I have a confession to make: Initially, I hated Aaron Rodgers.
Perhaps hate is too strong of a word. But in 2008, after Brett Favre unretired and the Packers refused to give him his old job back, what other emotion was I supposed to feel? Brett Favre was my guy—a gunslinger if there ever was one, whose unadulterated joy in playing the game of football was infectious. Oh yeah, he was also a three-time MVP who led the Pack to their only non-Lombardi Super Bowl title.
Plus, I was there in Oakland the day after his dad Irv died: He passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns, many of them appearing to be almost divine intervention, in leading the Pack to a huge 41-7 victory. I still have the ticket stub.
And then, with Rodgers leading the way, the Packers went 6-10. In my lifetime, Green Bay was perennially in contention. For me, as a young Packer fan and Brett Favre fan (to be honest, my Brett Favre fandom was nearly as great as my Packer fandom), this was another reason to dislike our front office for kicking a legend out of town and the young quarterback who replaced him.
Needless to say, Rodgers won me over.
He won me over with his attitude during the whole Favre controversy: With each new episode, Favre continued to look more the selfish prima donna, while Rodgers handled everything with such grace and class. He won me over with his character, and the way all the guys on the team rallied around him.
And obviously, he won me over with his play. For Aaron Rodgers is unlike any quarterback who has ever played the game.
The statistics bear this out. He has the best QB Rating of all time, at 104.1—which would be a Hall-of-Fame-level performance for one season, let alone a career. He has the best career TD-INT ratio at an astounding 4.12 (for comparison, Tom Brady is in second place with a 3.00 ratio, and Brett Favre’s was a comparatively paltry 1.51). He has won two MVPs, and could win a third. (If Matt Ryan wins, so be it—he has had an incredible MVP-worthy season. But if Brady wins it—he who missed four games in which his team won three of them—I will riot.) He led the Packers to their fourth Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XLV. He has one of the strongest arms in the history of the NFL, he is one of the most accurate passers to ever play the game, he is crazy intelligent, and nimbleness and ability to buy more time in the pocket is literally incomparable. He is a sorcerer, Dumbledore without the wand.
But there is something else to Rodgers, and that is simply the wonder of watching him. Watch him long enough, and you almost become desensitized to his down-by-down greatness. For example, here he is completing a ridiculous touchdown pass to Davante Adams in Week One against the Jacksonville Jaguars:
It’s truly incredible. But he does this all the time! Here is a TD pass that ultimately didn’t count from 2014. Sometimes I have to remind myself to just relax and enjoy watching him, and let his weekly performance inspire awe.
And then, sometimes, he simply completes impossible Hail Marys.
There is nothing left to do except wonder at Aaron Rodgers. Critics may carp (that Rodgers has so many critics is one of the more baffling things in all of sports). Haters are gonna hate. But for us fans, whether of the Packers of some other team, there is nothing left to do but wonder.