Rodgers needs playing time

Meaningful minutes would help Packers in evaluation of their rookie QB

With two games left in the regular season it's time for coach Mike Sherman and GM Ted Thompson to make this move: Get Aaron Rodgers some playing time … and not token playing time.

At 3-11, why do the Packers need to play Brett Favre four quarters at quarterback? He's earned every right to play every snap these last two games, but not knowing what Favre will do in the offseason, getting "A-Rod" some playing time these last two weeks is a no-brainer.

I know, I'm trampling on hallowed ground. Nevertheless, as leaders of this football team, Sherman and Thompson need to make this move. They need to see what this first-round pick is made of. I'm not calling for Rodgers to play three quarters. Actually, one quarter would be fine, maybe two.

Even if Favre does return in 2006, it still makes sense to get Rodgers playing time. Based on his draft position, Rodgers is the Packers' heir apparent to Favre, and preparing him sooner than later is a wise move.

It would be nice to see Rodgers in an actual game, where the score isn't out of hand to see what he can do. How does he react in a 10-10 game? How does he react in a game-winning drive situation? How does he react under the "real" game pressure?

We don't know any of these answers as he hasn't been put in this position. I know most Packers fans failed Rodgers after last week's performance against Baltimore. That showed me nothing. That was a surprise quiz. What he needs is a an exam, when he knows he'll play in a competitive game. Rodgers needs to know ahead of time when he's going to play, like a starter, so he can make every preparation to succeed. Then, we'll have a better idea of what he can do.

Favre might have to sign off on this, and last week he was fine with Rodgers replacing him. "That's fine. Up to the point that when Aaron came in, we had gotten three points," Favre said. "I'd have much rather played and be in a situation to win the ballgame."

Which could be in the next couple of weeks. How would Favre respond then? He hasn't been one to tutor Rodgers, he hasn't been one to take him under his wing and show him everything he knows. Pulling Favre in a 10-10 game in the third or fourth quarter likely would be frustrating to Favre, but this is the best situation to put Rodgers into.

Furthermore, Favre hasn't lost his desire to play, which makes this situation a little more tender.

"Who would not want to be the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers?" Favre said. "Most people given the opportunity would love to be in my shoes - even at 3-11."

Those who are down on Rodgers because he's from Cal coach Jeff Tedford's system – a place where quarterbacks are groomed to fail in the NFL (see Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, etc.) - or because of his preseason play and last week's effort aren't giving the kid a fair shake.

I would think trying to decide whether Rodgers is a capable quarterback would be done on more than a few minutes of game film.

However, my wish for Rodgers to play more might be swept under the rug by Sherman. He might be the reason Rodgers doesn't get more of a chance to play these final two games.

Although Sherman stated this week he's not concerned about his future, you can bet when he leaves the office every night, he's wondering if he should call Century 21.

How can't he be thinking this? A new GM, a 3-11 record and the talk of his firing has been flying around like a Favre bomb. His best chance to win the final two games is keeping Favre under center. Unless Thompson has given him a guarantee behind closed doors that he'll be back, Sherman will sink or swim with Favre.

And if they sink, what does that do for Rodgers next season? Although a quarter or two in each of the last two games won't have him seasoned, it'll give Rodgers a better idea of what to expect when the bullets are flying for real. This is a step many starting quarterbacks have taken – play a little at the end of a season and then start the next season. That might be the Packers' situation next summer, and preparing for that now is better than waiting.


Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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