Hail to the King: An appreciation for Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley

Saturday night news surfaced that Packers cornerback Sam Shields is going to test the free agent market. Doom and gloom set in immediately. My Twitter timeline exploded with anger toward Ted Thompson, and discussion about how there’s no way Thompson could build a Super Bowl team in Green Bay (again).  While I am not all right with letting Shields simply walk away, I will refrain from judgment on this move until I see the type of money Shields gets on the open market. Whether that is in Green Bay or someone else remains to be seen.

The doom and gloom type of people drew me to watch previous Packers games to get some positive energy back into my life. I was immediately drawn to the Packers game against the Chicago Bears to finish this past season.

The story lines were abundant. For weeks there was speculation, and anger about the potential return of Aaron Rodgers. After the Packers won two games against the Falcons, and Cowboys respectively, it seemed almost assured Rodgers would be back for the second to last game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That did not happen, and it caused some fans to give up on the idea of Rodgers returning.

Fortune struck for the Packers. Despite losing to the Steelers, the Lions lost against the Ravens, and the Bears were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles in successive weeks. For those of you that followed us on Twitter, you saw fellow PTRN writer Ross Uglem and I immediately discussing what we called “The Return of the King”.

News broke on Wednesday, the day after Christmas, that the king would indeed return for retribution against the team who broke his collarbone Nov. 4.

On the day the news broke I simply quoted a tweet for all to see with four simple words. The king is back. The storylines were great, and continued to seem all too fitting on my drive home that night. On the ride home my car was set to the new Avenged Sevenfold CD that has the same title as this story. Fittingly, the first song to play on the ride home was “Hail to the King” It was at that moment I became more excited for a Packers game than I had in quite some time. For those of you that know me, you know how excited I get on Sundays, so that is a bold statement.

Rodgers returned, and struggled early but was able to come through late in the game with an escape and throw to Randall Cobb for a game winning touchdown. With that touchdown the Packers became NFC North champions for the third year in a row. The touchdown pass sparked the best dance move I have ever performed, and will live in Westendorf lore until the day I die.

The Packers season would end in heartbreaking fashion the following week, and cause some to come out and claim that the season was a failure. I was not one of those people, while the taste of a Super Bowl is the only thing that satisfies me, there is plenty to appreciate about the current state of the team.

Is Ted Thompson’s lack of activity in free agency frustrating at times? Yes.

Do I wish he would show more urgency for another title while the Packers still have the best quarterback in football? Absolutely.

But it is that last point that lets me know that the Packers fan base is incredibly spoiled. Most teams, when they lose a guy like Brett Favre go through years of rebuilding. The Denver Broncos did it after they lost John Elway for example. The Packers have had one losing season with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, and it came in his first season as a starter. Since that time they have finished 15-1 in one season, won three NFC North division titles, and one Super Bowl.

One other thing that has come into question, especially since the departure of Greg Jennings is the idea that Rodgers is not a leader of men. Jennings’ quotes have been rehashed over and over again. What has not been brought up is what happened since then.

Once Jennings’ comments took place, media outlets, especially the shock jock at ESPN had a field day with them. They even twisted Donald Driver’s comments to make it seem as if he agreed with Jennings. (This is controversial to see what exactly Driver meant, but I believe his clarification was genuine.)

Since that time, Jennings apologized to Rodgers in person, and plenty of Packers players in the locker room have spoken highly of Rodgers’ leadership capabilities. The bottom line when it comes to this topic is, unless you are in the locker room interacting with Rodgers and the team daily, you have no way of knowing what kind of leader someone is.

I am in the belief you can look at the way Rodgers has led this team on the field. Rodgers has been arguably the best quarterback in football since the Packers Super Bowl run, and aside from this year been the constant amidst all the injuries on the field. It has not mattered who has been around him, Rodgers has produced. He did so this year when the Packers were losing weapons on offense left and right, but the offense did not suffer in games against the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings.

While it could be argued that the offense could have faced some inconsistency had Rodgers not gotten hurt, I believe that is crazy to think because Rodgers is simply at the level right now where he makes others around him better.

While the Packers are not on the same level as the Seattle Seahawks at the moment, and there are some frustrating things about the team, there is one constant. That is Rodgers. As long as the Packers have Rodgers they will continue to contend, and that is something people should have learned during this season during the time he was out.

 

The offseason is long, and could be frustrating at times with all the player movement, I would simply like to take this opportunity to say, Hail. Hail to the king of Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers.

 

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Jacob Westendorf is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Jacob on twitter at

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