Path To Greatness Starting Again

The Packers' prolific starting quarterback will make his second career playoff start at Philadelphia on Sunday. Rodgers' career is off to a great start, but the numbers hardly matter at his position. Winning, above all else, is the measuring stick for a quarterback.

Statistically, Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in NFL history.

That measurement is based on passer rating, with Rodgers' career mark of 98.4 topping the all-time charts.

Of course, great quarterbacks aren't measured by passer rating or whatever statistical milestone you want to use. Great quarterbacks are measured in Super Bowl rings. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw won four. Tom Brady and Troy Aikman won three. Bart Starr won the first two among his five NFL championships.

Rodgers hasn't won a single playoff game in his career.

Then again, he'll only be making playoff start No. 2 on Sunday at Philadelphia.


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"I think the greatest quarterbacks are remembered for winning big games, but it's not all about the quarterback," Rodgers told the few reporters left at his locker after the scores of cameras and microphones had left on Wednesday. "Great teams win games, and then the quarterbacks on those great teams are often remembered as being great quarterbacks. We want to win. Every time we take the field we want to win. It's important to win. That's why we play the game. And eventually, if you want to be remembered as a great player, you've got to win in the playoffs."

Rodgers' first playoff game started bad and ended worse, but in between was breathtaking brilliance.

During a 51-45 loss at Arizona, Rodgers completed 28-of-42 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns. His completions and touchdowns tied franchise playoff records; the yardage figure not only was a team record but fifth-best in NFL playoff history. In the final three quarters, Rodgers threw for 421 yards to help bring the Packers back from a 17-0 deficit to force overtime at 45. The game ended, however, when Rodgers' fumble was returned for a touchdown on the first series of sudden death.

Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy scoffed at the notion of first-play nerves leading to the interception against the Cardinals, with McCarthy saying there were faulty "mechanics" involved on that play and Rodgers pointing out a litany of things that went wrong before he even threw the ball.

"Aaron Rodgers is just like everybody else in the team meeting today. Aaron Rodgers needs to be himself," McCarthy said. "He's established a brand of football at the quarterback position that's pretty damn good, and I'm glad he's our quarterback. His numbers have been phenomenal for his first three years, and he needs to go out and play to the standard he has set. Playoff wins are more team goals, and I understand the way everybody wants to put those types of things on the quarterback. Aaron staying true to his standard of play, his brand of football, everything else will take care of itself."

While a case can be made that Super Bowls are an unfair indicator of success for an NFL quarterback — anyone want to argue that Trent Dilfer is Brett Favre's equal or better than Dan Marino? — quarterbacks are judged on winning more than any other position in any other sport.

Rodgers won 10 games this season, including wins in two must-win games to reach the playoffs. He finished the season ranked third in the NFL in passer rating (101.2), tied for sixth in touchdowns (28), seventh in yards (3,922) and 10th in interception percentage (2.3).

"Aaron Rodgers, you can put all the Pro Bowl stuff aside because he's as good as there is in the business," Eagles coach Andy Reid said in a conference call.

Nonetheless, Rodgers' season has run hot and cold at times, as evidenced by his two most recent performances: a 404-yard, four-touchdown piece against the Giants in Week 16 and a one-touchdown, one-interception struggle last week against Chicago.

Still, the Packers won those playoff undercards to advance to a rematch of their Week 1 game at Philadelphia. They're more battle-tested than last year, when they raced into the playoffs with a 7-1 record that included three wins by at least 22 points and five games of at least 30 points scored by the offense.

"I think to win in the playoffs you have to play a 60-minute game," Rodgers said. "We didn't do that last year. This is a new team. Different challenges will face us this season. Adversity. We've stuck together. We're excited we're in the playoffs and get another opportunity."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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