Aaron Rodgers wanted be different than Brett Favre. But in many ways, he’s the same.
This doesn’t apply across the board for the current and former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks. They are most certainly unalike in personality and temperament.
But their careers bear striking similarities in important ways.
Each won a Super Bowl at age 27 and multiple NFL MVPs by their early 30s. After 128 starts, Rodgers is 84-44; Favre was 83-45.
After a long stretch among the elite of the NFL’s elite, both also hit unexpected bumps in their primes as eighth- and ninth-year starters. Rodgers was 4-6 in the last 10 games of 2015, and this season he’s 4-5 and in danger of missing the playoffs after seven straight appearances. In those same eighth and ninth seasons as a starter, Favre missed the playoffs twice (8-8 and 9-7) after having gone six straight years.
The point is, it’s tough to stay on top in the NFL no matter who you are. The hunter becomes the hunted. Teams change and so do lives.
It starts with the passing of time. Both Favre and Rodgers slowly grew older than their teammates until there suddenly was a gulf in age, experience and status.
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Rodgers witnessed first-hand how that separated Favre from his teammates and was turned off. Favre was the only Packers player who held his midweek news conference in the media auditorium. In his last years, Favre even had his own changing room in an unused office just off the locker room. That’s no doubt why Rodgers insists on conducting his midweek interviews at his locker. He wasn’t going to be like that.
But now Rodgers is finding out what it’s like to be eight or even 10 years older than many of his teammates, and to shoulder a franchise’s fortunes season after season. Most of Rodgers’ best friends on the team — Ruvell Martin, Matt Flynn, A.J. Hawk and John Kuhn — are long gone. A new wave of ever-younger rookies comes in each year. So many players have come and gone.
Early in Rodgers’ career as a starter he hosted get-togethers for the entire team. Not anymore. You get older. Life intervenes and priorities change.
I also remember how Favre grew less tolerant of teammates’ mistakes as he got older and was especially critical of study habits even though he didn’t necessarily distinguish himself as a student of the game early in his career. He knew the offense inside and out, but he’d also been working in it for years.
You can see a similar impulse with Rodgers, who is getting more demonstrative as the years go by. That’s almost surely a product of age, and while he might be justified, it doesn’t help rally teammates when times are tough.
Don’t get me wrong, there are big differences between Favre and Rodgers as well. Mainly, Favre was an extrovert to the nth degree, very much his father’s son. He was naturally chummy and had no qualms sharing much of his life publicly.
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Rodgers, on the other hand, though hardly an introvert, is more reserved. He’s opened up some publicly in the last couple of years but remains far more private than Favre ever was.
Also, Favre’s vibe is visceral where Rodgers’ is intellectual.
Regardless, when looked at in the context of Favre’s career, maybe Rodgers’ uneven play over the last calendar year shouldn’t be as startling as it has seemed. This has happened here before.
Favre came back to play plenty of good football after missing the playoffs in 2000 : He averaged 11 wins the next four years, bottomed out at 4-12 in 2005 and then played in two NFC championship games in his last five seasons in the league.
By comparison, John Elway after his rookie year had five seasons at .500 or less in his final 15 years as a starter, and Dan Marino had five in his final 16 years. Drew Brees has finished below .500 in three of the last four years with the New Orleans Saints and is 4-5 this season.
The only recent quarterbacks to avoid tough times are Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. As a starter, Brady has failed to win double-digit games only once in 14 years. Same for the retired Manning after his rookie year.
So anybody who’s thinking this is the beginning of the end for Rodgers, I’d advise to think again, no matter where the Packers’ season goes from here.
Whether Rodgers will end up the best quarterback in franchise history remains an open question. But either way, Favre has shown there probably will be several more turns in Rodgers’ career.