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Sunday Musing: Aaron Rodgers

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Folks, on Sundays I often try to write something a little different, something that makes you think. And today, I have an almost ideal subject, albeit for a not-so-great reason, that subject being Aaron Rodgers. (He was injured today, you see. But I’ll get to that in a bit.)

When Rodgers first became the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, I wasn’t happy. (Yeah, I’ll admit it.) I was a big fan of Brett Favre and Favre’s happy-go-lucky style of play, and Rodgers was more sedate, much quieter, and far less flamboyant.

However, over time, I’ve learned to appreciate Rodgers. He is a deep thinker, as well as a fierce competitor, and he seems to have a very solid moral compass. (He reads, too, and I’m a big fan of that…no surprise, huh?)

Rodgers is the type of guy who learns from experience. He is mature, and has a personality that I probably would like, one-on-one.

So, why was it that when Rodgers, who probably had all of these qualities to begin with in some fashion or another, came into his own with the Packers that I didn’t appreciate him very much at all?

I think there’s something to do with loyalty that came into play, there. It was hard to give Rodgers a chance when I still liked Favre and believed Favre could play, and play well, in the NFL. And even though it wasn’t up to Rodgers at all as to when Rodgers would finally get his time to shine (as if it were, Rodgers would’ve started from the moment he got drafted by the Packers, and that obviously didn’t happen), it was difficult to see Rodgers’ worth or value.

This is the value of time, though. It gives you the opportunity to re-evaluate your snap judgments. Some of them are right; I liked Favre from the start, for example. But some are flat wrong, and are colored by prejudgments that can’t help but keep you from seeing the whole picture.

As my cousin Wayne put it a while back, Favre and Rodgers are both great, but in different ways. One was relatable and quotable; the other humane and thoughtful. But both are wonderful players, and are interesting people with unique perspectives on life, to boot.

And that’s important to think about. Rodgers is a person, with feelings and wants and needs and desires of his own. He’s not an automaton. He’s a real, live person, and he’s about to have to endure the hardest thing any athlete in his prime hates, that being a major injury.

Earlier today in the game versus the Minnesota Vikings, Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone. He will be out for quite some time. There’s even a possibility that Rodgers will be out the entire remainder of the 2017 season.

I hope Rodgers will heal quickly and well.

But while he heals, I also hope he’ll continue doing what he was already — that is, studying, reading, thinking hard, doing good for others, and caring deeply about the world we live in.

Because as great a quarterback and football player as Rodgers is, I think he’s an even better person. And we need more people like him in this life.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 15, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Chris Kluwe, Aaron Rodgers, LGBT Advocacy and the NFL

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This was an odd week in the National Football League, wasn’t it?

First we had Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers come out and state emphatically for the record, “I really, really like women” in response to some Internet rumors regarding Rodgers’ sexuality.  This was completely unprecedented, especially considering the fact his team is preparing for a huge playoff game this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers — a team that beat the Packers, 34-28, earlier this season in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.

Usually, when teams prepare for big games, the last thing any player wants to do is talk about anything except the upcoming game.  Even major stars like Rodgers generally try to sublimate their own concerns during football season, most especially during the playoffs.

So Rodgers doing this was strange, to put it mildly, and created a minor furor.

But that was nothing compared to the furor that occurred once former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s story at Deadspin about how he believes was fired from the Vikings partially because they didn’t like his advocacy for gay rights was published.

Here’s a bit from Kluwe’s first person account if you don’t believe me:

Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. He would ask me if I had written any letters defending “the gays” recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed. I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things.

Kluwe’s indictment is incendiary, but rings true from my perspective as a long-term fan of the NFL. But it’s a sad commentary on our life and times, isn’t it?

What irks me so much about both these stories is this: It doesn’t have to be this way. Not even in the NFL.

Seriously, Rodgers’ sexual orientation is no one else’s business. If he’s gay, bisexual, straight, Martian — who cares? He’s a football player and is paid to win games.

As for what Kluwe says, and how outspoken he’s been about saying it, again, who cares?  He always was careful, as he points out in his article for Deadspin, to speak only for himself — not for the Vikings.  And his own former team owner, Zygi Wilf, actually complimented Kluwe on Kluwe’s stance — so if the coaches had a problem with it, especially if Kluwe continued to perform well on the field, why?

Then, contrast the two above stories with this story about the 1993 Houston Oilers, which apparently had two openly gay players on the roster. No one cared, because they played good football. They were excellent teammates. And their sexual orientation was no one else’s business but theirs.

For all the progress we’ve made in the 21st Century regarding LGBT rights, it seems ridiculous that someone like Kluwe would be fired for his advocacy of same when in 1993, no one on the Oilers cared two figs about anyone’s sexual orientation.

If the 1993 Oilers could get it right, why can’t the 2013 Vikings?

And why, oh why, would any player (much less Rodgers) believe it’s more important to talk about his rumored sexual orientation than the job he’s being paid to do, preparing for this week’s football game?

Are these two stories part of a counter-reaction to the progress that’s been made regarding LGBT rights? Significantly, is it a backlash against Jason Collins, who came out as gay last year? Is it a backlash against soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Robbie Rogers, who’ve also come out as gay?

Is the NFL so afraid that one of its current players may come out as gay or bisexual that it’s imperative for Rodgers to interrupt his training regimen to insist that he “really likes women?”

And why couldn’t Kluwe find a job in the NFL as a punter despite being one of the better punters in the NFL for years?  The NFL’s supposed to be a results-driven league, right?

Anyway, the crux of all three stories is this:

The 1993 Oilers were right. The 2013 Vikings were wrong. And Rodgers shouldn’t need to say anything about his sexual orientation, ’cause no one should care two flying figs providing he’s doing the job on the field.

Why the NFL doesn’t seem to understand this is beyond me.

Waiting to Exhale — er, Waiting for the REAL NFL Refs

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Folks, after the last few days — after replacement referees made one of the worst calls in the history of the National Football League, which decided the Seattle-Green Bay game in favor of the team that should’ve lost (Seattle Seahawks) and took a win away from the team that should’ve won (Green Bay Packers) on the final play of the game — I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

You could say that I’ve been waiting to exhale.

But in a phrase, what I’m feeling is this: bring on the real NFL refs.  Now.

What’s sad is that we have these incompetent replacement refs for one reason: the NFL, in a word, is cheap.  The owners have locked out the real refs because they don’t want to have to pay $3 million or so in pensions.

As Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, it’s wrong for the NFL — a multi-billion dollar enterprise — to be fighting the real, professional referees over a few million dollars in pension funds. 

And not only does this make the NFL look silly and stupid, it also makes them look completely uninterested in player safety.  Most replacement refs just aren’t up to the standard that the real NFL refs pride themselves on.  And that’s going to lead to player injuries sooner or later.

Oh, wait.  It’s already happened.  Because Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub lost a piece of his ear — yes, his ear — on Sunday due to an illegal hit by a member of the Denver Broncos defense, Joe Mays.  One that might not have occurred had the real refs been on the field.

And it’s not just me being upset by this.  Nor the sports columnists across the nation, nor even the Packers players.  Some players on other teams are also upset.

For example, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe — surely one of the most articulate football players ever — said this today to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:

Kluwe said . . . some of the controversial decisions exemplified how important good officiating is to the integrity of the game.

“I think it made a lot of people aware of just how tough the job of being a referee is,” Kluwe said. “You can’t just plug someone in and expect them to be able to deal with the speed of the game and just how fast guys are moving out there. I think it shed some light on what is, a lot of times, a very unrewarding profession. If a ref is doing his job right, a lot of times it’s like a punter or a long snapper: You don’t notice them.

“It’ll be good to have those guys back.”

Or how about Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald?  This past Tuesday, Fitzgerald talked about the disputed ending to the Packers-Seahawks game to Yahoo Sports and said this (after a bit of a reprise from football columnist Mark Rogers):

Week 3 of the season was marred with a spate of disputed decisions but it was not until the dying moments of the Monday night clash between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers that the furor came to a dramatic head. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s game-winning pass to Golden Tate appeared to have been intercepted by Packers safety M.D. Jennings, only for the officials to award the touchdown that handed Seattle a 14-12 victory.

“Being a player you want to know you are being protected and that is truly important to me,” Fitzgerald said. “On the play last night, I thought the same [thing] that everyone else thought. I thought it was an interception, I thought it was clear as day but unfortunately that call wasn’t made.

“This is definitely going to have playoff implications. You know Green Bay is going to be in the thick of the playoff hunt, you know Seattle is going to be in the thick of the playoff hunt. I just hope that later on in the year this is not something that comes back to hurt one of those teams.”

So at least one player who’s not on the Packers has already figured out that the replacement refs have adversely affected the Packers — and have unfairly benefited the Seahawks.  Imagine that!

One final word about the replacement refs, this time courtesy of Pioneer-Press football columnist Joe Soucheray.  He described what’s going on now as:

(Games are) like watching a movie where you begin to notice all the mistakes the director has made, furniture that isn’t supposed to be in the scene, characters called different names 10 minutes apart, pieces of equipment in the shot.

Soucheray goes on to say that he didn’t see the end of the Green Bay-Seattle game, but he didn’t need to:

Because before that I had seen enough to wonder how long the NFL intends to flirt with disaster. There is something else at work here, the very real prospect of outright corruption. I am not at all suggesting that the temps are corrupt. I am suggesting that with each passing week they are in danger of getting things so wrong that a victory might be awarded to a team that lost, if, in fact, that didn’t happen Monday night.

So that’s where we’re at right now.  The NFL has a bunch of refs who aren’t ready for prime time, but three games have been played with these incompetent and inadequate refs.  And at least one game has been decided for the wrong team due to these same refs, which is utterly absurd.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to do the right thing; he needs to get the real refs back on the field, and stop his posturing already. 

And until the NFL gets its act together and gets the real refs on the field, I’m not going to watch or listen to any games, and I’m going to do my best not to follow along online, either.

Because this farce has gone on long enough.

Hallelujah! Brewers OF Ryan Braun Wins Appeal; Will Not be Suspended (UPDATED)

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Folks, I told you this would happen, and it did.

Today, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun won his appeal and will not be suspended 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs (read: steroids).  Apparently, he was able to prove a problem with the “chain of custody” (that is, how the urine sample was handled before it got to the lab); Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt said, in essence, that the Brewers breathed a big sigh of relief after hearing this.

Apparently MLB itself isn’t happy that Braun won his appeal, but that’s just too bad about them; the fact is, arbitrator Shyam Das agreed with the Major League Players Association and with Braun himself, and that’s what matters.  (Anything else is just a fig leaf for MLB, and should be discounted.)

Here’s a link to Haudricourt’s story:

http://m.jsonline.com/140213003.htm?ua=iphone&dc=smart

UPDATE FOLLOWS:

Ryan Braun has released a statement, which the Journal-Sentinel has at this link:

http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/140218803.html

Here’s an excerpt from that statement:

I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.

It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.

We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.

I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.

Later in the statement, after Braun thanked the many people (including the Brewers organization) he felt he should, he said this:

This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully, today the process worked.

Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the Panel Chair and the Office of the Commissioner.

As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.

Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.

I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title.

And friends and teammates of Braun have not been shy saying they’re very pleased to hear this, either.

Brewers closer John Axford, on Twitter, said this regarding Braun:

All I can say is that Braun has exemplary character is continuing to handle this in an unbelievable manner. #ThereBetterBeSomeApologies

And Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who is a good friend of Ryan Braun’s, said this via Twitter:

MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exonerated

My own take, as you know, is that back in December, I said that I believed Braun would be found innocent or at minimum be vindicated and this suspension would not hold up.  Here’s a bit from that blog, written on December 10, 2011:

Braun has been an outstanding player from the time the Brewers brought him up.  He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007.  His lifetime numbers are comparable to his MVP numbers; over his last five seasons, he’s averaged 36 HRs and 118 RBIs a season, and has hit over .300 every year except 2008 (when he “only” hit .285); his lifetime batting average, over five complete seasons, is .312.

So I don’t really see where Braun could’ve been taking anything that was of an enhancing nature, especially if he’s never tested positive before (and indeed, he hasn’t).

Then on December 22, 2011, I pointed out that Braun knew the one minor leaguer, Brendan Katin, who’d successfully fought his appeal, and that maybe this meant something for him.  And Katin said that he didn’t believe Braun was dirty; he said he was “shocked” to hear of an impending suspension, as it didn’t really make any sense.  My conclusion was as follows:

In other words, Braun’s test could be a false positive of the sort Katin had happen to him; just because it hadn’t yet happened as far as anyone’s aware in the majors yet, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  Tests are handled by humans, thus are inherently flawed, and it is possible that a completely innocent man could be caught in the cross-hairs, just like Katin was back in 2007.

My view remains that Braun is innocent until and unless he is proven guilty, not the reverse — and that I fully expect that Braun will be exonerated.  (emphasis added)

So as I said before, I fully believed Braun would be vindicated.  I was right, and I’m not afraid to tell you all “I told you so,” either.

Now, the Brewers, their fans, and Braun himself can breathe a sigh of relief; as for MLB, they should realize that tests can be messed up and not every player who tests positive initially is a dirty player.  Rather than being mad at arbitrator Shyam Das, they should be grateful that Das is an independent person and used his head for more than a hatrack.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm

NFL News: A Super Bowl Safety; also, Rodgers wins NFL MVP

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Sometimes, odd things just happen.

Take tonight’s Super Bowl, for example.  New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, on the first play of the game from scrimmage, threw a deep pass to the middle of the field as he was on his own five yard line (very bad field position, that).  But there were no receivers there, so the refs called intentional grounding — which meant that the New York Giants ended up with a 2-0 lead, gaining a safety.

This had never before happened in the Super Bowl — much less on the very first play of the game from scrimmage.  (It makes me wonder what else is going to happen in this game.)

The other NFL news today is so disconcertingly normal . . . Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, as expected, won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award (MVP).  Rodgers was one of two outstanding QBs this season — New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees being the other — and either one of them winning the MVP (or sharing the MVP) would’ve made sense.

It does seem strange not to see Brees or Rodgers playing in the Super Bowl.  But it’s not the first time the NFL MVP has sat at home during the Super Bowl, and assuredly it won’t be the last, either . . . that’s why the saying, “There’s always next year” is so powerful.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Aaron Rodgers

The Topsy-Turvy, Upside-Down NFL: Packers lose, Colts win, and Tebow becomes a “mere mortal”

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Today’s slate of National Football League games held high drama, stunning reversals, and at least one game that featured the comeuppance of a highly-touted player, Tim Tebow.

First, the local news: the Green Bay Packers’ bid to go undefeated this season is over.  They lost, 19-14, to the Kansas City Chiefs; the Chiefs played a very strong, ball-control offense and didn’t give up any offensive turnovers.  Aaron Rodgers, who’s had an outstanding season thus far, had a rather pedestrian game with 235 yards passing, was sacked four times, and even threw one INT (though to be fair, many of his receivers, including TE Jermichael Finley, dropped many well-thrown balls, which is partly why Rodgers’ stat line read 17-35); in fact, NFL retread Kyle Orton, who’s the Chiefs newest QB, had a far better game with 299 yards passing on 23-31 attempts, with no sacks and no INTs.

Read more about the Packers-Chiefs game here; the Packers new record is 13-1, while the Chiefs are at 6-8.

Now, as for the good surprise of the day — the Indianapolis Colts have finally won their first game, trouncing the Tennessee Titans 27-13.  Colts starting QB Dan Orlovsky has finally won a game (in his previous seven years in the NFL, Orlovsky was 0-9 as a starter), the Colts have avoided an 0-16 season, and Colts’ fans can finally hold their heads up high after their team played an excellent second half to deny Tennessee (7-7).

Here’s what the Titans’ coach Mike Munchak had to say about it all:

“I never would have expected us to come out, and they’re playing like the team going to the playoffs and we’re the team that’s 0-13,” coach Mike Munchak said. “We just weren’t playing well at all. The intensity wasn’t there at the start.”

That’s why the NFL has its famous saying, that anyone can beat anyone else on “any given Sunday.”  Because I agree with Munchak; the Titans still have a chance to go to the playoffs, while the Colts came into this game winless and really had only one halfway decent game all year before this (and they still lost it).

Finally, the New England Patriots did something I never thought they could do: they got me to root for them.

Why is this?  Well, it’s simple.  I have a hard time with players like Tim Tebow, who seem to believe that God cares whether or not they win football games.  (I believe the Deity cares about individuals playing the games, yes.  And I think that the Deity probably cares whether the games are “clean” ones, with no dirty play, no gamblers’ interference, and no terrible injuries.  But I do not believe any Deity worth His, Her, or Its salt would ever care about who actually wins these games — that’s up to the players, and coaches, and how hard everyone works, and sometimes even whether or not the ball bounces the right way.)

Tebow, you see, is not a prototypical NFL QB.  So much has been written about this because Tebow runs as well as passes; he’s far from the first QB to do this, as NFL Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton was famous for this back in the early 1970s, but there’s been so much press about Tebow of the fawning variety that I’ve had it.

So I actually rooted for New England, even though I dislike their team and don’t really care for Tom Brady as a person, either — though of course I admire his play on the field — because the Patriots, to the best of my knowledge, have never had any player whatsoever insist that his ability to play football is “divinely inspired.”**

At any rate, while Tebow did run for two TDs (and looked good doing it), and threw for 194 yards and looked halfway decent doing that (Tebow is left-handed and has an off-kilter throwing motion, though it has improved), the Patriots were by far the better team; this is why the Patriots (11-3) won, 41-23, over the Broncos (8-6).  Brady had an excellent day, throwing for 320 yards and completing 23 of 34 passes with two throwing TDs and one rushing TD.  (Note that many of the Broncos had “fumble-itis” for most of the second half, which is one reason why Tebow couldn’t perform any of his comeback “mojo.”)

Read more about the Broncos — and Tebow’s — comeuppance here.

As for next week?  Who knows what’ll happen in the NFL, other than that there’ll be some great games, some good ones, some stunning upsets and some thrilling comebacks (in no particular order).

—————–

**

Note that Green Bay Packers DE and legend Reggie White (aka “the Minister of Defense”), sometimes did say that God was on his side.  But he was a minister.  I have a better understanding of why a minister would say this than someone like Tebow, who isn’t.  And White didn’t say this from the time he was a rookie, either, nor did he come into the league and insist from the start that God was on his side to the exclusion of everyone else in the league — White believed God was on his side, sure, but he also believed that God had given him the ability to play football so White himself could help determine the outcome on the field along with the other players constituting the Green Bay Packers.  (In other words, while White was a Godly man, he believed that football is a team sport.  Which, of course, it is.)

I far prefer White’s attitude to Tebow’s, because I understand why someone who believes in God and is an extremely spiritual person (as White was; I met him, once, and there was no doubt) would believe God is everywhere, including on the football field.  But I do not understand why any one player like Tebow would believe that God is so much on his side that this is the only reason his team, the Broncos, has won any games whatsoever — that denigrates everyone on the Broncos who isn’t Tebow, and that’s the main reason I really don’t understand Tebow’s attitude.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Packers win; Rodgers being praised to the skies — and I don’t care.

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The Packers won tonight, 48-21, against Atlanta.  Aaron Rodgers had an excellent game, one of his best ever.

So, why don’t I care?  A little background, first.

Folks, I have followed the Packers since I was very small — something like three or four years old.  But I’ve grown tired of the need at every step by both state and national reporters to glorify Aaron Rodgers at the expense of former Packers QB (and sure-to-be Hall of Famer) Brett Favre.

Look at tonight’s story from Yahoo Sports; first, here’s the link:

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/recap;_ylt=AnZs3MZQTLWirpX6pR06CFk5nYcB?gid=20110115001

Next, a relevant quote:

ATLANTA (AP)—Brett who? Aaron Rodgers(notes) has turned these NFL playoffs into his own showcase.

Moving down a few paragraphs, the article continues:

Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards, more than Brett Favre(notes)—the guy he replaced in Green Bay—ever threw for in a playoff game. After knocking off Michael Vick(notes) and the Eagles in Philadelphia, then dominating Matt Ryan(notes) and the Falcons in Atlanta, Rodgers is creating his own legacy in Titletown USA.

That Rodgers surely is, but comparing him to Favre is unnecessary.  Favre was a great quarterback who is now retired.  Football’s rules have changed in the past few years allowing for more offense, and Rodgers — and the Packers’ offensive schemes — have taken advantage of that.

Either Rodgers is a good quarterback on his own — I believe he is — or he isn’t, but in any event a comparison to Brett Favre is unhelpful unless you want to go back to Favre’s second or third playoff game.  (This is Rodgers’ third playoff game, the second of this year, and before this year he’d played in one and lost in one, the 48-47 shootout in Arizona last year.)

Comparing Rodgers, who is a young man with only one significant injury this year (a concussion that kept him out of a game or two), with Favre, who is over 40 and was hobbled by at least five significant injuries (foot, ankle, elbow, throwing shoulder, and a nasty concussion that kept him out of his last two games and shortened a third), is not just an “apples to oranges” comparison — it is kicking a legend, Brett Favre, while he’s down. 

I blame headlines like this on those who are angry because of Favre’s off-the-field issues or his inability to give up playing football on someone else’s timetable other than his own.  I see them as childish, mean-spirited, unnecessary, and extremely rude.

Aaron Rodgers is a good quarterback who played a very fine game.  But he is not a certain Hall of Famer just yet, and as far as his personality goes, there’s no comparison between the engaging, “aw shucks, ma’am” persona of Favre and the driven, competitive, smart but rather taciturn Rodgers.

In ten years, perhaps we’ll know if Rodgers is another Steve Young — a legend following in the footsteps of another, greater legend (in Young’s case, he followed Joe Montana in San Francisco, as all football fans know) — or if he’s another guy who’ll have a few, brief years in the sun, then start to fade as injuries take their toll.

Until then, the folks writing stories such as these really should shut the Hell up.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 16, 2011 at 12:32 am