Clear of Favre cloud, Rodgers’ star shines bright : Packers Insider

Clear of Favre cloud, Rodgers’ star shines bright

February 1, 2011 by  
Filed under News

By Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News

~IRVING, Texas — We hardly hear the “F” word anymore when it comes to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, be it in Green Bay or somewhere far beyond.

This is in stark contrast to his early years as the Packers’ starter, when every pass, every dropback, every read, every interview somehow was related to Brett Favre.

Aaron Rodgers answers questions from the media Monday after the Packers' arrival at the Super Bowl. Rodgers can become the new face of the Packers' franchise with a victory this weekend. (AP Photo)

In five short days, Rodgers has a chance to match Favre in Super Bowl victories and complete a successful, smooth transition as the face of the franchise. All the while, the grizzled Favre has faded away.

Think back to Favre’s last year in Green Bay. Under coach Mike McCarthy, Favre had the Packers on the cusp of a trip to Super Bowl XLII, only to be upset by the Giants in the NFC championship game.

Without Favre’s disappointment and subsequent retirement from the team, the Packers might not have moved forward and set the stage for their resurgence under Rodgers. After three years of grooming, Rodgers was ripe in 2008, a quarterback ready to rise with the young talent around him.

“(Rodgers) knew he was going to get his opportunity — that’s all he wanted,” Packers wide receiver Donald Driver said Monday. “Once you get the opportunity, you have to make the best of it. I think Aaron has done everything that he can.”

Rodgers felt he was worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft, instead of Alex Smith, but now admits to the benefits of being selected by a team without a pressing need at quarterback. Instead of being called upon to be a wobbly franchise’s savior, Rodgers had a chance to evolve as a player and leader.

“We had all the pieces in place,” Rodgers said.

With Rodgers going back to a more youthful, beardless look Monday at his first Super Bowl, it would be easy to think this fresh face might be overwhelmed on sports’ biggest stage.

However, at age 27 he’s just one year younger than Super Bowl XLV counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, who has gone 2-for-2 when the ring is on the line. It’s also the same age at which Favre played in his first Super Bowl, and he rose to the occasion in a stellar performance to win Super Bowl XXXI.

With the poise Rodgers has shown through winning three tough road games this year to reach this point, he will be prepared for his opportunity to become a Packers immortal.

In just three years of action, Rodgers already is the NFL’s career leader in passer rating at 98.5. And with a ring, he not only would match Favre’s championship output but also the Colts’ Peyton Manning and Saints’ Drew Brees.

With a win Sunday in the Super Bowl, Rodgers would match the career ring total of both Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

If Rodgers wins Sunday, the conversation will shift away from him vs. Favre and toward whether he can match the jewelry of Roethlisberger and then the most decorated quarterback of his era, Tom Brady.

Brady was no question the quarterback who wowed everyone the most during the regular season, including a dismantling of Pittsburgh’s defense. Unlike Brady, Rodgers is still standing, and the Steelers know they have to play much a better game then they did against Brady.

On Nov. 14, Brady burned the Steelers for 350 yards passing and three touchdowns and another TD rushing. That’s not unlike the game Rodgers had against the Steelers in December of ’09: 383 yards passing and three touchdowns plus one TD rushing.

“I think Aaron is the best,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said Monday. “I think he’s playing the best, including Brady.

“I don’t see people throw the ball where it’s 5 feet off the ground for 40 yards like Aaron does.”

A lot of superlatives have been thrown at Rodgers throughout the Packers’ improbable Super Bowl run. But at this point, comparing Rodgers to the best version of Favre might not be good enough.

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