Aaron Rodgers is Defining His Legacy
Aaron Rodgers is in legacy mode.
2018 marks the start of his second decade as the Packers’ starting quarterback. No matter how many years he has left, it’s an inescapable fact that Rodgers is closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
When he inks his ludicrously lucrative contract extension, it will mark the formal beginning of his final act, the denouement of a story arc that began with a long fall in the green room and a painful transition out of the shadow of an aging superstar. The next few years will show how Rodgers handles his own transition to a post-football life and what he accomplishes while still near the peak of his powers will cement his position among the greats in several ways.
Rodgers is chasing all-time greats
Purely from a statistical perspective, Rodgers will make some serious gains on the career leaderboard in a few key categories. With three more 4,000 yard seasons, Rodgers will crack 50,000 for his career, a feat so far accomplished by just nine players.
Another 130 touchdowns would him past Brett Favre for the Packers’ all-time lead. In his decade as a starter, Rodgers has averaged 35 touchdowns per 16 games, meaning we could be making note of a new touchdown king in Green Bay some time during the 2021 season.
And though they’re not a QB stat, Rodgers needs the Packers to produce just one more win during his time as a starter to pass Bart Starr. He’ll likely never catch Favre, who helped the Packers to 160 victories, but surpassing Starr’s 94 is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Wins aren’t a QB stat, but Rodgers still has a lot
Speaking of wins, Rodgers is in curious company when it comes to victories of a particular sort. Currently, he’s one of three quarterbacks in NFL history to win multiple MVPs but only one Super Bowl. Kurt Warner won it twice and Brett Favre took him the league’s highest individual honor three times, but both only managed one ring.
Whether fair or not and stupid or not, quarterbacks are still obsessively measured by the RINGZ argument. Both Warner and Favre are knocked (for different reasons) for their failure to win a second Super Bowl.
If Rodgers can’t win a second ring, he could end up being remembered as a latter day Dan Marino. Marino will always be hounded by his failure to win it all. Rodgers, could face similar scrutiny for only having won it once, no matter who’s to blame for his lack of return trips to the Super Bowl.
What do you think of when you think about Aaron Rodgers?
Ultimately, the final act of Rodgers’ career could end up being about perception. The advanced stats movement has tried admirably to remove false narratives from sports, but we’re still a populace largely driven by feelings. This spills over into how we feel about professional athletes and how we perceive their strengths and weaknesses and shapes our opinions of what they accomplished.
Joe Namath is a legend for his Super Bowl guarantee, but he was a statistical disaster, even for his era. Peyton Manning is remembered as the consummate stat machine for the duration of his career, even if he largely (almost entirely) rode a historically great defense to a second title.
Even Tom Brady, for all his very real success, benefits from the glow of perception. Anybody pointing out that Brady was essentially a bystander in the Patriots’ first two title runs will be shouted down by a mob chanting HE’S THE GOAT COUNT THE RINGS.
And his ring count is great, to be sure, but the perception of his greatness may not be completely accurate. What Rodgers does over the life of his next contract will shape the perception of his own career, and somewhere between that perception, his ring count, and his position on the leaderboard will be his ultimate legacy.