When Aaron Rodgers(notes) is riding around in the sweet Camaro convertible he won for taking the Super Bowl XLV award home, he can take some time to ruminate about all the things he had to prove -- and all the people who thought he'd never even get to this point.
Even when he came out of Cal for the 2005 draft, Rodgers had to wait until the Packers selected him with the 23rd overall pick. As Brett Favre(notes) was the team's seeming quarterback-for-life at that time, the pick seemed questionable, at least until Favre "wrangled" his way out of Green Bay before the 2008 season. After sitting on the bench for three years, Rodgers finally got his shot, though he was in the position to replace the most irreplaceable quarterback since John Elway and Joe Montana.
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Along the way, Rodgers faced ridiculous scrutiny, especially from the cottage industry of Favre apologists in the media who never have given Rodgers the credit he deserved for handling a very difficult situation with uncommon grace and poise. When Favre went from the New York Jets to the Minnesota Vikings and helped the Vikings sweep the Pack in 2009, Rodgers seemed to understand that it was all part of a process, and didn't rub it in when the Pack came back and blew out the Vikings in 2010 as Favre's tank finally ran low.
"I told [Packers general manager Ted Thompson] in 2005 that he wouldn't regret this pick," Rodgers said from the postgame podium. "And I told them [Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy] that I was going to repay their trust and get us this opportunity."
Still, the questions persisted. First, he had never won a playoff game and was debited for that, despite the fact that he "lost" in the 2009 wild-card round to a Kurt Warner(notes) performance that might have been the best in playoff history. Those same Favre groupies ignored Rodgers' numbers (28 of 42 for 423 yards and four touchdowns) and tagged him with a "loss." Then, when he led his team to Super Bowl XLV, the Favreites moved their dismay to the fact that Rodgers hadn't won a Super Bowl.
Now, with Rodgers' MVP performance in Green Bay's 31-25 win, the Packers' new franchise quarterback has done something Favre never could in his 20-year career -- be the defining factor in a Super Bowl win. Rodgers finished with 24 completions in 39 attempts for 304 yards and three touchdowns, and his stats would have been far better had his receivers not dropped several passes. But as he always had through his estimable NFL career, Rodgers kept his cool and forged ahead.
And now, because he was able to do so, there are no more questions to ask. Instead, as the on-field commander of a team with youth and extreme talent on its side, he's angling past Favre and looking at the greener pastures (and multiple championships) of Bart Starr.
Any doubters left? You'll have to wait -- Aaron Rodgers can't hear you right now. His engine is raising dust from the road.
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- Aaron Rodgers