For Packers fans, the party that ensued after the victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional round ended much earlier than expected when Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk came in and peed in the punch bowl. Here we were as Packers fans, celebrating an incredible victory and an amazing performance by Aaron Rodgers, only to have our attention turned to a self-described "internet hack" and his character assassination of our quarterback. The discussion caught fire on Sunday, burned through the Internet on Monday, and then was seemingly dead by Tuesday. Rodgers was briefly asked about the situation in his presser on Wednesday, but by that time, it was old news. The distraction was all but over.
As I watched Rodgers during the press conference, it was a treat to see him so calm and collected, so laid back and loose, because that is not the mood of Cheesehead Nation right now, at least not of myself. It's bad enough for my nerves that Bears week is coinciding with the week of the NFC Championship, but the constant off-field distractions, especially regarding number twelve, have made me increasingly worried as the week goes on.
At first I figured, "you know what, Rodgers is going to take this negative criticism and turn it into one hell of a performance", but then something else started happening this week. The negative vibe caused by Florio actually ended up creating an incredible backlash against the writer himself, and it brought out a huge level of support for Aaron Rodgers. Not only are people fawning over him this week for realizing all the charitable things that he does for Green Bay, but Rodgers is now being thrown into the class of quarterbacks that has currently been limited to Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees. Troy Aikman said this week that he would want Rodgers as his quarterback if he was building a franchise from scratch. Even Brett Favre got into the act and said that Rodgers was an elite quarterback in the NFL. Wow.
So I worry, will all of this go to Rodgers head? The media (minus Florio) is in love with him, he's more loved by Packer fans than Favre ever was (right?), and he's a top quarterback in this game no matter who you ask. My fear is that these distractions will cause him to become a little too confident, a little too Raph, in the game against the Bears and it will affect him as such. But with this kid, I just can't convince myself that will be the case.
Rodgers has been dealing with controversy and off-field issues ever since he's come to Green Bay, as he spent the first three years as Favre's unwanted mentee. Then, after Favre left, Rodgers had to deal with the enormous pressure of replacing a legend. Trust me, no one replaces a legend, sans maybe Steve Young. Other than that, the Dolphins are still looking for a guy to replace Marino, the Broncos are still looking for a guy to replace Elway even though Elway is now there, and the Cowboys have perhaps replaced Aikman with Tony Romo, although you could argue the jury is still out on that one. But Rodgers ignored his critics, stepped in, got better with each game, and did the job. Now, the kid that was supposed to replace a legend is on his way to becoming one, at least according to the national media this week.
So to answer my question, yes, I think we should be worried about all the off-field distractions. Mike Florio. The newfound praise. The chick he's dating from Gossip Girl. With any other quarterback, I'd be worried. But this is Aaron Rodgers. A kid that comes off so cool, so unflappable, so calm. It's the perfect mold for the quarterback that you'd want to replace Brett Favre, and it's the perfect mold for the quarterback that is capabale of leading the Packers back into the Super Bowl.
And by golly, I think he's gonna do it. May Mike Florio be damned.
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