Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Aaron Rodgers is Steve Young 2.0

By Paul Foeller

In 1984, Steve Young began his professional football career with the Los Angeles Express of the now-defunct USFL, where he put up decent numbers. After two years with a horrible Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, Young found himself in San Francisco, warming the bench for Joe Montana. After four years of shining in the role of backup to an all-time great, Young finally got his chance. What happened in the following nine years is legendary.

Three years later, Aaron Rodgers enrolled at Butte Community College, where he would play for one year. He then transferred to California, where he played for two years, before entering the NFL draft. After falling to the Green Bay Packers as the 24th overall pick in the 2005 draft, Rodgers played backup to Brett Favre for three years, before getting a chance to prove himself in the 2008 season.

Aaron Rodgers did something on Sunday that may have catapulted his career to new heights. Surrounded by a team filled with second-string players due to an onslaught of injuries, facing a defense that was better than any in the league, he took the game over.

Pinpoint accuracy, 20- and 30-yard lasers over the middle of the field, and dancing out of trouble to extend plays just long enough. These weren't just plays that defined Rodgers' game, and possibly his entire season, but are also plays that defined the career of Steve Young. They both started their careers with more doubters than believers, they both lived in the shadow of a future Hall of Fame QB, and they both won over their cities with unparalleled talent.

The greatest aspect of Rodgers' Super Bowl performance may have been his unrelenting faith in his receivers, despite the fact that they dropped six easily catchable passes. He knew what needed to be done, and with barely inches to spare on more than one occasion, he made it happen.

Each of his first two touchdown passes could have easily been picked off if it had been even a few inches off the mark. But both times, Rodgers delivered a tight spiral in a place that only the hands of his receiver could reach. They weren't good passes. They were perfect passes.

But perhaps that faith in his arm and his receivers wasn't the greatest part of his possibly career-defining performance. It may just have been his resilience despite the fact that he had never been on a stage that big before.

If it wasn't enough that the Packers entered the game without their starting TE, their starting RB, and a starting LB, they also lost a starting WR and enough of their defensive secondary to injuries that it caused Joe Buck to jokingly wonder aloud if there was a pre-halftime defensive meeting going on in the locker room.

Yet with the ground around him burning, and with a defense as daunting as the Steelers in front of him, Rodgers turned in one of the greatest performances in Super Bowl history. Best of all, it doesn't appear he's done wowing football fans everywhere.

Perhaps Steve Young's greatest career statistic that is indicative of his talent is his career 96.9 passer rating, which is exactly two points higher than Peyton Manning's, and good for third in the history of the game. Aaron Rodgers currently owns a career passer rating of 98.4 — first all-time.

While Rodgers may still have some steps to take before he's considered as good as the greatest quarterbacks to ever play, if his first few years are any indication, he may just go down as Steve Young 2.0.

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