Football is a young man’s sport and even more so with the Green Bay Packers. Since the introduction of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy as the Packers general manager and head coach respectively, the Packers has consistently fielded one of the youngest rosters in the league. In particular, Ted Thompson’s acumen for finding talented college players coupled with his penchant for ignoring free agency usually means there are a lot of players with little or no previous experience in the NFL. The Packers have also been ruthless with aging veterans, where seemingly no player is safe; Charles Woodson, Cullen Jenkins, Chad Clifton, Marco Rivera, Mike Wahle, Darren Sharper were big name players all dumped to the curbside in favor of younger, cheaper options.
There is one exception of course and that’s the quarterback; while Ted Thompson probably believes he can replace just about every player on his roster with someone younger who can be equally talented (and overall he’s been right), even Ted Thompson realizes that quarterbacks are a different breed and the best are diamonds in the rough. Aaron Rodgers is one of those quarterbacks and Ted Thompson made is clear that he’s not going to be replaced anytime soon by making him the highest paid player in the history of the NFL.
However, while Rodgers is here to stay for the long haul, the same can’t be said for the rest of the roster. And as Rodgers continues to get older while the rest of the team gets younger, it’s naturally going to cause some issues. One famous example was with Brett Favre and Randy Moss. As told by Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post, in 2007 both the Packers and Patriots were interested in trading for Randy Moss, who had languished for 2 years with the Oakland Raiders. At the end of the day, New England made the better deal and Moss was a Patriot. Brett Favre was “livid” not only because he had long admired Moss while he was a Vikings but also because the Packers philosophy of building for the future did not work for Favre; Brandt mentions he told Favre he felt Greg Jennings would be a star in a couple years (which ultimately turned out to be true), but Favre countered that he didn’t have a couple years to wait (which also turned out to be ultimately be true). In the end, Favre knew he only had a couple good years of football left and felt like the Packers were shortchanging him when instead they should have been giving him more ammo for one last push for a Super Bowl. Obviously in retrospect, Ted Thompson was right to build the future (Aaron Rodgers), but had Rodgers not panned out, Favre would have been correct where sacrificing some of the future for the present would have been the better option.
While Aaron Rodgers has a couple good years left at the peak of his career, naturally after the peak comes the decline and he’s going to run into the same situation as his predecessor. It’s even going to be hard for Rodgers to relate to his new teammates sooner than later; imagine yourself in Rodgers’ shoes in a couple years; you’re a 30 year old star quarterback, 2011 NFL MVP, 2010 Super Bowl MVP and probable hall of famer, at this point in your career, it’s not about the money or the recognition, it’s about Super Bowls and enriching your legacy. Rodgers might be married at this point, so a kid wouldn’t be out of the picture as well. Now try to relate to a 21-year old 1st round pick, fresh out of college without a clue in the world. All this guy wants to do is pick up chicks, go to clubs and flaunt his money around. Even if he’s talented, it usually takes a couple of years for someone to really settle in and transition into a NFL player. From Rodgers’ future perspective, is he really going to want to work with a guy like that or a free agent that Rodgers has always liked from afar who is far more in sync with his own point in life and career?
While it might sound a little crazy, Rodgers has already quietly expressed this opinion. Last offseason, when the Packers brought in Cedric Benson, many of the fans were quick to write him off, with his numerous legal issues, history of underperformance with the Bears (much to the delight of the Packers fans) and overall lack of “splash” plays made it easy to assume Benson was another camp body (I admit I was one of those fans). However, Rodgers was quick to defend his new teammate:
“I’ve always kind of watched his career from afar. Being drafted in 2005, I’ve followed the guys I was drafted with and the guys in the green room. It’s fun to see a lot of us still playing and playing at a high level. It’s fun to get Cedric in here. He’s a very talented guy.” – Aaron Rodgers
He goes on to state that he likes having a more veteran player because Benson knows what he’s supposed to do and naturally understands the game better than a younger player. Compare this to when Rodgers broke off his assignment to trail recently signed DuJuan Harris in the event that the former car salesman fumbled the ball or Rodgers’ disappointed comments about the release of Charles Woodson and you can see the difference
In the end, will Ted Thompson change philosophies for just one player? For any other player the answer would be an astounding no, but for Rodgers, Thompson may have to bite the bullet and give the guy a break. While Favre was Ron Wolf’s “guy” and who has commented that his biggest regret was not giving Favre more weapons after the 1997 season, Aaron Rodgers is Thompson’s “guy” and hopefully Thompson can arm the Packers with plenty of young talent without alienating his veteran quarterback.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.