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Aaron Rodgers Impressive, but Needs Super Bowl Win to Become Elite

Jan 16, 2011 – 1:15 AM
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Terence Moore

Terence Moore %BloggerTitle%

Aaron RodgersATLANTA -- There was Aaron Rodgers, leaning over in the visitors' locker room of the Georgia Dome Saturday night to grab his duffel bag for a trip to the team bus. Then, the hero of the moment for the Green Bay Packers rose to say, with tongue firmly in cheek, to a couple of reporters nearby, "Guess I got that monkey off my back."

He laughed. We laughed, but you know what?

That monkey for Rodgers isn't there anymore, because it has been replaced by a bunch of King Kong's 21st-century relatives.

Yes, this was another splendid game for Rodgers, as he completed 31 of his 36 passes for 366 yards, three touchdowns and a 136.8 passer rating in the Packers' 48-21 slaughtering of the Atlanta Falcons to reach the NFC championship game. And, yes, it was the same last week in Philadelphia, where Rodgers moved his evolution into one of the NFL's most potent quarterbacks from the regular season to the playoffs by doing much to push the Packers past the Eagles.

But, no, I'm not totally impressed, and you shouldn't be, either.

Nothing will make Rodgers worthy of total praise until he does what guys named Bart Starr and Brett Favre did at least once during their Frozen Tundra careers.

A world championship for Rodgers, please.

Packers running back John Kuhn frowned, saying, "You know, I don't know that (Rodgers) has to win it all. He's young in his career right now, and I think he's got a lot of great football left in him. So we can answer that question maybe a couple of years down the road."

"In my eyes, there are great quarterbacks who haven't won Super Bowls. Has Dan Marino ever won a Super Bowl?"
-- Packers WR Greg Jennings
Actually, it needs an answer now since Rodgers is 27, and this is his sixth NFL season, including his last three as a starter.

Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady were among those who won world championships by Rodgers' age. And, well, it's always about world championships for professional athletes, especially for those who wish to be great.

Until then, you're only a "pretty" player, and that's among the best things you can say about Rodgers right now. He has that rocket arm, and he has a brilliant career passer rating that was the highest in postseason history before the game (for those with a minimum of 50 pass attempts) at 121.8, and he has all of those teammates who are helping the Packers sizzle as much as anybody ...

And he has no Super Bowl ring.

In fact, this is by far the deepest the Packers have gone in the playoffs under Rodgers, and that's not saying much.

Prior to this year, Rodgers' only other postseason game was last season against the Arizona Cardinals, and he was a "pretty" quarterback during that one. He completed 28 of 42 passes for 422 yards and four touchdowns, but he also threw an interception on his first pass of what was a classic shootout, and he fumbled in overtime on the game's last play.

Worse, the Packers lost.

Great quarterbacks win, and they keep doing so during a season until the Super Bowl's final gun.

This is an encouraging start for Rodgers, though. Against an Eagles team that was highly motivated by Michael Vick and his miracle story, Rodgers completed 18 of 27 passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns.

Then came Saturday night, against a Falcons team that was the NFC's No.1 seed and playing inside their Georgia Dome, where head coach Mike Smith was 20-4 overall, quarterback Matt Ryan was 20-2 and the Falcons' notoriously mild fans were louder than usual.

Rodgers turned the place into a 70,000-seat library.

Along Rodgers' way to those "pretty" numbers against the Falcons, there were rocket throws, unbelievable throws and outrageous throws.

"I thought Aaron Rodgers was excellent today," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy of somebody who only was stopped during the game's final five minutes by cramps. "I thought he played with a (good mix of) run and pass throughout the game -- particularly the first three quarters -- and had favorable down and distance (situations) ... his in-the-pocket and out-of-pocket performance. ... I mean, he was on fire."

Still, there hasn't been a hot enough inferno for Rodgers to burn a path for his Packers to a world championship. In contrast, there were five such titles for Starr and one for Favre, and Favre was Rodgers' beloved predecessor until things turned ugly during and after the 2007 season.

In came Rodgers, supposedly the new Starr and Favre when it comes to collecting rings, but the Packer Nation continues to wait.

Depending on the results of Sunday's game between the Seahawks and Bears in Chicago, the Packers either will play for rights to reach the Super Bowl in Seattle, where it is rough for visitors in the midst of all that noise after such a long trip (ask the New Orleans Saints) or in Chicago, where the Packers' longtime arch-rivals would wait.

Wherever the Packers go, those rather large apes -- that Super Bowl quest -- will join Rodgers for the entire four quarters. And I don't care that Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings joined Kuhn in frowning over such talk.

"In my eyes, there are great quarterbacks out there who haven't won Super Bowls," Jennings said, before pausing and adding, "Has Dan Marino ever won a Super Bowl?"


"He was a decent quarterback. He was OK," said Jennings, easing into a chuckle as if to say his point was proven. But it wasn't. With no world championship, Marino was just a "pretty" quarterback -- you know, like Rodgers is now.

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