By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Many people believe that Tom Brady is the GOAT. They are correct. Some people believe that Aaron Rodgers is the GOAT. They are less correct.
Nevertheless, two of the best quarterbacks to ever take the field now have something in common. Though Rodgers may have it a little bit worse.
“It,” in this case, is the unpleasant experience of being 36 years old and watching as their team spent a high pick on a quarterback. That can’t feel great.
In Brady’s case, obviously, that moment involved the Patriots drafting the young and studly Jimmy Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois with the 60th overall pick in 2014.
For Rodgers, it’s notably worse, as the Packers made a trade to move up in the first round on Thursday to draft quarterback Jordan Love out of Utah State. That is … significant.
Not only did the Packers give up a fourth-round pick in order to move up four spots to take Love, but the move ended a trend for the Packers. The team had not selected an offensive skill player in the first round since … drafting Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Since then, the team has only taken a small handful of offensive skill players in the second round. Now, they’re moving up in the first round to take … a quarterback? Just hours after Rodgers made a public plea for the team to take a skill player?
According to Peter King, Rodgers is not happy with the move.
“I’ll tell you what he thinks,” King said on WEEI. “He’s pissed off Wouldn’t you be?”
Most people in Rodgers’ position certainly would be perturbed by the developments. Without a doubt.
And back in 2014, when the Patriots drafted the impossibly handsome Garoppolo and Bill Belichick referenced Brady’s “age and contract situation”? Whoa, buddy. Tommy Brady was probably steamed. Miffed, even.
It was likely not a coincidence, then, that what came from 2014-17 was the most incredible four-season stretch of Tom Brady’s entire career.
Brady responded to the Garoppolo selection by dedicating himself to adding some mobility — something that had always been lacking in his game. It paid dividends, with Brady posting improved stats across the board in 2014 before delivering a fourth-quarter performance for the ages against a historically great Seahawks defense in Super Bowl XLIX.
He led the league in touchdowns and had the league’s best interception rate at age 38 in 2015.
In 2016, at age 39, he threw 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his 12 games.
His performance in the 28-3 comeback in Super Bowl LI was one of the most masterful showings in quarterbacking history.
In 2017, at age 40, he was the NFL MVP and then threw for more than 500 yards in the Super Bowl.
And though his numbers dipped slightly in 2018, Brady put forth a spectacular performance on the road in the AFC Championship Game before winning his sixth Super Bowl.
Maybe Belichick drafted Garoppolo to replace Brady. Maybe he drafted Garoppolo merely to motivate Brady, who had always responded well while wearing a chip on his shoulder. Whatever the reasoning, the results speak for themselves.
Six Super Bowls have been played since the Patriots drafted Garoppolo, and Brady has played in four of them. (Garoppolo playing in another adds to the story, too.)
Somehow, even as he approaches his 43rd birthday, Brady is still playing. Surrounded by potent offensive weapons in Tampa — err, TOMPA — Bay, his Buccaneers have the fifth-best odds to win the Super Bowl.
Brady had many options back in 2014, but for all of his skills on the football field, he’s been equally talented at channeling negative energy into positive outcomes. Instead of sulking or demanding a trade or complaining to the media, he opted to recommit himself to the game and ended up turning in the finest late-career performance the game has ever seen.
Now, Rodgers will have that same opportunity. His presumed anger in this moment is understandable, but it’s what he does with that anger that will ultimately determine the story of his career. Will he go down as maybe the most athletically gifted quarterback who only won a single Super Bowl? Or will he be able to follow the Brady path to bolster an already Hall of Fame-worthy career and achieve success that few can even imagine?
It’s fascinating, of course, that both Brady and Rodgers got their starting jobs in the NFL while unseating local legends. Brett Favre was obviously a much more prolific star than Drew Bledsoe, but the change from established veteran to unproven young gun applied to both Brady’s and Rodgers’ situations. Being the guy to replace The Guy is never easy, and going through that experience forever shapes a quarterback’s career.
For Brady, that meant maniacally taking every single practice rep and never coming out of games, even in fourth-quarter blowouts. In Brady’s words, it meant never letting anyone else do his job, thus ensuring that nobody could ever steal his job. It has served him well.
For Rodgers, who’s never seen his team draft a quarterback this high during his starting tenure, we’ll soon find out what it means.