"Very impressed, but I was last year," Phillips said of the Green Bay Packers' first-year starting quarterback. "He came in the game last year and played well and showed a lot last year. I'm not surprised he's doing as well as he is."
It was nine-and-a-half months ago when Rodgers stepped in for an injured and erratic Brett Favre against the mighty Cowboys at Texas Stadium. Rodgers took his first snap with the Packers trailing 27-10 in the first half. While the Packers lost 37-27, it was the first real experience that showed Rodgers could indeed be the team's quarterback of the future, with Rodgers completing 18-of-26 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown.
On Sunday night, after two almost error-free performances, Rodgers gets another crack at the Cowboys in the latest measuring-stick game of his scrutinized career.
Rodgers hopes his first two games are the start of a brilliant career. His counterpart, Dallas' Tony Romo, is well on his way down that path. The similarities between the two weren't lost on NBC broadcaster John Madden, and it's not only because of the quarterbacks' strong arms and scrambling ability.
Romo and Rodgers became starters during their fourth NFL seasons. Their time learning from wise and accomplished veterans — Vinny Testaverde for Romo and Favre for Rodgers — was time well spent.
"It all depends how good you are, I guess. If you're a talented player, you probably don't need sit as long," Romo said in a conference call on Wednesday, though he thought he would have been ready to play by his season season. "I was more raw. I think Aaron definitely came into the league at a higher level than I did. I wouldn't have been very good my first year or two."
In retrospect, Rodgers agrees that the time learning from the bench was invaluable experience.
"Three seems pretty good," Rodgers said when asked how long a quarterback should wait his turn. "Competitive nature wise? Zero. Would I have played well in the first year? Probably not, to be honest. I really felt like the second year, I started to get it, but the third year, I had it down. That's exactly what Mike Shanahan told me when I talked to him before my second year in (Lake Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament). He said, ‘I'll be honest. It takes three years for a quarterback to really understand the West Coast Offense and everything to start slowing down.' And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah. Gotcha. I'm in my second year. I got it.' But really, the third year, that was when it clicked for me."
Rodgers' time behind Favre was fruitful, and not only because of what Rodgers learned on Sunday afternoons.
"I watched Brett for the last three years, and the one thing I was very impressed with is he did not have bad practices," Rodgers said. "He was so solid in his preparation every week. It really led, in my opinion, to the performances he would have on the field."
Whatever Romo is doing, it's working. Even under a spotlight unmatched for any player in the league because he plays quarterback for so-called America's Team while dating Jessica Simpson, Romo has posted eye-popping numbers.
His 21-7 record in his first 28 starts is surpassed only by Ben Roethlisberger, Marc Bulger and Kurt Warner among active quarterbacks. He's a lofty 12-2 on the road. Astoundingly, with 12 300-yard games, he trails Hall of Famer Troy Aikman by one for most 300-yard games in franchise history.
"I think he's handled everything very well," Rodgers said. "A little different situations, but his life has been scrutinized as much as anybody's. I think he does a great job balancing his personal life with his professional life."
Then, he added: "I hope to be mentioned in the same sentence as him more frequently."
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org