Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Let Brett Play

By Taft Ayers

The NFL always needs a story. Every off-season, there seems to be a fun soap opera to keep us interested. Last year's Michael Vick saga has been replaced by this summer's love affair/sloppy divorce with Brett Lorenzo Favre, the NFL and the Green Bay Packers.

Jeffri Chadiha recently wrote on ESPN.com and joined in the circus. I absolutely hated the article. Therefore, I write. I will put everything he said in italics. I will bold my thoughts.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been taking the right approach all offseason. He has given the media vanilla quotes about the ongoing drama between Brett Favre and Packers management.

Imgaine that, Aaron Rodgers did somehing that was described as 'vanilla.' That will be a mild description of his upcoming starting role witht the Packers. You heard it here first.

He has stressed that he's focused on playing football instead of wondering about Favre's fate. In the process, Rodgers has shown his teammates he also knows a thing or two about handling the scrutiny that comes with being a starting NFL quarterback.

Scrutiny? Rodgers doesn't know the first thing about scrutiny. The pretty boy from Cali got drafted by the wrong team and now is the "new, pretty girlfriend" that the Packers entire organization is hiding behind.

As much as Favre's saga has dominated the headlines -- and it was once again the hot topic as the Packers opened training camp Monday -- it's easy to overlook the way Rodgers has carried himself. Yes, it's hard to believe Rodgers hasn't paid any attention to this constant controversy, but it's not difficult to believe he sees the value in tuning it all out. Simply put, the guy has a job to do. The more time he spends dwelling on what the team will do with Favre, the less chance he has of performing up to his potential. he important thing to remember here. Whatever happens to Favre once he officially comes out of retirement, there is one fact that will not change in Green Bay: Rodgers is going to be the Packers' starting quarterback. Reports that Favre might show up at training camp later this week won't bother Rodgers.

I would bet my last dollar on the fact that Aaron Rodgers checks out all of the blogs, reads every newspaper and everyday that he drives down Lambeau drive, he checks his rear-view mirror for #4.

"I really feel like this is something that is between Brett and the organization," Rodgers said when asked about Favre's possible arrival. "I'm just trying to focus on my preparation and the way that I practice. I can't worry about the things I can't control."

So True, Mr. Rodgers, and you also can't control the fact that you were born without a spine.

Of course, we've heard those comments from Rodgers so often the past few weeks that it's starting to feel as though he has no other response to offer on the subject. But let's also remember that Rodgers has every reason to feel confident about his job security. Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy have been in his corner since Favre's retirement in March, and they're committed to staying there.

Thompson + McCarthy = the mistreatment of a legend and passing on receivers like Randy Moss.

When a reporter asked Thompson about the decision to stick with Rodgers despite the fact that Favre wants to play again, Thompson bluntly said, "We believe this is the path we should be on."

Thompson hasn't been on a pathway to success in years, except last season, and you know who drove him down that pathway? F-A-V-R-E

And why shouldn't the Packers think that? They're coming off a 13-3 season, and they're handing the ball to a player who spent three years as Favre's understudy. You'd think Rodgers learned plenty while holding a clipboard, and it's apparent that he also has earned his teammates' respect. Several Packers talked about how well Rodgers interacts with his fellow players, primarily because he has made a point of getting to know them during his time in Green Bay.

It's easy to interact well when you are an underclassman. Rodger's is nothing but a 3-yr. Freshman. He hasn't made the grades to pass on to the next level. For instance, all 9th graders do everything they can to get along with the 12th graders.

Those relationships will come in handy for Rodgers this season. So will his ability to deftly maneuver through the constant media scrutiny he's sure to face. Even as a swarm of reporters hovered around his locker after Monday's practice, Rodgers swaggered into the mass of microphones and television cameras with the confidence of a man who'd just won his first playoff game.

Careful Rodgers, don't swagger too much, last time you did that, you broke your foot. Ask Brett about a broken foot and how to deal...oh wait...nevermind.

"He's handled all of this like a pro," said Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings. "He hasn't let this be a strain on him at all. His whole attitude is that he's going to get this done, and that says a lot about his mental state. People can say what they want, but it's only a distraction if you let it become one."

Hey Greg Jennings, Brett Favre MADE YOU.

That raises another point to be made here: Rodgers knew it wouldn't be easy replacing Favre, regardless of when it happened. In this case, there are just more unpredictable factors involved in the process. What can't be overlooked, however, is whether Rodgers deserved the chance to play. The guy was a first-round pick, for god's sake. The Packers eventually had to determine whether he was their quarterback of the future.

The fact that the Packers drafted him in the first round says nothing. They've only made one solid first-round pick in the last decade (AJ Hawk).

That's why I don't understand why so many skeptics are predicting the Packers' demise now that it's becoming clear that Favre won't be a part of this team. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had to wait for two years behind Drew Brees in San Diego and look how that turned out. The Chargers have made two straight playoff appearances; Rivers has played in the Pro Bowl; and nobody is second-guessing the choice today. Now that doesn't mean Rodgers will have similar success. It's just that there's nothing to suggest he can't be the leader that Thompson and McCarthy expect him to become.

Phillip Rivers is an arrogant jerk who folds. Are we seriously making this argument, Jeff?

Remember, this isn't a team lacking in weapons. The Packers have dynamic receivers, a sturdy offensive line and an aggressive defense, and they should have a content Ryan Grant back in camp once they resolve contract negotiations with the holdout running back. That's a pretty good way for a young quarterback to open his career as a starter.
Rodgers knows this, and so does Packers management.

Aaron Rodgers, your mighty Packers can go to war with weapons, but the SECRET WEAPON is Mississippi born, All-American, Brett Lorenzo Favre. I must keep repeating the middle name due to the fact that it's so outstanding. Enjoy September, it'll be your only regular season month of hope.

So don't be surprised if Rodgers continues to look confident and unaffected by all the talk about Favre. As Rodgers said, the Packers "will believe in whoever is under center. And I've earned a lot of respect from running the scout team and working hard over the last three years."

I'd have a false sense of confidence, too, if I rocked that nasty soul patch.

In other words, Rodgers knows he's ready for this long-awaited opportunity. Now that it's finally here, he's not going to ruin it by thinking about the last guy who held the job.

Aaron Rodgers, welcome to the NFL, you'll go 4-12.

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