He’s 27 years old and just earned MVP honors in the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has had back-to-back-to-back Pro Bowl caliber seasons to begin his NFL career.
He’s just the second quarterback in NFL history to successfully replace a Hall of Famer (or future Hall of Famer, in the case of Brett Favre) at quarterback (Steve Young was the first). And he is poised to lead the Packers to multiple postseason appearances, and potentially many more championships, over the next few seasons.
So the question looms: Is Aaron Rodgers the best quarterback in the NFL?
First let’s examine his competition. There’s Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers is close but until he wins a Super Bowl, or at least plays well in the postseason, he cannot be considered in the discussion for best NFL quarterback. And Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers is a two-time Super Bowl champion but he hasn’t shown even close to the level of consistency that the rest of the top quarterbacks in the league have over the years.
It’s Brady, Manning, Brees, or Rodgers. All four have been dominant, both statistically and in the postseason. Each has a Super Bowl title (Brady has three). Each of the first three is a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame (and Rodgers is on pace to end up in Canton one day).
But until Rodgers continues at his current level for as many seasons as Brady or Manning, or at least as many seasons as Brees, he cannot be considered the NFL’s best quarterback.
Brady has two seasons (2007 and 2010) that rank among the greatest in league history by a quarterback. Manning is so dominant statistically and has been the single most valuable player to any NFL team since 2003. And Drew Brees has (with the exception of 2009) quietly turned in five consecutive seasons that rank among the best five-year periods by a quarterback in league history.
I think Rodgers is an incredible quarterback. After the 2009 season, I predicted that he will be a top ten quarterback in league history. Before the 2010 season, I predicted that he would lead the Packers to a Super Bowl title.
Now I am predicting that he will widely be considered the best quarterback in the NFL. But not now. Brady and Manning have shown no signs of slowing down, and Brees has been doing just a little more for just a little longer. Each of those three is well into their 30s, however, and will begin slowing down soon.
In one year, heading into the 2012 season, I think Aaron Rodgers could very well be a two-time Super Bowl champion, with a regular season MVP in his back pocket. And in one season, I think Aaron Rodgers will be considered the best quarterback in the NFL.
But as of right now, he’s still fourth, which, considering the three men he’s trailing, is still a tremendous honor.