According to Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks, we still haven’t seen the best of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, despite his stellar first two seasons in the NFL.
In case you’ve forgotten, only one team in the NFL had a better second-half record than the Packers’ 7-1, and that was San Diego (13-3), which won 11 in a row to close the year after its 2-3 start. Green Bay averaged 30.8 points per game in the season’s second half, then threw up another 45 points against Arizona in the playoffs, with a remarkable 35 of them coming in the second half as the Packers dug out of a first-quarter 17-0 hole to force overtime in the highest scoring NFL playoff game in history.
Somewhat fittingly, that game ended up being a microcosm of the Green Bay season — a painfully slow start followed by a furious rally that wound up being too little, too late to reach the Packers’ ultimate goal.
But how do you not like Green Bay’s position as the 2010 season looms? The Packers defense under new coordinator Dom Capers had the lights go on in the second half of 2009 (15.6 ppg allowed in the second half, with a bevy of takeaways) and the offensive line solidified after its nightmarish first half last year (Rodgers was sacked just 14 times in the second half, but still finished with a league-high 50). Moreover, Green Bay this offseason suffered few defections (Aaron Kampman being the headliner) while re-signing or extending the likes of receiver Greg Jennings, safety Nick Collins, and veteran offensive tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. The draft’s first round unexpectedly brought a top-15 talent in Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, who simply looks as if he was born to play in Green Bay.
And then there’s Rodgers, the 26-year-old who has thrown for 8,472 yards, with 58 touchdowns and just 20 interceptions in his first 32 regular-season starts. Despite enduring those 50 sacks, Rodgers last year passed for 4,434 yards, with a 64.7 completion percentage, 30 touchdowns, only seven interceptions and a 103.2 passer rating. He was also the team’s second-leading rusher behind Ryan Grant, running 58 times for 316 yards and five touchdowns. In the playoffs, Rodgers added a postseason team-record 423 yards passing, with four touchdowns.
Granted, I know he was a first-round pick in 2005, but Rodgers is way better than almost everyone thought he’d be this soon (and maybe ever), and when I look at him, I see an NFL MVP award in his future. The production level is close to MVP territory already.