Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a surefire, first ballot Hall of Famer. The former Cal product has been with the team since 2005. He’s won four NFL MVP Awards, been named All Pro four times and been selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times in his career. He is now the Packers all-time leader in career touchdown passes with 449 and has thrown only 93 career interceptions.
But Rodgers wasn’t always considered one of the best quarterbacks in the game. While he was a serious candidate to be selected first overall in the 2005 draft, he fell all the way to 24th where the Packers took him even though they still had Hall of Famer Brett Favre as their starting quarterback.
Rodgers spent the first three years of his career as Favre’s backup and had his struggles during the preseason and during several of his limited regular-season appearances. Here are some long-forgotten quotes about Aaron Rodgers during that three-year period when he backed up Favre:
August 26, 2005
Packers offensive coordinator Tom Rossley after Rodgers’ poor performance in a preseason game against Buffalo that saw him complete just 4-of-9 passes for 21 yards and one interception.
Rodgers had “four bad plays” in a preseason game against Buffalo, “but they were all in a row which made people think he was way off.”
Rodgers added, “They say it takes two to three years to really get the West Coast offense down. I think that’s the reason why a lot of top picks struggle early on – because they don’t have the guys around them and the offenses they’re running are pretty complex. Obviously, Alex [Smith] is in a situation where they’d like him to play right away, which puts a little more pressure on him. At the same time, I put pressure on myself to be great every day in practice and in the games, and I will be. It’s just going to take a little bit.”
Oct 15, 2005:
A longtime NFL quarterbacks coach was quoted anonymously as saying, “He [Rodgers] doesn’t demonstrate as a first-rounder the genetic ability to do something extraordinary. The fear for Aaron Rodgers is he’ll just plateau right at this kind of average level. You’d like to think that if you’re spending a [first round] pick you’d get someone special.”
In the same article, an AFC personnel director said this of Rodgers, “Other than the drive against Tennessee I thought Rodgers was awful. He’s still kind of mechanical. He’s not as accurate as you’d like. He’s a project.”
December 4, 2005:
“[Matt] Leinart is a lot better than Aaron Rodgers” an NFC personnel director told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He can get the ball up the field, where Rodgers has his problems getting the ball up the field. But I’d take [Vince] Young over Leinart. A lot of people would not do that because they haven’t seen him in drop-back situations. But I know one thing. There’s nobody with a better arm.”
April 23, 2006:
Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, who created the West Coast Offense in San Francisco in the 1980s, had this to say about Rodgers in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “[Rodgers] doesn’t have more great potential that doesn’t show. The fear for Aaron Rodgers is he’ll just plateau right at this kind of average level. You’d like to think that if you’re spending a (first-round) pick you’d get someone special.”
May 19, 2006:
Packers GM Ted Thompson had this to say about Rodgers at OTAs before his second NFL season: “He’s always been a pretty good passer. We picked him in the first round for a reason. But I think the more comfortable you get, the better. And, he hasn’t been sitting around waiting for the draft for three months like he was [before last year’s minicamps]. He’s been here working. So, I’d think he’d be more comfortable with what’s going on and his place in the world.”
Rodgers added, “I had the opportunity to lead these guys this offseason in our workouts down at the Hutson Center, in the weight room, in the locker room – and that’s helping me. On the field, I feel like the year of experience has definitely helped as far as the game-speed slowing down. I’ve spent the last [two months] learning the offense, grasping the offense, understanding where everybody is at. That really helps me. I’m throwing the ball on time, and I’m just more consistent.”
May 17, 2007:
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on an interactive fan poll on ESPN.com. The question was:
Who will be the next quarterback to lead the Packers to the playoffs? Aaron Rodgers got 34.1 percent, “someone else” got 65.9 percent.
May 20, 2007:
During OTAs, Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin had this to say about Rodgers:
“There’s only so much we know, but from everything that I know sitting here today, I’m very confident that he can be a very productive quarterback in this league. But until we go through a couple of wars together and he gets knocked around a little bit and we can see how he responds, there’s obviously still some questions.”
Aug 18, 2007:
During training camp of Rodgers’ third NFL season, Packers quarterback coach Tom Clements said:
“He’s developed well over the last couple years, (but) he needs game time. That’s the ultimate test. You can improve and get better by performing in practice, performing in the exhibition games, and you can get better in the meeting room. But things kick up quite a bit when you’re the starter. When you become the starter, when you get in game situations, then you have to be that much better.”
In his first three seasons in the NFL, Rodgers completed 35-of-59 passes for 329 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
By 2008, Rodgers took over as the starter and threw for 4,038 yards and 28 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 93.8. He never looked back.
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