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Monardo: Recognize Rodgers (Oct. 12)

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It was not long ago that Aaron Rodgers was an unknown commodity trapped on the sideline under the tyrannical rule of Brett Favre.

While the ironman Favre trotted back out under center for the Packers game after game, Rodgers played the understudy for three seasons. And then, in the offseason before the 2008 season, Rodgers became a central figure after Favre’s dramatic departure from the dairy land.

There has, perhaps, been no task more difficult recently in the sporting world than the one presented to Rodgers in 2008. To successfully replace a starting quarterback in the National Football League is a daunting prospect in itself. To do so when that quarterback was one of the greatest of all time and the city’s hero for the last 16 seasons is near impossible.

But now only in his fourth season as the starter for the Pack, Rodgers has not only handled the transition, but has also become the best quarterback in the league.

In his young career, Rodgers has already amassed 14,444 yards and 101 touchdowns. His career passer rating sits at 100.9, the highest rating ever for a quarterback with a minimum of 1,500 attempts.

In the postseason, Rodgers has been even more impressive. His postseason passer rating of 112.6 is first among quarterbacks with at least 150 attempts and is substantially higher than second place Bart Starr’s rating of 104.8. He averages 8.72 yards per completion and has tossed 13 touchdowns while throwing only three interceptions.

Last year, Rodgers put the team on his back and led the Packers to their first Super Bowl victory since Favre helped the team win one in 1997. In the second round of last year’s playoffs, the sixth seeded Packers dismantled the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons in their own backyard by the score of 48-21. Rodgers went 31 of 36 in the game while throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns.

Rodgers had a fantastic year in 2010, and an even more fantastic postseason. He has the hardware to prove it — the ring, of course — but also the recognition of Super Bowl XLV MVP.

This year, he looks even better.

Rodgers has positioned the 5-0 Packers as the team to beat in the NFL thus far. In their most recent win — a come-from-behind 25-14 victory over the Falcons on Sunday night — the Packers gained only 57 yards on the ground. But their stellar quarterback threw for 396 yards and two touchdowns, both in the second half. On the season, Rodgers has thrown for 1,721 yards, 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions, bringing his passer rating to an astounding 122.9.

Of course, plenty of football remains to be played, but it is undeniable that Rodgers is the elite quarterback in the league today. Even with such prolific signal callers as Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers or even a healthy Peyton Manning, Rodgers occupies the top spot in the NFL’s most coveted position, and figures to do so for years to come.

Of course, he didn’t do it all by himself. The three years Rodgers spent under Brett Favre’s tutelage, or at least under his name on the depth chart, couldn’t have been bad for the quarterback’s development. Rodgers is also on one of the most talented teams in all of football. With offensive weapons like wide receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver and tight end Jermichael Finley, Rodgers has plenty of options when looking downfield. The Packers’ defense is also stocked with Pro-Bowl players and even future Hall of Famers, most notably cornerback Charles Woodson and outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

But still, Rodgers’ impact on his team is impossible to overestimate. He is a team leader, statistically the best quarterback in the NFL and a clutch performer. He is the reason why cheeseheads everywhere are smiling, and the reason why everyone else in the league should be nervous.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Joseph Monardo at [email protected]