Tom Brady was panicking. Michael Vick was breaking. Peyton Manning was spectating.
Cam Newton was learning. Philip Rivers was surviving. Matt Ryan was losing. And Aaron Rodgers?
Dominating. Controlling. Winning.
As always. The Green Bay Packers weren’t playing great Sunday, but they won at Chicago 27-17 anyway. Too much Rodgers.
And maybe it’s just that the Packers aren’t covered by the loudest media or playing in the biggest city, or maybe people just don’t get excited about a team that builds around a quarterback by drafting and developing. But for some reason, no one seems to notice:
This is Aaron Rodgers’ league now.
“He is someone who is definitely on the path to being recognized as a great player when his career finishes,’’ Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
For all the qualifiers in that sentence, it was as close as McCarthy ever gets to saying “Wow.’’
OK, so I might be going a little overboard here. Brady is still the gold standard of NFL quarterbacks, and the Patriots still are considered the best franchise, no matter what happened Sunday. But something seems wrong in that, as Rodgers won the last season’s Super Bowl, and is a good bet to do it again this year.
The Eagles are called the Dream Team for all the stars they bought in the offseason. They still have to come together and show some chemistry. And Vick and coach Andy Reid are not a good mix. Reid, passing too much and putting everything on Vick, is going to get his quarterback killed. Vick already played this week with a concussion and then suffered a contusion in his right hand Sunday.
Look, the Packers are the Dream Team, not because they landed big free agents this year, but because every time you turn around, you see another one of their first-round draft choices, players they developed, making a play. They drafted nearly two-thirds of their players. More than a quarter on the roster was undrafted.
There is nothing sexy about good scouting and player development. Or about the nice, neat, white-picket town of Green Bay, either.
We don’t have the patience to allow a team to do things the right way anymore.
But look at Rodgers. He had three years to sit and learn behind Brett Favre. Then, in his third year as a starter, he was the Super Bowl MVP.
He has had the same offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin, for five seasons; the same quarterbacks coach, Tom Clements, for six.
No, that’s not exactly thrilling stuff.
Watching Rodgers, though, is. The Chicago Bears defense is so fast that it just cornered Vick last year and made him throw across himself. The Bears’ defense is tough. It creates chaos.
But something about Rodgers made the Bears appear to be in slow motion somehow. When the pocket and the Packers’ line would collapse around him, Rodgers would keep looking at his receivers downfield while stepping up patiently.
“He was obviously taught that before he got here,’’ McCarthy said.
“That’s a joke.’’
No, Rodgers was not a finished product when he arrived. But he does credit all the teachers in his past.
“Fortunately, I was coached by some great coaches in high school, junior college and Cal,’’ Rodgers said. “It continued here, but it’s a mindset when you’re moving from the pocket and keep your eyes downfield, and it’s difficult to do. But I’ve been fortunate to play for coaches, repping fundamentals . . .’’
I have to stop Rodgers right there. I’m starting to see why people don’t recognize that this is Rodgers’ league. He is way too boring.
And you should have heard him explain why he’s able to spin out and roll left out of the pocket so easily. It had to do with reps with Clement.
Unfortunately for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, he always is going to be measured against Rodgers. Cutler came to the Bears to be Chicago’s Favre. And with Favre out of rival Green Bay, Chicago thought this was its turn. Instead, Cutler has never been better than the sum of his parts.
On Sunday, Cutler was overthrowing receivers all day. Of course, he has no one blocking for him, and has been taking a beating the past couple of years. So maybe it’s an unfair comparison.
But under pressure, Cutler throws off his back foot or rushes his passes. And it’s just such a contrast to Rodgers, who stays so calm. Rodgers threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns Sunday. He did throw an interception, but get this:
It was his first of the season.
Brady, meanwhile, threw four interceptions while the Patriots blew a 21-point lead. Vick got hurt again. Who knows if Manning, after multiple neck surgeries, will ever be the same.
The Saints don’t have enough defense for Drew Brees to overcome. Ryan and the Falcons were bullied by the Bears in Week 1. Rivers is stuck with Norv Turner as his coach. Ben Roethlisberger had three interceptions and two fumbles in the Steelers’ embarrassing season-opening loss to Baltimore.
Oh, there are a lot of top quarterbacks around. But the current Super Bowl champ just keeps on winning. The Packers are 3-0. And Rodgers? You can’t really call him the face of the NFL, because most people have no idea what he looks like.