes, he still must lead the Packers to the playoffs, but he’s on the verge of doing just that as Green Bay has won four in a row and has a grasp on one of the two Wild Card spots in the NFC.

In the Packers’ 27-14 win over the Ravens on Monday night, Rodgers completed 26-of-40 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The two interceptions don’t look great on the stat sheet, but one was on an overthrow on a deep ball and the other was a fluke that bounced off of Donald Driver’s leg and into the waiting arms of a defender. The key was that Rodgers looked poised in and out of the pocket, used his legs to effectively buy himself more time and he didn’t make many mistakes to put his team in a position to lose (unlike Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, who made a horrendous decision near the goal line by throwing an interception to kill a potential scoring drive late in the second half).

There’s still a chance that Rodgers will fade down the stretch and the Packers will miss the playoffs. But with the way he and the rest of the Packers are playing right now (especially the defense, which has really come together under new coordinator Dom Capers), Green Bay won’t miss the postseason. And that’s amazing given how bad the offensive line was playing earlier in the season.

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Barstool Debate: Who’s better right now — Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers?

In the summer of 2008, the Green Bay Packers ended the Brett Favre era by trading him to the New York Jets. While some would argue that Favre ended the era himself by hemming and hawing about his retirement, the Packers ultimately made the decision to move on and hand the keys over to Aaron Rodgers.

With Monday night’s game only a few days away, it begs the question – are the Packers better off with Rodgers under center? To discuss this issue, I’m going to enlist the help of our lead NFL writer, Anthony Stalter.

JP: Anthony, if you’re an NFL GM and you think you have a Super Bowl caliber team, who would you rather have at quarterback this year – Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers?

AS: Injuries are a major concern with Favre compared to Rodgers, who is younger and can better withstand the rigors of a full season. I realize Favre has never missed a start in his career, but that doesn’t mean he’s always been healthy. Last year he played through biceps injury during the final month and it sunk the Jets’ season. I worry that Favre would suffer some kind of alignment during the season that would affect his play. On the other hand, while I wouldn’t worry about Rodgers’ durability, I know that Favre is a natural winner. I know that when the chips are down, he’s usually going to make a play to win the ball game and while Rodgers has shown flashes of that in his young career, he hasn’t proven that he can win on a consistent basis yet.

JP: You know I’m kind of a numbers guy, and it’s tough to argue with Rodgers’ statistical performance thus far. In 19 starts, Rodgers has averaged 250 passing yards and 1.68 pass TD per game (versus 0.68 INT per game). Conversely, in 274 starts, Favre is averaging 240 passing yards, 1.71 TD and 1.13 INT per game. Rodgers meets or beats Favre in every category and isn’t nearly as inclined to turn the ball over. Rodgers has already made a number of great plays in tough spots in his young career, but last season the Packer defense gave up several game-winning drives to the opposition. This year, Rodgers beat the Bears by hooking up with Greg Jennings for a perfectly thrown 50-yard touchdown (when the Packers were down two and facing a third-and-1 with just 1:18 to play). Favre is known for being clutch, but I think part of that comes from his longevity. When you’re around that long, you’re bound to have some memorable comebacks. Last week’s (amazing) pass to Greg Lewis was the first time that he threw for a game-winning TD with 0:10 or less remaining in the game.

For reasons you mentioned, if I’m heading into a season, I’d take Rodgers because he’s as talented and has a much better chance of staying healthy for a full season. But if I’m heading into the Super Bowl next week and I have my pick of the two, I’d probably go with Favre because he’s been there before and I know he won’t be overwhelmed by the moment.

AS: Right, it all depends on the situation. If we’re talking about the Super Bowl or even a playoff game, I’m going to want Favre (even despite his high number of postseason INTs) because he’s been there before. I know I can count on him not to be overwhelmed or succumb to the pressure and the magnitude of the moment. Rodgers simply doesn’t have enough experience at this point in his career to trust putting under center in a one-and-done game. We just don’t know how he would react because he’s never been there before. Brett has won a Super Bowl and has been to the postseason countless times before. There’s just no substitute for experience.

That said, if we’re at the beginning of the season and I have my choice, I’m going to take Rodgers. He’s more durable than Favre, has all the physical tools to succeed and should only progress as a passer with more experience. Once he learns how to adjust to how defenses are trying to stop him, he’s going to be a very good quarterback in this league for a long time. He has all the potential to succeed.

That’s our opinion…what’s yours? Feel free to vote in our poll to the right.

How a Packer fan copes with Brett Favre

Back in 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As a long time Green Bay fan (starting with Packers teams that featured Lynn Dickey, Paul Ott Carruth, Eddie Lee Ivery and a host of other players with ridiculous-sounding games), I have firsthand experience with these five stages as I’ve dealt with Brett Favre and his annual retirement dance.

In the summer of 2008, when the news leaked that Favre was interested in unretiring, I argued that the Packers should bring him back. He was coming off a stellar season and I firmly believed that he gave Green Bay the best chance to win. At this point, I couldn’t comprehend that the Packers would choose to move on without Favre and this denial quickly turned to anger as I saw just how entrenched management was in that decision.

But I wasn’t aware of a crucial fact: Favre flirted with coming back earlier in the spring and then changed his mind when head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson were prepared to fly to Mississippi to discuss it. At that point, I totally understood why the Packers said ‘enough is enough’ and made the decision to cut the cord once and for all. And I understand why Favre was upset that the organization didn’t welcome him back with open arms. After all, he is one of the most iconic players ever to play in the NFL and has to have an ego to match. I figured that if he couldn’t come back and play for the Packers, then he’d make the wise decision and hang ’em up, once and for all. This is the third stage of grief — bargaining.

Unfortunately, Favre’s anger towards the Packers quickly turned to spite as he tried to maneuver his way into either Chicago or Minnesota, the Packers’ two biggest rivals. It was obvious what was going on at the time — that Favre wanted to stick it to the Packers, specifically Ted Thompson, who made the final call (and was the one who drafted his successor) — and Favre confirmed this in a interview conducted a few months later. At this point, depression sunk in. I couldn’t believe that Brett Favre — my all-time favorite player and the guy that I would schedule my Sundays around — would risk the goodwill of the Packer faithful just to get revenge on those whom he believed wronged him. This spiteful behavior was just sad.

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Aaron Rodgers is not to blame for the Packers’ predicament

With the New York Jets positioned for an AFC East title and Green Bay’s playoff hopes on life support, some are seriously questioning the wisdom of the Packers’ decision to trade Brett Favre instead of giving him his starting job back. The thinking is that since the Packers made the NFC Championship Game last season and Favre is the most significant subtraction from that team, then his absence is the reason the team is struggling. While this is logical line of reasoning, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what is going on in Green Bay.

Back in July, I urged the Packers to bring back Brett Favre. At the time, they had two choices: (1) go with the known quantity or (2) roll the dice on the young guy. Given that the Packers were an overtime interception away from making the Super Bowl, at the time it made sense that the team should go with the proven commodity.

But things have changed. Aaron Rodgers owns the league’s 8th-best QB rating (91.2), and is 9th in yards (241.4) and 6th in touchdowns (20), meeting or beating Favre in all three categories. Some football purists might say that he doesn’t have the swagger or the moxy of his counterpart, and at this point in his career, he doesn’t. But much of that confidence and leadership comes with experience, so it’s not fair to hold it against him.

The bottom line is that Rodgers is not to blame for the Packers 5-7 record. Last week against Carolina, he threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns, but the Packers were done in by poor defense (4.8 ypc allowed) and poor execution in the running game on their second-to-last drive, when they couldn’t convert on two carries at the Panthers’ goal line. They had to settle for a field goal, and on Carolina’s next possession, Jake Delhomme’s 54-yard bomb to Steve Smith set up DeAngelo Williams’ go-ahead touchdown.

Are there areas in which Rodgers can improve? Absolutely. On the Packers’ final drive, he had 1:19 to play and two timeouts. Instead of just moving the chains, Rodgers tried to force a long pass to Donald Driver. It was picked off and the game was lost. In that situation, Rodgers needs to take a page from Favre’s book and just keep moving the chains. It’s fairly easy to do that when you’re down four because the defense is guarding against the big play. Get yourself on the Panthers’ side of the field and put yourself in a position where you can take three or four shots into the endzone. But, as we learned in the NFC Championship Game, even 38 year-old veterans are not immune to ill-advised passes in crunch time.

In these situations, Rodgers will improve with experience. After all, he is only 25 and is in his first season as a starter in the NFL. Still, despite the pick against Carolina, he has shown comeback ability this year. In Week 10 at Minnesota with the Packers trailing by one and 2:15 remaining, he threw a beautiful 19-yard pass to Driver to put Green Bay in position for a game-winning field goal. Even though the Packers were still at the edge of Mason Crosby’s field goal range, they got conservative and called two Ryan Grant runs, which totaled three yards and eventually led to Crosby’s 52-yard missed field goal. Is that loss somehow Rodgers’ fault? Of course not.

Just take a look at the defense. The Packers are 17th in total yards allowed. Last year, they were 11th. They are 27th against the run. Last year, they were 14th. They are 22nd in points allowed. Last year, they were 6th. The only area in which the defense has improved is against the pass (11th in 2007 to 5th this year), and that’s because they are so bad against the run. Oakland and Indianapolis are also in the Top 8 against the pass but are 29th and 25th respectively against the run. There are teams that are good against the pass and then there are teams that seem like they are good against the pass because they are so bad against the run.

So if Favre were still in Green Bay, the team would probably be 5-7, or 6-6, or maybe even 4-8. QB play has very little to do with the defense, other than to put the unit in a tough position by throwing bad interceptions (and Favre has thrown more picks than Rodgers). We could also point a finger at the special teams, which allowed Mark Jones back-to-back 51-yard and 45-yard kick returns that set up two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Panthers. Throw in Crosby’s missed field goal against the Vikings and there’s clearly plenty of non-QB blame to go around.

Finally, you have to think about the future. If the Packers had brought back Favre, Rodgers wouldn’t have re-signed. He would have looked for an opportunity elsewhere, especially when Favre inevitably started his whole retirement dance the following summer. So, removing the names for a second, which QB would you rather have?

QB1 – 39 years-old, 90.4 QB rating, 20 TD, 14 INT

QB2 – 25 years-old, 91.2 QB rating, 20 TD, 10 INT + a second-round pick

Assuming the Jets make the playoffs, that’s how this trade is going to work out.

Despite the team’s current predicament, the Packers made the right decision.

Aaron Rodgers deserves a break from Favre comparisons

Aaron RodgersHere’s a revelation – Aaron Rodgers isn’t Brett Favre. He’ll never be. And he doesn’t deserve the constant comparisons that now come with being the Green Bay Packers starting quarterback.

When Rodgers hurt his shoulder last week in a loss to the Buccaneers, it was all the media could do to ask him about Favre’s record for consecutive starts and whether or not he felt pressure to play. Rodgers responded by saying he doesn’t need any motivation to play. If he could, he would. And he did.

Rodgers was clearly in pain during Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Falcons, but he gutted it out and finished with over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns. And while his late interception was a killer, he didn’t hurt his team by playing injured. He deserves credit for his toughness (especially when one of the knocks on him is his durability, or lack thereof) and the respect not to be compared to Favre in every situation.

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