NFL teams should follow the Rodgers model of success

If you’re a fan of one of 31 NFL franchises, you’ve probably been treated to an up-and-down season so far.

If you’re a Patriots (5-1) fan, you worship Tom Brady on bent knee every Sunday and are seriously concerned about your defense. If you’re a Bengals (4-2) fan, you are hoping the legal system continues to work in Cedric Benson’s favor and wonder what it’s like to play a hard schedule. If you’re a fan of the Rams (0-5) or Colts (0-6), you are re-stocking the liquor cabinet every Monday with regularity.

The common denominator for fans of those 31 NFL teams is a generally a deflating one, though; they all shudder at the mention of the 32nd team, the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers are the last undefeated team in the NFL and show no signs of losing anytime soon. Their enormous success starts and ends with quarterback Aaron Rodgers — the best player in the National Football League.

Rodgers has been phenomenal, picking apart defenses and putting up league-leading statistics with relative ease. While watching him eviscerate a hapless Rams’ defense last Sunday with my roommates, I wondered aloud if he was even capable of having a bad game at this point. He looks that good.

With Rodgers’ current status as best player in the NFL and defending Super Bowl Champion, it begs the question: Shouldn’t all young quarterbacks be handled in the same fashion as Rodgers?

The Packers drafted Rodgers in the late first round of the 2005 NFL Draft and then kept him as the backup to Brett Favre for the first three years of his career. The Packers could have jumped the gun and started playing Rodgers in his first season, where the Packers had a dismal 4-12 record on the year. It’s hard to supplant a future Hall-of-Famer like Favre, but a 4-12 record is horrendous. The Packers deemed Rodgers unready and stayed the course.

In 2008, Rodgers assumed the starting job in the wake of Favre’s “retirement” and hit the ground running, throwing for 4,038 yards and 28 touchdowns. The Packers’ patience had seemingly paid off. Two years later, Rodgers led the Lambeau faithful to another Super Bowl title. You couldn’t script it better.

So shouldn’t this proverbial script be used on all quarterbacks first coming into the league? It makes too much sense, right? Let the young player acclimate himself to the sheer athleticism of the NFL, allow him to get well-acquainted with the offensive scheme that is designed to make him effective, make sure he develops good habits through constant consulting with the coaching staff and then insert him in the lineup one or two years later with optimal comfort.

Brady was a backup for a year and might have held that position for a few more years had it not been for Drew Bledsoe’s season-ending injury in 2001. Steve Young was backup to Joe Montana for three years in San Francisco before starting his Hall of Fame career in the 1990s. Now Rodgers, barring injury, is going to obliterate NFL defenses for the next eight years. Isn’t this progression flawless?

In reality, the flaw is that NFL teams want to make most of their rookie contracts while selling tickets and merchandise, and the best way to do this is to trot out your stud first-year quarterback and feed him to the wolves, for better or for worse.

Last year’s draft was heavy on quarterbacks, and the development of each one over the course of the next decade could shed some light on the best way to handle a young quarterback.

Three of the six quarterbacks taken early in the draft are already starting for their respective franchises. Cam Newton is putting up huge numbers for the Panthers, but is also losing games with his untimely turnovers. Ditto with Blaine Gabbert, who has absolutely no chance of elevating a bad Jaguars team. Andy Dalton has led the Bengals to a winning record so far but has yet to face the Steelers or Ravens defense, which have been known to prey on weak quarterbacks with great zeal.

On the other side, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallet are presently backups to veteran quarterbacks. Mallett won’t see the field for another four or five in New England, but he might learn more than all of them combined behind the tutelage of Brady and Bill Belichick. Ponder and Locker will both be called into action sooner than later because they are backing up archaic quarterbacks, but will have the advantage of a year learning their respective offensive schemes and stepping in to teams with offensive weapons like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson.

Will any of these quarterbacks end up being the next Aaron Rodgers? Probably not. But if the Rodgers model continues to culminate in Super Bowls for Green Bay, NFL front offices would be wise to follow suit and have their future stars sit a few years before facing the spotlight.

_Thomas is a junior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ThomasBruch._