Solid supporting cast

Aaron Rodgers is in better position to succeed than others who have followed legends, says Packer Report's Tyler Dunne

It became a routine sight after each head-scratching interception.

A frustrated Brett Favre reaming out Bill Schroeder for running the wrong route on a costly interception against Atlanta in 2001. And then again in the playoffs at St. Louis when Schroeder went long instead of short, allowing Aeneas Williams to return an early Christmas present for a touchdown.

A piercing glare from Favre after those dogged lunges by Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson on hard slants that allowed cornerbacks to muscle away the ball.

No Jerry Rice, no Michael Irvin, no Andre Reed, no Mark Duper/Mark Clayton juggernaut for Favre, who shattered records without the big guns available to other Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

But last season such "what were you thinking?" stare downs were rare. Receivers seldom dropped balls, ran incorrect patterns or gave half-inspired efforts in traffic. Each game was a textbook page out of Mike McCarthy's West Coast offense, fueled by Favre's trust at a career-high.

And when the gettin' finally got good, Favre retired.

Aaron Rodgers could not have asked for better shoes to fill. Forget the pressure of replacing the most-anticipated Canton bust in history (Good luck to whoever is carving that bronze noggin). Forget the 20/20 vision from fans analyzing him 24/7. Forget the top-ten talent rookie breathing down his neck every snap this upcoming training camp. Rodgers has arguably the best supporting cast in the NFC, unlike the buzzsaw Jay Fiedler, Quincy Carter, Brian Griese and Todd Collins faced.

After an OTA practice last week, Rodgers reeled off the names like a kid in a candy store, pausing in-between to crack a smile and catch his breath.

"We have a great receiving corps," Rodgers said. "We have a lot of young talent. I think Driver and Jennings and Jones, Ruvell Martin, and Bodiford has done a nice job. And Ryan Grant. Jordy Nelson's done good so far, and Brett (Swain) has done a nice job as well. The new tight end's done a nice job.

"We have a lot of playmakers out there. It's just my job to get them the ball."

Hard to believe 5-foot-9 Antonio Chatman was starting just two years ago. Instead of forcing receivers onto the field, Green Bay is forced to let good ones go. Sorry, K-Rob.

Donald Driver has had five 1,000-yard seasons with a few more still in front of him. Greg Jennings – demeaned for a lack of speed as a draft prospect – caught seven 40-plus yard passes (third in NFL). Although he curled into hibernation as the temperature dipped, James Jones still had 40 catches in his first 11 games and was a threat in the slot. With a unique combination of size (6-foot-2, 220 lbs.), speed (4.5 40), dominating consistency (1,606 yards last season rank second in Big 12 history) and downtown ability (permanent dust on Aquib Talib's face), second-round pick Jordy Nelson could become Thompson's biggest hit yet. And oh yeah, there's Ryan Grant who was the league's second-best running back in the final 10 games, tight end Donald Lee, who emerged as the Packers' first bonafide vertical threat at TE since Keith Jackson in 1996, and Martin – Rodgers' favorite target.

So, excuse the herds of tape recorders from local, regional, national and maybe world media suffocating Rodgers and excuse the mountains of fans waiting to cry "Brohm!" Rodgers is not walking into a land mine. He has inherited more riches than Paris Hilton – yet doesn't plan on partying in Vegas with Brian Urlacher any time soon.

Last season, the Packers' receiving unit racked up the fourth-most yards in franchise history. Any stress or pressure is external. Internally, Rodgers has double the talent-base every heir quarterback before him ever dreamed off.

Jay Fiedler
After Dan Marino limped from Jacksonville straight to retirement after a 62-7 beating, Miami brought in Jay Fieldler and handed him scraps to work with. No Dolphins receiver finished with at least 60 receptions in the first post-Marino season and Fiedler passed for only 2,402 yards with 14 touchdowns and 14 picks. But c'mon. Not many kids are sporting Oronde Gadsden and Leslie Shepherd jerseys these days.

Quincy Carter
Well, Jerry Jones tried. Rodgers has three years of McCarthy's offensive nuances crammed into his head. Quincy Carter had a few months to pick up an NFL offense and replace a legend. Jones surprisingly drafted Carter in the second round in the first post-Troy Aikman draft.

Dallas haphazardly toyed with Carter running the option in preseason, which is kind of like those impalas running away from lions on the Discovery Channel. Not smart. The Cowboys went 5-11, as Carter (63.0 rating), Ryan Leaf, Anthony Wright and Clint Stoerner became barstool punchlines. Joey Galloway and Rocket Ismail were above-average speed receivers, but like in Miami, no Cowboys' receiver caught 60 balls. Joey Galloway and Rocket Ismail were two average, diminutive speedsters (50 receptions apiece), but the next best Cowboys wideout caught only 10 passes. Starting TE Jackie Harris? 15 receptions. Yikes.

Todd Collins
Like Rodgers, Collins was drafted as an eventual replacement to a legend. Buffalo took the strong-armed Michigan-product 45th overall in 1995, two years later he filled Jim Kelly's shoes. One year after that, Collins was gone. He barely cracked 2,000 yards with 13 touchdowns and 14 picks as the Bills – only a few years removed from four straight Super Bowls – went 6-10. In this case, the supporting cast cannot be blamed.

Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas were certainly on the downside of Canton-worthy careers. But one season after Collins was let go, the Bills made two straight postseasons with the same group. Still, Quinn Earley won't be mistaken for Jennings, and Lonnie Johnson isn't Donald Lee.

Brian Griese
Denver went from defending Super Bowl Champions to last place in the AFC West one season after John Elway retired. Much like Rodgers' current situation, Griese was given the keys to a Lexus. But this Lexus lost its engine early.

Denver started the season 0-4 and workhorse Terrell Davis tore his ACL and MCL in Week Four, never really giving Griese a fair shake. Maybe that's what Rodgers should fear most – injury. There isn't much behind Grant at running back. Could Rodgers carry a one-dimensional offense as Favre did early last season? Verdict's out. Griese couldn't do it.

Jeff Garcia
Maybe the best piece of foreshadowing Rodgers needs is in San Francisco. When one last concussion abruptly bounced Steve Young to the television booth, virtual no-name Jeff Garcia was handed the league's fastest-rising wide receiver (Terrell Owens), possibly the best wideout ever (Jerry Rice) and a duel-threat out of the backfield (Charlie Garner).

San Francisco's defense allowed the third-most points in the league, which kept the ‘Niners out of postseason contention, but Garcia went nuts: 4,278 yards, 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions.

Rodgers has similar surrounding talent and the same offense to do the same.

Aside from the obvious disparity in surrounding talent from Collins, Griese, Fiedler and Carter, Rodgers grabs the baton in stride. He's immersed himself within McCarthy's quarterbacks school for three years, turned preseason snaps into playoff snaps and above all, stayed in Green Bay to soak up the offense during the offseason. Just this offseason he has invited Brohm and Matt Flynn to his home to review the offense. That's leadership.

Rodgers realized the magnitude of this opportunity years in advance. It's hardly a shock. Remember, Rodgers simply fell back asleep after hearing the news of Favre's retirement on his phone. Reality set in awhile back.

"I think that's one of the most underestimated parts of my game," Rodgers said. "I've spent the last three offseasons exclusively here and I've put in a lot of time and a lot of hard work into figuring out this offense. I think I'll be ready to go when we finally lace ‘em up for real.

"I know the pressure I'm under. I know who I'm following."

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