In a few hours the 2008 NFL season will be officially underway as Monday Night Football takes to the airwaves. Tonight’s game is the season opener between the Vikings and Packers. The dominant story of the night will most likely be the first NFL start of Aaron Rodgers’ career, especially in light of Favre’s generally Favrelous performance Sunday in Miami.
As the clock ticks down closer and closer to the definitive end of the Favre era in Green Bay and the beginning of the A-Rodge tenure, I feel compelled to express a thought that’s been gnawing at my gut for the past few years. I don’t think Aaron Rodgers is going to cut it as a Quarterback in the pros.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a Packer fan since the onset of my consciousness. Fealty to the Green and Gold is in the water in Wisconsin. Every Halloween you had three options for your costume: Brett Favre, Sterling Sharpe, or The Crowe. Every Friday from September to December is Green & Gold day in the workplace and every Friday at 5 PM WKTI plays Todd Rundgren’s “Bang On the Drum All Day” on the radio, the anthem that plays in Lambeau following every Packer touchdown. Fans of the Packers over the past 20 years have seen Don “Magic” Majkowski fumble the ball routinely on 3rd down, to the point where jokes such as, “Q: How do you keep Majkowski out of his house? A: Paint a goal line in front of his door” became common place. We watched the dawn of the Favre decade and we watched with bracing reluctance its slow decline.
When the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers 3 years ago as their number one overall pick, I was ecstatic. Perhaps we should have picked for need and selected someone to service our much maligned defense, but the obvious realization was on everybody’s minds. This guy was a purported overall number one pick that dropped 15 positions for no good reason and the Packers had an opportunity to begin preparing for a future without Favre. Aaron Rodgers seemed like a solid selection. He was smart, talented and humble. That is until he came to Green Bay.
Backing up Favre on the bench for the next few years A-Rodge began to change. He went from upstanding gentleman to rebellious little brother. He grew his cropped cut out into a scraggly mane that he patted affectionately on the sidelines. He grew a beard. Who had this kid become? He looked like Telemachus to Favre’s Odysseus, or Icarus itching to break free from the yoke of his father.
In a sport that values, according to Tony Dungy, a quiet strength, A-Rodge’s ostentatious individuality was an affront. Long hair was for pretenders like David Carr. Beards were for linemen whose jobs depended upon gruff personalities and a fuck you temperament. Quarterback of the Packers was a hallow office to hold, one to be respected not taunted. Aaron Rodger’s projected confidence struck me as immature insouciance, an indifference masking fear, a harbinger of disappointment.
But Rodgers stepped in for Favre during a big game against Dallas last year and threw himself into the mix. He dove head first for a first down; he threw a touch down pass. He even met expectations this preseason. Maybe things would be alright, after all, in this dark post-Favrian period, I thought. Until I saw Aaron Rodgers roll up to the pre-game warmups just 20 minutes ago.
Dude wasn’t in a suit. Dude wasn’t even in a shirt with no tie. Aaron Rodgers strolled up to the biggest game so far in his career wearing a Brooklyn jacket and a knit cap like some goddamn Middleberry graduate who mined the latest 10 Deep Look Book for inspiration (check it out!). I know we shouldn’t judge books by their covers and maybe all this nay-saying is the defense mechanism of a Packer fan coping with the loss of Favre, but something’s off in those glazed eyes of Aaron Rodgers. He looks like he’s fronting. He looks like he’s trying to be cool. He looks like an insecure man-boy more concerned with his image than his passer rating.
We here in Wisconsin aren’t used to change, and the attitude A-Rodge is bringing to the QB position doesn’t sit well with swing voters in a swing state. We like our leaders quiet, strong and conservative. Like the former #4. Like that other Wisconsin boy currently taking snaps down in Dallas. Stunting like a rock star got him into the pages of US Weekly, but living graciously this past off season will probably get him into the Super Bowl; maybe, in Brady’s absence, against the Jets. And we’ll be left with Aaron Rodgers, a guy who in just a few hours will prove if my gut, with its reservations, was right, wrong or just plain hungry.