In 2014, the New England Patriots dropped a hammer on legendary quarterback Tom Brady by selecting Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the NFL Draft. It was the highest the franchise had used a draft pick since Brady assumed the role from Drew Bledsoe in 2001. Although Brady had won three Super Bowls and two MVP awards during his 13 years as the Patriots’ starter – their title drought spanning 10 years had raised questions whether the franchise should look to the future.
The presence of Garoppolo brought out a resurgence in the future Hall of Famer. Brady guided Bill Belichick’s men to their first crown since the 2004 season by putting on a clinic to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, earning the fourth ring of his career. Two further titles and an MVP award followed before Brady left New England for pastures new in the 2020 off-season.
There was no need for Green Bay to look to the future with Aaron Rodgers operating at a high level in 2019, reaching the NFC Championship Game with a 13-3 record. Some pundits cast doubts whether the Packers had seen the best of the 36-year-old, but even those critics were stunned when the franchise selected Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It echoed the move by the Packers to draft Rodgers in the same position in 2008 with Brett Favre on the roster along with the Patriots’ move to select Garoppolo in 2014.
Green Bay seem to have got the response they were searching for as Rodgers has emulated Brady’s upturn in his early-season form. The Packers will be looking for him to continue that charge throughout the campaign to ensure that Matt LaFleur’s men are hosting crucial post-season games rather than having to face top-tier opposition on the road. They have even set records by being the first team to score at least 30 points in each of their first four games. Rodgers holds the key…
The Packers could not have wished for a stronger start to the season from their quarterback, which has resulted in the franchise being backed at +1000 in the outright markets at Betway to win Super Bowl LV, as of October 14th. However, there’s a long way ahead for Green Bay and Rodgers to return the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Titletown. There have been slight differences between Rodgers’ response and that of Brady in 2014 to the selection of their potential successors.
The former Patriots man was off the pace in the early going and there were muttered suggestions after a defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs that he could be ousted for Garoppolo. Belichick kept faith in the future Hall of Famer and was rewarded a fourth title. LaFleur insisted from the off that Rodgers would be the starter and unchallenged, since then the 36-year-old has been nothing short of sensational.
After four games, he has thrown for 1,214 yards along with 13 touchdowns to zero interceptions. His quarterback rating and average yard per attempt are currently above the rate that saw him blow away the NFL in 2011, winning the MVP award and guiding the Packers to a 15-1 record. If he maintains that standard throughout the season – then his third MVP of his career should be locked up and a road to the Super Bowl opened. That 2011 campaign is a cautionary tale and one that Rodgers and LaFleur will be determined to avoid.
Can Rodgers Maintain The Pace?
When quarterbacks reach their mid-to-late thirties it is natural for there to be some element of decline in their play. Drew Brees’ deep ball is not what it was during the prime years of his career. Peyton Manning suffered the same fate, while Philip Rivers is currently struggling to find his form at the Indianapolis Colts. Brady has been the outlier, although at the age of 43 even he has shown slight issues pushing the ball downfield. Rodgers’ physical skills have not diminished in the slightest – and his deep passing has been better than ever.
Players such as Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have aided his cause by taking steps in their development. Tight end Robert Tonyan has enjoyed a breakout 2020 campaign, notching three touchdowns in a win over the Atlanta Falcons. Those players have eased the burden on Rodgers and his primary weapons – Davante Adams and Aaron Jones.
The latter is becoming a superstar in the NFL and his form alone could be the reason why Rodgers can sustain the standard of his performances. In 2011, Rodgers did not have a star running back to call on. Jones is such a calibre of player, already racking up 374 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. LaFleur unlike Mike McCarthy has allowed Jones to thrive and will be vital in the cold at Lambeau.
There’s also the motivation factor for Rodgers. He has already suggested that he has been irked by criticism of his game. The negative feedback along with the Packers’ decision to draft Love may just have ignited a fire in his belly to prove once and for all that he belongs in the conversation as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game by winning a second title.