Is Aaron Rodgers now the best quarterback in football? With Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both out of the playoffs, his only competition would seem to be Ben Roethlisberger.
Rodgers has never been considered in that category because he hasn’t won a Super Bowl and, in fact, has never been to one. Roethlisberger has won two.
Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl, and Jim Kelly didn’t either — and both are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But for most quarterbacks, it’s the test, as Al Davis obliquely noted when he reminded the media on Tuesday of how long it took John Elway to win one. Of course, Elway had gotten two Denver teams with little defense and no complementary running game to the Super Bowl before that.
Steve Young, despite having great seasons, never got his due until the 49ers won the January 1995 game and Young set records with his passing.
Like Young with Joe Montana, Rodgers has played in the shadow of a great quarterback, Brett Favre, who is certain to be elected to the Hall of Fame as soon as he’s eligible.
But that has never seemed to be a problem for Rodgers, who has a great deal of self-confidence, along with intelligence and determination.
I first saw that when he was at Cal. He had come out of nowhere, from a junior college in Chico, but from the start, he acted as if he belonged.
The fact that he was even there tells you something about Rodgers. Cal coach Jeff Tedford was scouting a tight end, but was even more impressed by Rodgers. Usually, JC players can’t transfer to a four-year college until after their second year, to prevent players who didn’t qualify for a four-year college from side-stepping those entrance requirements. There is one exception: If the player had a high SAT score. Rodgers did, so he was able to transfer to Cal.
Once there, he quickly learned Tedford’s system and became the starter early in his sophomore year. In his junior year, he was outstanding. I’ve been watching Cal quarterbacks since 1956, and I would rank only Craig Morton ahead of him.
He entered the NFL draft after that year and was considered, with Alex Smith, as a possible No. 1 overall pick. When the 49ers picked Smith, he plummeted down the draft board to the Packers.
Why did so many teams pass on him? Years before, Bill Walsh had told me that football people have no confidence in their ability to evaluate quarterbacks, so if one isn’t drafted where he’s supposed to be, other teams wonder, “What do they know that we don’t?” and let him slide.
As it happened, Rodgers landed in a good spot. He spent a couple of seasons watching Favre, and when the Packers finally cut their ties with the drama queen, he was ready.
Now, he’s in peak form, easily out-dueling Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday. I’m hoping the Packers get by the Bears and the Steelers beat the Jets, so we’ll have Rodgers and Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl. Then, we can see who’s the best quarterback.
My money’s on Rodgers.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.