Composing provocative and thoughtful articles about any NFL team in the summer months before the kickoff of the preseason schedule can be arduous task even for the most seasoned beat writer or columnist, which provides the subject of Aaron Rodgers playing into his middle-age years a bit more mileage than it would receive once things really start to ramp up.
What really added some juice to the topic, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, was Rodgers himself answering a question about his future and, in essence, stating that he’ll “hopefully” still be in a Green Bay Packers’ uniform in a little over six years.
The 33-year-old added how much of an honor it would be to follow in the footsteps of Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, all of whom were still prominent athletes in their respective sports as they approached the big 4-0.
But with all due respect to all three of those legends, none of them had to ever make a living dodging extraordinarily large men barreling into them at meteoric rates of speed.
The reason why the question was even posed was due to fellow quarterback, Tom Brady, celebrating his 40th birthday last Thursday.
Brady, unlike the vast majority of his predecessors, has defied Father Time by continuing to achieve unprecedented levels of success despite his advanced football age.
The longtime Patriots signal caller is among the most intense competitors the sport has ever seen despite his off-field Hollywood lifestyle, multitudinous endorsements and world-famous model wife.
It’s that inner fire within that drives the one-time Michigan Wolverine seventh-string backup to continue competing at an age when most of his peers are splitting their time between a golf course and a broadcast booth or studio.
So, while Rodgers mentioned stars from other sports in last week’s Q&A, it’s the other No. 12 that serves as his true model if the two-time league MVP truly has designs on extending his playing career halfway through the next decade.
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Brady’s year-round anti-aging regimen includes maintaining a diet free and clear of alcohol, white flour, sugar, caffeine, and yes, tomatoes. In addition, “Tom Terrific’s” unorthodox healing practices also require frequent meditation sessions, as well as wearing specialized sleepwear to bed.
In recent times, Rodgers has gone public on major changes he’s made to his own diet, including the elimination of dairy-based foods, which is more than a bit ironic given that he plays in the nation’s cheese capital.
But adopting a similar type of Spartan lifestyle Brady practices isn’t enough to ensure a prosperous future at a stage when most quarterbacks are either coaching, riding the bench or pursuing broadcast opportunities.
The fact that the 33-year-old couldn’t be any more different as a quarterback and overall athlete as the 18th-year New England Patriot is an inconvenient truth that could very well prevent him from sticking around till 2025.
While Brady is your classic pocket passer with a well-defined delivery that he’s been able to masterfully repeat on virtually every snap, Rodgers is a freestyle distributor of the football that executes some of his best plays outside of structure.
From an artistic standpoint, Brady’s Michelangelo-like linear precision contrasts Rodgers’ wild brushstrokes and liberal use of vibrant colors in the tradition of Vincent Van Gogh.
So, though it may sound counterintuitive to call the more stationary player with limited mobility the one who stands a better chance to stretch out his career to 40 and beyond, it actually makes sense in more ways than one.
By being the type of improvisational maestro that can slide away from pressure and even gain chunks of yardage with his feet, Rodgers is much more likely to put his joints and limbs in harm’s way since he’s not as willing to give up on a play even with defenders draped all over him.
In similar circumstances, the lead-footed Brady would either throw the ball away or curl up to protect the ball and his body from any potential damage that could be inflicted by a ravening pass rusher.
To expect Rodgers to go into preservation mode and radically modify his playing style to squeeze out a couple of extra seasons is probably unrealistic and downright foolhardy.
Also, Rodgers is just as much a perfectionist as Brady is a pure competitor, which makes it almost inconceivable to envision the 13th-year Packer hanging on and coming to terms with an inevitable physical decline.
Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Joe Montana were all hobbling toward the finish line by the time they reached 38 and history indicates that Rodgers will most likely encounter the same fate as he approaches the threshold of his fifth decade.
One can certainly use John Elway as an example of an older field general going out on top, but Denver’s back-to-back Super Bowls in the late 90s were more about Terrell Davis and a dominant offensive line than the bow-legged graybeard whose days of being a lethal dual threat were a thing of the past by then.
And who could forget the Minnesota Vikings version of Brett Favre?
He bucked the trend and had a season for the ages at age 40, but then fell off a cliff a year later.
Favre’s resuragance in the winter of his storied run in the NFL was partially fueled by his mission to stick it to his old team and Ted Thompson in particular.
Will Rodgers have the same motivation? How many titles he’ll collect over the next few years will surely answer that one.
Furthermore, the 2005 late first-round pick may presently feel plenty confident about playing at 40 as an eligible bachelor with no children, but his thoughts about dedicating 20 years in the brutally violent NFL could change if/when he ties the knot.
And if anyone thinks Rodgers will be content spending his golden NFL years as a backup in the interest of longevity or winning one more Super Bowl isn’t discounting the future Hall-of-Famer’s outside interests.
The Chico, California native is a noted documentary buff and has let it be known in a recent interview that he’s looking forward to actually producing those types of films once he rides off into the sunset.
Yes, envisioning arguably the most gifted quarterback of his generation still playing when he’ll be at least five years older than most of his peers and even have some seniority over a few of his coaches can be heartwarming and emboldening for the legions of Packer Backers that worship at the altar of the Discount Double-Check pitch man.
Can it happen? Yes. If I were a betting man, however, I would say the odds are somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-percent for and 80-percent against Rodgers limping around the gridiron like a modern-day George Blanda.
Even the greatest of monuments eventually turns to ruins.