If you climb into the Wayback Machine and take a short trip to June 2008, it was hard to find anybody standing behind a team from the NFC North as a potential Super Bowl champion. They all had good players capable of changing games (except Detroit) and had enjoyed recent success (except Detroit). While many looked at the division as a three-team race with the Packers trying to fight off the Vikings and Bears, each team had a question mark that lingered.
That problem was at quarterback. If you were to look at the pros and cons of each team, quarterback appeared to be the biggest stumbling block of all. With a skeptical fan base waiting for disaster, the Vikings started the season with Tarvaris Jackson as their starter and veteran journeyman Gus Frerotte as their backup. The Packers were in the first season of the post-Brett Favre era and there were more questions than answers when it came to backup Aaron Rodgers. Following a legend has always been difficult and rarely successful. So as not to have him looking over his shoulder, both of his backups were rookies. It was sink or swim. The Bears had the usual suspects rounded up, as fan favorite Kyle Orton and fan-reviled Rex Grossman were again fighting it out in camp. The Lions had journeyman Jon Kitna and end zone dance specialist Dan Orlovsky at the wheel.
It could be argued that this had the potential to be the worst divisional foursome of quarterbacks in the modern era of football. You could make a strong case that Rodgers was the best of the group – primarily because there wasn't as much persuasive game film against him as there was for all of the others. This was a dismal time to be a wide receiver in the NFC North.
Make the return trip in the Wayback Machine to today. Less than one year later and, oh, how the landscape has changed. The Vikings seem to be moving closer to bringing Favre back to the division party, where you get the feeling he would be reunited and it feels so good. Even if Favre doesn't come, the Vikings have upgraded with the trade to acquire Sage Rosenfels – either as a starter or backup insurance.
The Bears have made a ton of noise with the blockbuster trade for Jay Cutler, which, as we detailed yesterday, could make him almost immediately the most talented QB the Bears have had in half a century.
Rodgers is another year older and, although his team struggled, you couldn't hang that all on Rodgers. He had 28 touchdown passes, just 12 interceptions and maintained his poise even when his team was stinking up the joint.
Even Detroit has made a significant change, having former Viking Daunte Culpepper – said to be in the best shape of his career – trying to ward off a challenge from No. 1 overall draft pick Matthew Stafford.
If Favre returns to the division as many expect he will, there might be some who believe Rodgers could be the worst quarterback in the division when all is said and done. What a difference a year can make to one position on four teams.