Aaron Rodgers’ Road To Canton: Off To A “Super” Start

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It seems that like no matter what Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers does in his career, someone has a question about him.

First, there was the question of whether he was athletic enough to succeed as a starter in the NFL. That was answered in 2008.

Then there were the doubts of whether or not he could lead the Packers to the postseason. He checked that one off in 2009.

Next it became whether or not Rodgers could win a playoff game and truly replace Brett Favre in the hearts and minds of Packers fans. He finally sealed the deal on that one with a Super Bowl title in 2010 (although the hearts and minds of many were already won by the start of 2010).

Now there is another question involving Rodgers, but I don’t think he would mind this one being asked around too much especially this early in his career:

“Is Aaron Rodgers on the path to enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?”

Before we can even begin to answer that question, there should be one huge disclaimer attached: Rodgers has played six NFL seasons and has seen enough meaningful action in three of them.  Hall of Fame enshrinement is judged upon a player’s entire career so to prognosticate Rodgers’ chances after three seasons as a starter is a little preposterous.

All that said, we can look at some trends from these past three seasons and try to play the role of Nostradamus in gauging how Rodgers will finish his career.

If you count just 2008-2010, Rodgers is averaging 4,131 yards per season with 29 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions plus four rushing touchdowns.  If Rodgers is somehow able to maintain that average for 11 more years when he turns 38, he would finish his career with 58,164 yards, 406 TD passes, 142 interceptions, and 57 rushing touchdowns.

Those numbers would definitely be Hall of Fame worthy, but it’s likely that pace will drop off a bit.  For one, every quarterback experiences an “off year.” Even Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have down years.  While they’re not horrible, they are lower than what they average each season.   The law of averages is sometimes simply too much to overcome.

Then there is the injury concern.  Rodgers suffered two concussions this past season and if he wants to be a candidate for Canton someday, he needs to buck that trend.  While he enjoys the comparisons to Steve Young, somehow I don’t think Rodgers will like to be in the same category as Young in injuries who saw the multiple blows he took to his head end his career.

Still, there is plenty working in Rodgers’ favor.  His surrounding cast is still very young and should be together for a long time.  Even with Donald Driver nearing retirement, general manager Ted Thompson’s shrewd draft skills have helped keep the Packer’s offensive arsenal stocked with firepower.  Just look at this year’s second round pick WR Randall Cobb.

Another thing Rodgers has going for him is his level head, on and off the field.   He refuses to get too high or too low.  He takes things as they come and after meeting one challenge is eagerly awaiting the next.  His Super Bowl MVP press conference showed that the young man is not satisfied with one title.  He wants more. Off the field, Rodgers is involved in a ton of charity work and is setting himself up for the years down the road when he is finished with football by starting his own record label.  While off the field things are not officially part of the Hall nomination process, voters are more likely to enshrine someone who behaved themselves versus a player who acted like a fool off the field.

Continuity with the same play caller also works in Rodgers’ advantage.  Mike McCarthy has publicly said he hopes this is his last job and as the man who has groomed his quarterback from raw second year man to a Super Bowl MVP, he and Rodgers should only see increased strength in the chemistry between them.  With the Thompson and McCarthy system now fully in place in Green Bay, it isn’t out of the question to see McCarthy as the Packers version of Andy Reid and provide the team with a sense of stability at the head coaching position that it hasn’t seen in quite some time.

A defense that continuously dominates also would help Rodgers’ cause.  With the Packers defense dominating the latter part of the season, McCarthy and Rodgers were able to keep their feet on the gas and open up the offense more and more.  Rodgers’ dissection of the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round is a prime example.

So to wrap this all up, Rodgers is well on his way to a spot in Canton someday.  He has put up strong numbers his first three seasons and the 2010 run to a Super Bowl victory only strengthened the case that Rodgers will be a force to be reckoned with in the NFL for years to come.  He has all the physical tools as well as the intangibles to one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of football’s all-time greatest signal callers.

Things are far from guaranteed, however. While there is absolutely no reason to believe Rodgers’ numbers will drop off, anything can happen in the NFL.  He must remain healthy and the Packers organization must keep the talent level around him high.  No quarterback carries a team to a title by himself.

As long as he keeps up what he’s been doing and maintains a level head on and off the field, then there is no reason why Rodgers would not have a strong chance at making it into Canton sometime in the late 2020s.

If he does, then the Packers will accomplish a rare feat in the NFL: having two back-to-back Hall of Fame quarterbacks play under center.

How’s THAT for a legacy?


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.


15 thoughts on “Aaron Rodgers’ Road To Canton: Off To A “Super” Start

  1. Kris, a very well thoughtout article. You’ve covered every possible scenario. Well done!

    I’ll throw in my opinion, which is not as well documented as yours, but what the hell. AR’s trip to the “Hall” will be determined by how he plays in the next 5 years. Another SB win (or preferably 2) and deep playoff runs in the others will virtually ensure his presense in Canton. After that everything else is gravy.

    1. Thanks for kind words Ron. More titles and playoff runs would not hurt, but keep some things in perspective. Big Ben has won two titles, is he HOF worthy (off the field stuff aside)? Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson both won Super Bowls too.

      1. It’s not if you win it, but how you win it.
        Rodgers was the single most important piece in the SB win, and played his best football in cruch time, despite having played really, really well in his career before.

        The guys you mentioned won BECAUSE of their D. While it’s true that the Packers’ D was crucial to the SB win, Rodgers was as important. You can’t say the same for Roethlisberger, Johnson and Dilfer.

        (I know that some people will say that Big Ben’s play to Holmes was crucial, but then again, he was terrible for the whole game. With at least a decent QB performance, that last play wouldn’t have been needed).

  2. Kris,

    Nice, thoughtful article, however you are foregetting an important point. Manning and Brady won Super Bowls and were rewarded with near 20 million dollar deals. That is a ton of cap space for one player and forces the team to reduce salary at other positions. Its result weakens the team and neither player has returned to the Super Bowl; although they have done well in the regular season.

    If I were in Rodger’s ear, I would direct him to vie for a maximum amount of money during his next negotation. He then should accept half of that maximum, if he wants to continue winning championships. Aaron, money or championships? Can you be content with $12 million per year?

    1. You raise a good point, Matt. Keep in mind though that the Packers do not spend big in free agency. They build through the draft. Throw in the rookie wage scale that very well could be part of a CBA and Rodgers may not have to worry about restructuring his deal.

      I think Rodgers would do that if it meant more titles, but it’s impossible to know until we know how or even if the salary cap will function in a new CBA

    2. The Packers reward their own eventually. Ask Nick Collins, Ryan Grant, Charles Woodson, Donald Driver, Chad Clifton, AJ Hawk, Desmond Bishop…

      As long as you behave properly, give full commitment on and off the field, and is a part of the team’s future, the Packers don’t mind overspending on their own.

  3. You got beat to the punch on a interesting topic by ESPN’s Kevin Siefert in yesterday’s NFCN Blog. He compared AR’s first 3 years to the first 3 years of recent inductees and current candidates as well. It’s a dog-eat-dog world in sports journalism.

  4. Rodgers’ overall stats are impressive, but what may eventually put him in Canton (if he keeps it up) are his post-season performances.

    Some of his post season stats:

    5 games.

    118 of 174, good for 67.8% completion percentage

    1,517 yards- that’s 303.4 yards/game average

    Average QB Rating of 109.5 (that’s including his 55.4 rating vs. CHI in the NFC championship!)

    13 passing TDs, 3 Rushing TDs, 3 INTs

    Rodgers is amazing in the post season. It is beyond comical that certain “packers fans” (um, typically they were actually brINT fans) were, at one point, questioning Rodgers’ play in clutch situations…

  5. Are you people delirious?

    Rodgers is blessed with a brilliant receiving corps and a hard-nosed defense that saved games in the final minutes. If they don’t step up in the Eagles, Bears AND the SB, we’re not talking about Rodgers in Canton.

    Please show some restraint re this ridiculous Hof hyperbole.

    Or at least wait until the QB has played 10 more years and has several season MVP’s.

  6. It’s not only way too early, it’s risible and arrogant.

    But as you said..a SB win will do that.

    Best beware the dreaded post SB hubris.

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