Aaron Rodgers can quiet a lot of critics on Sunday. With Tom Brady coming to town to face the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Title Game, Rodgers can do a lot to add to his credentials for Canton.
The problem for Rodgers is it will take more than a win against the Buccaneers. Brady won’t go quietly, even in what appears to be another game in the twilight of a Hall Of Fame career. For the aging Bucs quarterback, he has proven himself. Brady has established a legacy of excellence. Rodgers still needs more. Two more wins this season could help in his ranking among the best, or at least it should.
These days in the NFL, quarterbacks are judged by one consistent metric: Super Bowls. To date, Rodgers has one. One appearance, one win. When the Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Dallas, Rodgers won the MVP award. It seemed like a mortal lock more would be in his future. Nearly a decade later, he’s still searching for that second title.
He needs it. Especially if he wants to be part of the conversation, part of the elite class. Which begs the question, what is the definition of the elite class?
Is it merely rings? If two Super Bowl rings is the magic number, then why the persistent debate whether Eli Manning is deserving of a spot in Canton? For that matter, if two championships are the defining metric, Jim Plunkett should have been in the Hall Of Fame long ago.
In this age of instant gratification via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and ESPN highlight on-demand, being ‘great’ can be confused with being relevant. Rodgers is a solid quarterback. But in a division with the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings, the Packers are good. Very good. They are likely and most often best in the division. But is that enough?
The NFC East during the Eli Manning era was also good. Probably better than the NFC North top to bottom year in and year out. Beating the Lions, the Bears, and an inconsistent Vikings team is great for gaudy stats, which Rodgers has, but it’s not enough.
Rodgers still needs more
Take one thing into consideration before losing your mind that Rodger’s has already done enough. Plunkett had a career that is deserving of more consideration. After wrapping up what was an unsuccessful stint in New England, Plunkett had two disastrous seasons in San Francisco. He then signed on to be a third-string clipboard holder in Oakland when Ken Stabler was the unquestioned starter. It took an injury to Ken Pastorini for Plunkett to get a shot at the starting job.
Beginning in 1980, he managed to succeed against all kinds of odds. Plunkett would earn the Comeback Player Of The Year in the same season Oakland won the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles as a Wild Card entrant. The Raider veteran would also earn Super Bowl MVP honors in that game. He then managed to win another championship three seasons later.
One can concede that Plunkett’s career was uneven. But if Eli is a debate, and Plunkett isn’t getting in, then you can reasonably say that Rodger’s is still a question mark, even with a second title.
Playing in the fabled hamlet of Green Bay conjures all kinds of NFL ‘good feels’, but more is needed from Aaron Rodgers. When he faces Brady in the NFC Championship on Sunday, the contrast between who is getting in and who deserves additional scrutiny should be obvious. One is a lock, and one isn’t.
The guy with more rings answers that question, easily.