All eyes are on Aaron Rodgers, as he recently signed the largest contract in NFL history.
He is heading into the upcoming season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after he missed all but seven games last year. The Packers superstar is not likely to succumb to intense pressure, however. The veteran signal-caller is planning to return with a vengeance after his season ended prematurely. This may not be good news for the rest of the NFL.
Many analysts and former players consider Rodgers to be the most talented quarterback in the history of football. He has the best combination of arm strength, passing precision, football IQ, and athleticism that the position has seen. Rodgers has been described as a “Dan Marino with wheels” or a “more precise version of John Elway.” This is enormous praise, as Marino and Elway were considered to be the two most talented quarterbacks in the history of the NFL until Rodgers came along.
However, talent doesn’t mean much if production does not follow. Many talented players do not pan out for a variety of reasons, but Rodgers will not meet the same fate. He has the highest career passer rating of any quarterback ever to play football. His 313 touchdowns to 78 interceptions give him the best TD: INT ratio ever, by a mile. He can throw an interception on his next 24 passes and still retain the highest ratio.
Aaron Rodgers is one of only four people to throw 40+ touchdowns in a season at least twice, and he is one of just nine players to win multiple MVP awards. In 2011, Rodgers had the single greatest statistical season ever by a quarterback. He threw for 4,643 passing yards, 45 touchdowns, and six interceptions in 15 games while still rushing for three more scores. He accumulated a 122.5 passer rating, which is an all-time best, and led the league’s worst defense to a 15-1 record.
In his first five games of 2017, Rodgers threw for 1,367 yards, 13 touchdowns, and three interceptions while completing 66.6% of his passes and leading his team to a 4-1 record. These numbers would have put him on pace for 4,374 yards, 41 touchdowns, and ten interceptions while helping to secure a top seed in the NFC. However, a collarbone injury interrupted what may have been another MVP-caliber season. In Rodgers’ absence, his team fell apart.
Aaron Rodgers may still have his best season yet in 2018. He’s played with a bag of chips on his shoulder since he was young. He did not get a scholarship out of high school, so he went to junior college. He did not receive any offers from big schools during his time at community college. After being projected to go #1 overall to his hometown 49ers back in 2005, he slipped all the way to 24. He hasn’t been back to the Superbowl since the 2010 season, which has most likely made him even hungrier.
Rodgers’ unique talent and extra motivation is a scary combination for opponents. He missed more than half the season in 2017, and the team that hurt him won the NFC North. Those two facts simply serve to add extra fuel.
Additionally, the last time that Rodgers injured his collarbone, he won the NFL MVP the very next season.
Throwing in some good weapons at Rodgers’ disposal, and his offense could be one of the most dangerous in the NFL. It remains unknown if Rodgers will be supported by any semblance of a running game. However, many believe that Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Ty Montgomery will be able to provide some respectable support after they showed flashes last season.
Davante Adams has 22 receiving touchdowns over the last two seasons. He is ready to establish himself as a legitimate number one receiver this season. He’s come close to two 1,000-yard seasons over the past two seasons, and the 25-year old should finally be able to hit that mark in 2018.
Last year, he missed two games due to a concussion. He played most of his games with Brett Hundley at the helm instead of Rodgers. With Jordy Nelson gone, the athletic freak is now the primary receiver. After minting a $58 million contract, he is ready to assume those responsibilities.
Randall Cobb is an established receiver who is one of the best in the slot. He has always flown a bit under-the-radar, but the 28-year-old has tremendous chemistry with Aaron Rodgers.
Free agent tight end acquisition Jimmy Graham is the X-factor that Rodgers has never had. When healthy, the 31-year-old is arguably the pass-catching tight end next to Rob Gronkowski. He has had numerous elite seasons with Drew Brees in New Orleans, so he should be just as effective in another offense-friendly scheme.
Rodgers echoed this sentiment, telling Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman:
“On paper … this offense could be incredible,” Rodgers told B/R in a recent interview. “We just have to keep proving it. The  offense was very dynamic, but this year we have the X-factor in Jimmy. He understands [defenses] so well. He can catch anything, and he’s impossible to cover.”
Another aspect to consider is his off-the-field life, which is an underrated or overlooked element of an athlete’s game. Away from the game, the 34-year-old is in an excellent place. He is content because he’s found a great balance in his life, as he told Freeman:
“I always feel like you have to have good balance in your life,” Rodgers said. “It’s something I’m really beginning to embrace. The vacations I went on this offseason, the time with close friends and family, all make me a better person.
“This offseason was big in terms of that. Seeing the Dalai Lama. I took a trip to Africa [to Lusaka, Zambia to help fit children and adults with hearing aids]. Spending time with some teammates outside of football. All of those things help me grow as a person and make me a better football player.”
Satisfaction often propels players to take it easy, but Rodgers is another animal. He is not stressed out by relationships, contract talk, or offensive support. He just needs to focus on football, as everything else seems to have fallen into place. He only needs to be worried about the defense, which has let him down for almost a decade now.
Additionally, the Packers finished third in the division, so they will not have a first-place schedule. This fact will only make things easier for Rodgers.
A third MVP should be on the horizon, and fans will be reminded yet again of Rodgers’ value as the league’s best quarterback. With everything falling into place, Aaron Rodgers may be on the cusp of having yet another historically great season.
Featured Image via Flickr/Mike Morbeck