Former Packers QB Lynn Dickey: Aaron Rodgers would be my No. 1 pick

Quarterback Lynn Dickey played for the Packers from 1976-85.

Focus On Sport/Focus on Sport/Getty Images

GREEN BAY, Wis. — As a former star quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Lynn Dickey is frequently asked for his thoughts on current star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And though the two are connected near the top of the franchise’s history books in many categories, that has no influence on Dickey’s evaluation of Rodgers.

"First and foremost, when I pick a quarterback, they say, ‘well, do you want a guy that can really run, or if he can throw it a hundred yards, got a big arm,’" Dickey said this week at the launch of the team’s Tailgate Tour. "I said, ‘no, No. 1, I want a guy that’s smart, and Aaron Rodgers is smart. Then, you add on that he’s really accurate with a strong arm and he can run.

"You put all those things together, and again, I’ve told people ever since Aaron’s been here: If I was an owner and I got one draft pick, he’d be the guy I’d pick. He’d be the No. 1 pick for me."

Dickey has watched from afar as Rodgers went from a backup for three years behind Brett Favre to a starter who’s led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory and frightened defenses across the NFL. But while Rodgers has had receivers like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson to throw to, Dickey wouldn’t take them over the group he had in Green Bay from 1976-1985.

When the Packers traded for receiver John Jefferson in 1981, Dickey felt even better about the options he had to work with.

In pictures: Aaron Rodgers

"I remember going over and hugging Bart Starr and telling him ‘thank you for giving me another target to throw to,’" Dickey said about the team’s trade for Jefferson. "We had quite the group there for a while, with JJ (Jefferson) and James Lofton and Paul Coffman at tight end; we had Phil Epps also. I’d put those guys up against anyone playing the game today.

"It’s amazing how much better we get as the years go by. The lies get bigger and bigger."

The rules in today’s NFL certainly favor offenses more than they did in Dickey’s era. Not that Dickey was complaining about it back then, but it’s fair to wonder how many more points Green Bay would have scored beyond the then-team record 429 points put on the board in 1983.

"Couple of big (rule changes) right off the bat is the harassment of the receivers off the line of scrimmage; they get more of a free run now," Dickey said. "Protecting the quarterback, that was a big deal compared to what they’re doing now. I don’t know where you hit the guy; you can’t hit him in the knees, you can’t hit him in the head — I guess you hit him in the belly button, that’s your best bet.

"But I watch a lot of games and to find out you can only get hit there and guys weren’t rolling at your knees, I would have loved that. Probably the other big thing too is the receivers being able to get freedom off the line and running up and down the field and without a lot of holding. They still do it but the rules are set for the offense, absolutely."

All of those hits that Dickey’s body absorbed during a 15-year NFL playing career have taken its toll, though. Like the vast majority of former quarterbacks, by the time they reach Dickey’s age of 64, their bodies are shot.

"I guess the biggest thing that bothers me right now physically is my hip," Dickey said. "I dislocated and broke my hip when I was in Houston my second year, and I was very fortunate to go ahead and be in the league for 13 more years after that. I was really lucky. But now it’s starting to hurt a little bit, it’s starting to bite when I walk. I like to play golf but that’s getting harder to do. I can still play (golf), but walking is harder.

Top Tweets: April 18

"My hip has been hurting me and my neck hurts me and my knees ache, but the really dumb thing is, I’d do it all over again in a second. I felt so fortunate and so lucky to be able to do something that I always wanted to do, and they paid me. Not like they’re paying now, but it was a dream come true to be able to play in the league."

This is the sentiment of many former NFL players. Despite the physical agony many of them live in, it was all worth it to most.

Another former Packers quarterback, Don Majkowski, told in early 2013 — when he was only 49 years old — that he was really struggling physically. Yet, he didn’t regret playing either. But it’s obviously still very important for players like Dickey to make sure that he and all of his peers have the medical coverage they need.

"A lot of our guys who are older than I are getting some help," Dickey said. "It’s been a long time coming. I think they’re starting to get it. The old days, I can’t tell you how many times I got dinged in the head, and you go out for a play, and they ask you, ‘Are you OK? Suck it up and get back in there.’ That’s just what you did. The old-school stuff of being tough and get back in there. That’s what we did. They don’t do that now. You get dinged like that, you could be out for a week or two. It’s for precautionary purposes and it’s probably for the good."

Rodgers has suffered a couple concussions in his career already and is coming off a season that was cut in half by a broken left collarbone. Rodgers is still only 30 years old, but in Dickey’s mind, no other quarterback in the league — not Peyton Manning, not Tom Brady, not Drew Brees — stacks up with the guy who’s broken some of his records.

"I think (Rodgers) is absolutely the best quarterback in the league right now," Dickey said. "It’s funny, when they start mentioning guys, they mention three or four or five guys ahead of him, but I would take him No. 1 quarterback in the league."

Follow Paul Imig on Twitter