Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers Is The Super Bowl Quarterback Duel We Deserve
It's been said a time or two that 2016 was one of those years that we'll all remember living through. In the grand scheme of things it probably wasn't that bad. There have certainly been far more devastating times in our country's history. Still, for whatever reason, the things that sucked seemed to suck a little extra; and that includes the NFL season.
There was a sort of football fatigue that had already been creeping in for a while by the time the season began. Between the inordinate legal attention paid to the DeflateGate saga to the equal and opposite disinterest in fixing the domestic violence issues in the league, fans had finally begun to hit their breaking point.
Then the season turned out to be kind of a dud, and things got worse. The referees seemingly made it their personal mission to set fire to the rule book, and the low quality of the product was reflected in the first significant decline in ratings that the NFL has seen in a very long time.
By the time Tom Brady returned from his four-game suspension to start the season, it was clear that any team that was playing even one notch above mediocre in Week 5 would be in the playoffs. Crap divisions beat up on each other until someone eventually won (NFC West, AFC South) and teams that have been reliably good over the last couple of years (Ravens, Panthers, Cardinals, Broncos) devolved into pathetic shells of their former selves.
We were a country full of disgruntled sports fans. Then just as we'd tuned out from the NFL for a bit to bask in the warm afterglow of a nearly perfect World Series, Donald Trump was elected President. Vacation over.
At that point it would've been foolish to even hope that something spectacular could come of the 2016 NFL season. The Cubs had won in extra innings in Game 7 against the Indians. That was our great sports moment. How could we have expected more, after the year we'd just had?
The Patriots and Cowboys cruised to one-seeds in the playoffs, and the only interesting addition to the postseason mix in the AFC (Raiders) saw their MVP-contending quarterback (Derek Carr) break his femur towards the end of the season and demolish any hopes they had of a playoff run. That left the postseason with one, tiny shred of intrigue.
Enter Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
On the morning of November 28, 2016 the Rodgers and the Packers were 4-6 and preparing to play the Eagles on Monday Night Football. It was going to be a forgettable game between two underachieving teams that seemed to have lost any sense of direction or identity that they might've possessed at the start of the season.
Then the Packers won to improve to 5-6, and they haven't lost a game since.
Someone activated Rodgers competition mode, and the man has been on a goddamned mission. In fact the only other quarterback we've seen play with that level of unbridled, competitive rage in recent memory is, - you guessed it - Tom Brady. By now you've undoubtedly seen all of the incredible stats from both QBs, and while they are thrilling, this is the rare narrative that needs no numbers to support its merits.
Tom Brady versus Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl LI would be one of the greatest quarterback duels in the history of the Super Bowl.
Brady going scorched earth all over the NFL in the wake of his DeflateGate suspension was entirely expected. Anyone who knows anything about the NFL predicted that the Patriots quarterback would come back with the fire of a thousand suns to avenge himself against Roger Goodell.
The late-season arrival of Rodgers as Brady's NFC counterpart was completely unforeseen though, and the prospect that the two could face off in a battle for the Lombardi Trophy is exhilarating. Even Brady is in awe of what Rodgers has done over his last eight games.
“I think he does things that no one in the league has ever done, or can do, just because of his physical ability,” Brady said Monday morning during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI. “Some of the plays he makes are just phenomenal..."
"Everything really looks effortless with him, which is the amazing part. He’s definitely working hard, but he’s making hard look easy; it’s a very effortless style he plays with. The velocity of the ball, the placement of the ball, I mean, he’s just an incredible player. He works very hard at it, he’s a very talented player, and he’s just having an incredible season."
"I always love watching his tape, admiring the things he can do, because I can’t do many of those things. … Whenever he’s on, I usually stay up and watch.”
Rodgers is one of the most physically talented quarterbacks to ever play professional football. Since taking over for Brett Favre, the two-time league MVP and Super Bowl XLV champion has been a phenomenon. He is a card-carrying member of a very small group of elite players who have defined the NFL quarterback in the 20th century, along with Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
Manning and Brees have played each other in a Super Bowl already, so wouldn't it be fitting for the other two to get a shot at each other? There's no discounting how very good Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger both are, but come on...
Capping this season off with Brady vs. Rodgers would be a gift from the gods that we desperately need.
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