1. Aaron Rodgers (Ray’s pick)
Getting to and winning a Super Bowl in this day and age requires many factors, coupled with a little luck to come together at just the right time.
We saw it happen in Green Bay in 2010 when the Packers put together a run at the end of that season that culminated in a Super Bowl XLV win.
The defense made plays when it had to, the offense developed a running game at just the right time and the special teams were solid fundamentally.
But if there were a difference-maker that season, it was the leadership and performance by the team’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
Fast forward to 2014.
The Packers had a strong running game with Eddie Lacy and James Starks, they had a wide receiving corps that was as good as any time in the past decade and they had a defense that was peaking at just the right time.
But most importantly, the Packers had Aaron Rodgers under center.
Well, they had Aaron Rodgers on one leg.
We all remember the strained golden calf of Rodgers that hobbled him the last few games of the regular season and through the playoffs in 2014.
If there was one difference-maker – and a big reason why the Green Bay Packers didn’t make it to the Super Bowl – that was it.
We all saw Rodgers’ athleticism hampered by that injury. He became strictly a pocket passer – and as good as he was in that role, it wasn’t the Aaron Rodgers we have all come to know and love.
Being so close to a Super Bowl and not qualifying was a crushing blow to the team and its fans. But it was also a rallying cry in 2015 that provided so much optimism and high expectations.
But then Jordy Nelson tore his ACL.
As Rodgers’ favorite target and the go-to guy on the offense, the team suffered. While the defense kept the Packers in most games last year, it was the offense that struggled unlike at any time in the team’s recent history.
However, Rodgers did what he could for the offense, but it wasn’t enough.The Packers had plenty of down moments in 2015 and none of them were as far down as that Week 17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field.
Though the Packers lost a chance at their fifth straight NFC North Division championship, the team did rise from the dust to beat the Washington Redskins on the road in the first round of the playoffs and then were one overtime loss against the Arizona Cardinals from another Championship Game. Had the Packers made it to that game, who knows what the outcome could have been?
When you look at the play of Rodgers during the 2015 season, there were plenty of times when he missed open receivers; there were plenty of times when receivers simply dropped the ball; there were times when the offensive line’s pass protection broke down or the holes for the running game just weren’t there.
But through it all was Aaron Rodgers.
Next: No. 1 (Freddie's pick)