National Football League

What a difference a year made for Aaron Rodgers

May 24

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

A year ago, it was all Aaron Rodgers, all the time. Even when it wasn’t about the Green Bay Packers quarterback, it still was.

When Rodgers spoke, it was news. When he didn’t, it was news. When he spoke but didn’t say very much, like in an interview 364 days ago with retiring "SportsCenter" anchor Kenny Mayne, it made even more news.

Rodgers was the story of the 2021 offseason. His work life, love life, lifestyle and life balance all came to the forefront, as the Rodgers guessing game became the most popular pastime in American sports.

Would it be a switch to the Denver Broncos? Would the San Francisco 49ers somehow find a way to entice him? Would he retire and host "Jeopardy?" Would he retire and spend his time doing therapeutic cleanses? Would he sit out a year, just because? What was going on with him and Shailene Woodley? And would it affect his career decisions?

In the end, we now know, it was all a load of nothing. Rodgers, of course, headed back to Wisconsin, played another season with the Packers and won another MVP award.

At the end of it, a mega-extension that will make him the highest-paid player in the NFL (at a mere $50 million annually) likely ensured he will play out the remainder of his career in Green Bay.

And now, here we find ourselves in an odd spot. There are three-and-a-half months to go before the start of the new season, and Rodgers isn’t front and center. He is neither much in our thoughts nor the subject of our sportive debates.

He’s actually talking a little more, partly in promotion of the upcoming golf match he and Tom Brady will wage against Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. But, for the first time in a long time, there is no intrigue, no doubt, no behind-the-scenes games, no cryptic wordplay, no question that yes, indeed, he will be under center for the Packers in Week 1.

What a strange time it has been. In some ways, the way Rodgers pulled the strings reset the boundaries for the level of power and influence that a single player can command over a franchise, but only if they are able to play at that kind of elite level.

Rodgers has ruffled some feathers, and, if we are being entirely honest, done little for his overall level of popularity with the way he reacted to the Packers drafting Jordan Love in 2020, and the way the relationship with the organization has been conducted ever since.

But he ultimately got the control and the contract that he wanted, even if yet another postseason disappointment was the ultimate outcome.

Compared to last year, what surrounds Rodgers now is basically the sound of silence. The gossip treadmill has moved on. He might sit somewhere between Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz in the current news cycle. There are newly relocated QBs like Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan to chime about. In the unsettled-and-willing-to-play-hardball camp, there is now Kyler Murray. And no one knows what is going to happen with Baker Mayfield.

And, however much attention Rodgers got with his Packers soap opera last spring, it has been dwarfed by the headlines generated by Brady’s retirement and un-retirement.

Whereas Rodgers-world seemed to be about everything but football for a while, now it is the opposite. If you hear his name mentioned presently it is probably in the guise of someone wondering who he is going to throw to once the new season starts.

Davante Adams, such a favored target and firm ally over recent years, is gone. Allan Lazard is an option trusted by Rodgers but is few people’s idea of a genuine star capable of massive numbers. Randall Cobb hasn’t played a full slate of games since 2015. Sammy Watkins still has much to prove, and, after eight years in the NFL, might be running out of time to prove it.

The Packers have looked on as Tyreek Hill went to Miami, Odell Beckham appeared certain to land back with the Rams, and Marquez Valdez-Scantling joined Adams through the exit door. Green Bay went defense with their first-round draft pick, though they did take Christian Watson out of North Dakota State early in Round 2.

But it all looks a bit thin, especially when you look at who Brady, Allen and Mahomes have to aim their passes at.

Rodgers leaned heavily on his connection with the physically-unassailable Adams last season, finishing the campaign with 37 touchdowns against just four interceptions.

A similar showing this season with a depleted receiving corps could see him match Brett Favre as the only player to win three straight league MVPs, while joining Peyton Manning as the only man to have collected five in total.

However, what will weigh more heavily is the 11 years that have passed since the Packers last reached and won the Super Bowl, the only title of Rodgers’ career. It is why they brought him back and why it was worth all that money — and all the fuss.

Quite remarkably, it has become usual to see Rodgers and the Packers falter in the postseason, coming up short when it matters most. But loyal Cheeseheads will hope that something is different this time, and maybe it is.

For this spring is nothing like the last couple of years. Because we’re not talking much about Aaron Rodgers — and when we do, it’s mostly about football.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

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