Ron Jaworski, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who is an analyst for ESPN's "Monday Night Football," takes his job seriously. He practically lives at NFL Films, spending countless hours from his office there each week studying the teams.
Monday's Green Bay-Chicago matchup will be the Packers' third game of the season on "MNF." Plus, Jaworski spent a few days watching training camp from the sideline at Clarke Hinkle Field. So, he knows the Packers. Packer Report publisher Bill Huber was only too happy to veer his truck off of a snowy Green Bay road and into a grocery store parking lot on Friday when Jaws' number popped up on his cell phone.
Here's Part 2 of our two-part conversation.
Huber: Let's go to your wheelhouse: What are your thoughts on Aaron Rodgers?
Jaworski: Quite honestly, I've been very impressed with Aaron Rodgers. Back in training camp, we spent three days in Green Bay and I got a chance to kind of watch him up close and personal. I saw the improvement in his game, the improved arm strength. The calmness with which he played the game. The way he was handling all the distractions that were going on around him. I was very impressed.
Typical of any quarterback in his embryonic development stage, there's going to be some uneven games. I think there were games that he played a little fast. There were some games when he wanted to get out of the pocket too soon. Of late, I can sense him pressing, trying to make every play. In this league, you can't make every play. The defenses are too good. Sometimes, you've got to take the checkdown. Sometimes, you've got to throw the ball away. Sometimes, you've got to take a sack. You can't try to make every play, and I think the fact that he was pressing forced him into some mistakes.
But I think the overall, the body of work for 14 games has been very, very good. I think the Packers have a quarterback for the next decade.
Huber: The one thing he hasn't done is come through with a signature win. The Packers are 0-6 in games decided by four points or less. What have you seen from Rodgers in those situations?
Jaworski: Quite honestly, I did not really take a good evaluation. If I had known it earlier in the week when I was looking at tape, I would have looked for some schematic difference or whether there was something in his game that's different late in the game.
That's something where there's a lot of things that go into play. I think the No. 1 thing is, there are guys in this league that can will victory. That may sound strange, but there are some guys that have gained the confidence in their football team that when they walk into that huddle with the game on the line, there's just an aura that they're going to win the football game.
I'm not in the huddle with Aaron. I don't know how he handles those situations. But from a pure physical standpoint, there shouldn't be any problem in handling those. Now again, how does the team react around him? Does the play-calling change? Or is there a good game plan at the end of the game?
Huber: I wasn't going to mention No. 4, but since you mentioned willing a team to a win, that was one thing Favre could do, wasn't it?
Now certainly, over that period in Green Bay, he won a lot of games, as well. But I think there's a balance there, too, before everyone goes crazy and thinks Brett Favre won every tight game in the two-minute drill. I think that would be misleading.
Huber: Did it take you some time until you got comfortable in two-minute situations? How did you handle those?
Jaworski: Quite honestly, it was the part of the game that I loved. I think most quarterbacks do. It's one of the few times where coaches aren't sending in plays. There's no one yelling in your ear. It's the stuff you've been working on all week, all season, so you finally get to go in the huddle and be the quarterback and call the plays and really take charge of the offense.
Huber: A lot of people think Rodgers has to win one of these close games just to prove he can do it. Is there something to that?
Jaworski: I think it's more a team thing than an individual thing. I really do. It goes down to everyone understanding the situation in the game.
I think this is a good, young football team. I think the future is still very bright. Injuries certainly have depleted the defense. You look at Tony Moll struggling at right tackle without Mark Tauscher. There's some things happening to this team that are kind of out of the ordinary.
But, I believe if you're successful, guys begin to believe. You may make a good point that there's got to be one of those epiphanies that, "Wow, we can do this." Then, all of a sudden, it snowballs. But I certainly can't blame Aaron Rodgers. There's been a lot of things going wrong in those situations.
Huber: Of course, the conversation is a lot different if Mason Crosby makes that field goal against Minnesota, the Packers cover the kickoff against Carolina ...
Jaworski: It's kind of interesting. As I prepare for these games every week and talk to coaches and players, it's amazing how often that I hear that. "There's two or three plays in a course of a season that could really turn things around." And it's true. It really is true.
I think this is an 8-8 football league. I really do. There are teams that find a way to win two more games and they get to 10-6. Then there's a few teams that lose a couple they should have won, and all of a sudden, they're 6-10. That's kind of how this league is. There's always a few critical plays in each game that you have to win that determine the outcome of the game.
Huber: I'm sure glad you said that. I've got fans ready to jump off a cliff because this team is only 5-9.
Jaworski: I know it's disappointing that the last win was against Chicago, that 37-3 trouncing. But I still think there's a good core football team in Green Bay.
Certainly, there's some tweaking to do, but I also think they've got the best quarterback in the division, and you start with the quarterback. You have a guy who will be the quarterback for a decade. I believe there's something to build with and build around. There's an excellent receiving corps. Ryan Grant is a very consistent runner.
There are pieces in place where you can look at the Packers next year and say, "They can get this turned around quickly."
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q&A with Ron Jaworski: Part 2
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