I just read this article from ESPN on Rodgers and for some reason, it made me think of comparing Rodgers with the Milwaukee Brewers’ left fielder Ryan Braun. Over the last year or so, I have had the chance to watch interviews with them, read commentaries about them and see these guys play (though Rodgers sparingly), and I decided I just couldn’t help myself from making this comparison.
Now, there are some of you out there who are ready to rip me apart wondering how I can begin to compare a mostly unproven Rodgers to the 2007 MLB Rookie of the Year – a player who shattered many rookie records? How can I even put Rodgers in the same sentence as a major leaguer who, in his first full year now (last year through present), has a .314 average, 47 HRs, a bunch of RBIs and .622 slugging %, etc etc (unreal stats for a first year player)? Or, you might be saying “I hate baseball, why would you bring baseball into a discussion at Packergeeks”?
Well, the comparison I want to draw is more of an intangible one. These guys may look alike (which is mostly irrelevant, but it is curious – like Geoff Jenkins and Favre…in fact, check out their respective photos, Rodgers here and Braun here). And both of these guys came into the league highly touted having impressed at the lower levels. But the comparison that is most compelling to me is their confidence level. For those of you who follow the Milwaukee Brewers, you know that Ryan Braun’s confidence is well-documented. Just yesterday morning, on ESPN’s Milwaukee radio show the D-List, Tom Haudricourt (the fantastic baseball writer for the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel) and the hosts all talked about Braun’s tremendous self-confidence and more specifically, his strong belief in his own talent. Similar things have been said about Rodgers and his view of himself over the past few years.
One of the most difficult facets of developing young talent into leaders, however, can be a blurred distinction between confident leadership and potentially divisive cockiness. In fact, the discussion on the D-List yesterday morning concerned Braun’s recent calling out of teammates for having a poor approach to the weekend series in Boston. He contended that the players didn’t go in with the belief that they were going to win and this led to their demise. Some view Braun’s comments as just being cocky arguing that at 24, Braun is too young to step into such a leadership role. I believe his comments were more characteristic of an emerging leader who just wants to win.
I can see Rodgers quickly stepping up into a similar leadership role. I don’t think he has a choice considering the void Favre’s leadership leaves. However, I have to admit that I didn’t always believe he could evolve into strong leader. When cameras would flash to Rodgers on the sidelines over the past few years with goofy facial hair situations or odd haircuts, I was a bit concerned. I thought “who does he think he is? Cocky, attention-seeking, unproven goon” (despite not having used the word goon for some 2+ decades). Since then, we’ve learned that Rodgers did this to keep the mood light and to get teammates fired up – a joking quality not unlike his legendary predecessor. Reading about him more and listening to his take on things has given me a sudden feeling that he may in fact be the right guy at the right time. I think we’ll find that Rodgers’ character will slowly emerge in the media (like in this ESPN article) and as we get to know him, it won’t take long before Packer fans rally hard behind him – which will help him build even greater confidence as an NFL QB.
Like Braun, Rodgers appears to have a strong belief in his talent, a good attitude, a swagger and a strong desire to win. Though the Dallas game was one game (and though there were some concerning whining moments), we all saw his competitive spirit as he nearly pulled off an improbable comeback. During that game, he was very focused on the task at hand and did whatever he could to help the team win. He’s very bright, he had an outstanding college career, he’s talented, he’s determined, he’s learned from one of the best QBs ever and he has one of the top coaches for young QBs around in Mike McCarthy. We have reason to have confidence in Aaron Rodgers and he has reason to have confidence in himself.
So mentally, Rodgers is in a great spot – now, let’s just hope his body can handle the pounding of the NFL.