Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood

Why Green Bay's new starting QB will pick up where Favre left off

On March 6, 2007, Aaron Rodgers' world changed significantly. On that day, Brett Favre formally announced his retirement in a tearful good-bye at the fourth floor Legends room at the Lambeau Field atrium. After 16 years of being the man at QB for Green Bay, including 253 (275 including playoffs) consecutive starts, Favre decided to pass the torch to Rodgers as the new captain of the Packer ship.

Rodgers has big shoes to fill for sure, as Favre holds most of the NFL passing records, including touchdown passes with the 442 he has thrown, has won three MVP awards, been named to nine Pro Bowls, won seven divisional titles, led his team to the playoffs 11 times, won the most games ever as a QB with 160 wins, played in four NFC Championship games, played in two Super Bowls and won there once raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 1997.

Favre thinks Rodgers can be successful.

"I wish Aaron well," Favre said. "I think he'll do a great job. I think he has the talent." But Rodgers has to be his OWN man, just like Favre was. "I know everyone's made comments that, 'Boy, big shoes to fill,' " Favre said. "The only shoes he has to fill is himself. He doesn't need to play like Brett Favre. It's all about the cast around you, it's about the coaching staff. If you stay focused on the fact that it's not about you - they obviously drafted him because he has the talent, mental capabilities - he'll be fine. Hopefully one day he's sitting here where I am and able to experience what I've been able to experience."

Rodgers certainly showed he had the right stuff in 2007. Rodgers showed he had excellent comprehension of Mike McCarthy's offense in the preseason of 2007 and in a regular-season game at Dallas, where Rodgers almost led the Packers to a win after a Favre injury.

In the Dallas game, Rodgers threw 20 completions in 28 attempts (71.4 percent) for 218 yards, with one touchdown and a passer rating of 106. McCarthy and quarterback's coach Tom Clements would take those stats every week.

In 2008, Rodgers will have his feet to the fire immediately. On Sept. 8, on ESPN's Monday night Football, Rodgers and the Packers will open up the season against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. The Vikings are being talked about as contenders in the NFC, as the Minnesota already stout defense added Jared Allen and are led on offense by Adrian Peterson. In fact, Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated picked the Vikes to win the Super Bowl this year.

Besides facing the Vikings that night, the Packers will retire the No. 4 jersey of Favre. So besides replacing a legend, Rodgers gets to play in front of the legend his first step out of the gate. But Rodgers seems to have the right demeanor to handle all of that. Rodgers has also tried to make sure that he and his teammates bond off the field as well.

Rodgers has been holding get-togethers at his house every week to bond with his teammates.

"I've always been open, a guy that wants to be involved not only working together but in the lives of these guys," Rodgers said. "That's why I've been having guys over once a week, just because I want us to be a connected team on and off the field."

Rodgers has connected in the past for sure. At Cal, where Rodgers started for two years, the offense was ranked first in the Pac 10 conference in passing efficiency, and was fourth nationally Rodgers' senior year. The Bears were also fifth nationally in total offense and 6th nationally in scoring. And this was in a conference with USC in it. By the way, Rodgers and the Bears upset the Trojans once as well.

Mike McCarthy has put together a very dynamic offense for the Packers. Favre had his best season in 2007 in many years. Favre's completion percentage of 66.5 was the best of his career. His seven 300-yard passing games tied a career high, and his 4,155 passing yards (third-best of his career), 95.7 passer rating (third), 15 interceptions (tied for third) and 356 completions (fourth) were among the best marks of his 17-year career.

Rodgers showed in 2007 that he too, can make this offense a scary one for opposing defenses. Rodgers will be successful if he can remain healthy. Rodgers pulled a hamstring the week after the Cowboys game in 2007, and also suffered a broken foot in 2006 in relief of Favre. Rodgers knows this as well.

"That was definitely a game (Cowboys) where everything came together," Rodgers said. "That's the kind of game I expect from myself, and hopefully if I can stay healthy this year, then there will be more performances like that."

Rodgers can handle the obstacles in front of him.

"I think laid back is the best way to describe me. I'm pretty even keel," Rodgers said. "Through the ups and downs I'm a competitor, a very fierce competitor and I want to win more than anybody."

That will take some doing as Favre has won more games in the NFL than any other QB. And Favre also won a Super Bowl. While Rodgers grew up in Northern California, he watched a guy named Joe Montana lead the San Francisco 49ers to 4 Super Bowl wins. Rodgers was a winner at Cal, and I expect he will be a winner in Green Bay.

Gene Ronzani had the tough task of replacing Curly Lambeau as head coach of the Packers. Phil Bengsten had the unenviable job of replacing Vince Lombardi as head coach. Scott Hunter had to try and be the next Bart Starr. It won't be the first time that someone has tried to replace a legend in Packers' history. However, unlike the other examples, I think Rodgers will succeed in replacing Favre. 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay is HIS neighborhood now.


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