Now that the season is just about here, it’s time to throw out a prediction that you can both chew and choke on. Here’s one – how about Aaron Rodgers WILL be the MVP at the end of this NFL season?
Write it down!
The 2009-10 season opens up for the Packers and Rodgers with plenty of upside, and with expectations for the impossible to be achieved; being crowned MVP is one of those impossible possibilities for Rodgers.
We live in a day and age where quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have basically cornered the MVP market since 2003, but the winds of change are upon us.
With Brady surely making a bid for Comeback Player of the Year, and Manning not having the type of offensive weapons he has been used to in recent years, the door is wide open for some new blood.
Rodgers led a team last year that had all the right pieces to be a playoff team, despite a collapse late in the season. He threw for 4,038 yards and 28 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions. For those scoring at home, that’s one more touchdown and interception than last year’s MVP: Manning.
But Rodgers didn’t have a 12-4 team to go along with his personal success.
Just one year ago, Rodgers navigated through the whole Favre fiasco at the start of training camp, proved to the critics throughout the year he was more than a legitimate leader in the pocket, and orchestrated one helluva “rookie” campaign for a guy who had some big shoes to fill.
So, with the proven veteran-ship of Manning and Brady and the fact that Rodgers is only in his second year as a starter, how could he possibly be crowned with such a huge award, you ask?
Well, for starters, if we take a look at the “criteria” for MVP (good luck trying to find the actual voting standards), there are basically five key things one must accomplish.
1. Good Recognition and Market Exposure
As the guy who took over for Brett Favre—in of all places Green Bay—there isn’t much better market exposure than that, right?
Oh wait, how about Rodgers and Favre going at it as division rivals two times this year, is that better?
In addition, all season long, MVP voters surely will be asking themselves questions like: Can Rodgers do it again? Will he top last year’s performance? How will he deal with Favre and the Vikings from a division standpoint?
This will have direct effects on his recognition.
Add in an offense that’s primed to be in the top three elite—with more weapons than a major military force—and, well, everything sort of speaks for itself. Rodgers will be talked about.
2. High Statistical Numbers
Last year’s offensive numbers were just sick, and Rodgers led the way with fewer options on the ground and in the air than he has coming into this year. Barring any unforeseen injuries that could sideline him, it’s pretty hard to say he WON’T top last year’s stats.
Rodgers has finally come into his own; he has proven he can see the field just as well as any other QB in the league, and he has shown he can work through adversity and personal mistakes. He allows the game to come to him, and is technically sound, all the tools for great numbers.
3. A Winning Team
This piece of the puzzle eluded Rodgers last year, especially down the stretch, but it wasn’t due to bad players on either side of the ball. Rather, an inferior defensive system, and piss-poor conditioning on the defense all-around, not to mention some key injuries all conspired against the Pack.
This year’s new defensive alignment—the work of mastermind Dom Capers—has already begun to show its effectiveness with Desmond Bishop and Anthony Smith as the current NFL preseason leaders on defense.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop has a total of 18 tackles, 16 of them solo, a sack, and two interceptions, while safety Anthony Smith has 10 tackles, all of them solo, with two interceptions and a sack of his own.
The system is working and individual play is getting better which WILL make Green Bay vastly better on defense than last year. That will mean more wins and a playoff berth.
4. Key Game Winning and/or Highly Publicized Plays
Again, thank you Minnesota for pretty much giving this one to us. I can see Green Bay winning both contests in this one unless Minnesota tightens up the blocking from their offensive line, and I can also NOT see Favre lasting 16 games effectively.
In addition, with games against St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit (twice), San Francisco, and Tampa, the potential for Rodgers to have some huge games is very high.
Against Detroit and Tampa (the only two teams he faced out of the above-list last season) Rodgers threw for 750 yards with eight touchdowns. St. Louis, San Fran, and Cincy are not much better defensively.
All five teams have upgraded, true; but they are still bottom feeders defensively and are no match for a team that can move the ball like Green Bay. And you can bet Rodgers will hit some big plays that will get time on ESPN.
5. Strong Media Exposure and Interest
Probably the very least criterion, but still something the Packers should get a heavy dose of this year. Green Bay opens with their first four games against Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Round One of the Minnesota war.
Rodgers should be very accustomed to the interview requests by then.
The media frenzy accompanying the division matchups alone, and the fact that it’s his sophomore year, will be huge to say the least.
If that’s not enough, if Rodgers is successful in the bid to capture an MVP trophy, he will be only the second quarterback in his second year as a STARTER to accomplish this feat since Bert Jones of the 1976 Baltimore Colts (11-3).
Yet, outside of the “criteria” I have mentioned is something a bit more intangible and special; something that is very extraordinary and emerging.
We are watching a rising young star materialize, as he begins his journey toward his place as the next elite quarterback in NFL history. With each passing year, Rodgers will get better through his triumphs as well as mastering his challenges. He will continue to morph into the gunslinger most thought he could be before leaving Cal.
And the Packers as a whole, with their superior blend of youth and experience, along with a more than competent coaching staff, will only grow stronger in the years to come, making them more and more dangerous.
But for now, however, the 2009-10 season is filled with possibilities that seem endless for Rodgers. The MVP race will have a new winner at year’s end; his name will be Aaron Rodgers.