Rodgers to critics: 'I'm going to play the way I play'
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has sworn off caring about what critics think. On Monday, ESPN personality Skip Bayless exhibited why that's a good idea.
Rodgers, a former Super Bowl-winning quarterback and MVP, left everyone impressed with his comeback drive against the Miami Dolphins that was highlighted by a fake clock-stopping spike to set up the game-winning touchdown. Everyone, that is, except Bayless – the ESPN talking head who shares controversial opinions simply in the name of being controversial.
"Aaron Rodgers is getting applauded for something that could've made him the goat of the game instead of the hero of the game," Bayless railed over the airwaves Monday during ESPN First Take. "… You ask me how impressed I am? Zero. Zero."
Bayless had more.
"Aaron Rodgers does something that he's now applauded for. 'He went Dan Marino.' This was as high-risk and maybe as dumb of a risky play as you could attempt at this point with no timeouts left."
And, alas, even more.
"Tom Brady would never have to resort to these type of plays. Tom Brady wouldn't do that."
True, Rodgers took a risk.
With no timeouts left, the game would've ended if rookie receiver Davante Adams was tackled inbounds. Adams stepped out at the 4-yard line with six seconds left, setting the stage for the game-winning pass from Rodgers to tight end Andrew Quarless.
It was also the type of gamble a quarterback with Rodgers' credentials has earned the right to make. "Freestyling," he called it. Only, the decision came with some calculation.
Rodgers saw Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan back away from Adams before the snap. Finnegan was 11 yards off the line of scrimmage when Rodgers received the football. With the Packers at the 16-yard line and under 15 seconds left, Rodgers decided Miami was allowing a few free yards.
Bottom line, the gamble paid off. Rodgers was universally applauded. Well, almost.
In his 10th season, his seventh as a starter, Rodgers has reached the point where he lets outside opinions roll off his shoulders. Rodgers didn't mention Bayless – his longtime agitator – on his weekly ESPN Milwaukee radio show Tuesday, but the message was clear.
"As far as the criticism goes, I think that's where some of the comedy comes in, to me," Rodgers said on his radio show. "You have to find humor in it because I get criticized for holding the ball too long and not taking risks – so then there's the risk versus interceptions – but then I fake a spike and throw it to Davante and get criticized for taking risks. Critics are always going to win as far as getting their criticism out there, because they can make up things to criticize whenever they want and use stats or feelings or whatever to fit their specific thing that they're criticizing.
"I'm going to play the way I play. It's been pretty successful around here. I'm going to hold onto the ball when I can, and get out when I feel like I can as well. I don't worry so much about the critics, because it's talking out of both sides of their mouth. That's why that stuff doesn't bother me."
-firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood