Read below for Cindy’s appropriate comparison of Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. I was in the middle of writing a post on the topic of Rodgers’ leadership when I read this question so I put all of my thoughts into this response. Here is the great question:
I agree with most of what’s inyour article. But I am wondering about Rodgers as a leader. I look at what Matt Ryan is doing in Atlanta. The rookie comes in and becomes team leader. Why is Rodgers not coming in and taking over? Is it his personality? Is he being hampered by management? Would a come-from-behind victory “make” him a leader? I would be interested to hear your take on this.
Here are my thoughts:
- Expectations. The circumstances the two QBs stepped into were quite different. While both may have had fairly high expectations put upon them for this year (Ryan because he was the #1 pick, and we know why for Rodgers), there were different expectations for each team. The Packers were still expected to be good and the Falcons weren’t. So, I think it can be a bit easier to win over teammates/fans/coaches when the expectations aren’t so high.
- Fractured team. Rodgers inherited a team that had been freshly fractured by an ugly split with Favre. We don’t know probably half of what really went on, but think it’s safe to say it had the effect of disrupting at least a little bit, the cohesion of the team moving forward. Ryan inherited a very bad team that was excited about getting a fresh start with a new coach, an exciting new RB and some new players.
- Coaches. Right now, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Mike McCarthy has had an off year. Whether it be play-calling, personnel decisions he does have some control over or managing his players effectively (for example, teaching how not to get penalized) – Mike McCarthy hasn’t been very good. He was very good last year, not this year. Mike Smith has out-coached McCarthy and most other coaches this year (could win coach of the year). I would argue that Smith’s quality coaching and his quality game planning week in and week out have set Ryan up to succeed which helps him to step more credibly into his leadership role.
- Winning. This seems basic, but winning helps a lot in terms of establishing credibility as a leader. Frankly, it is a major reason why I was bothered by the Favre split. He had credibility as a winner because he’d won more games than anyone in NFL history. When a QB wins frequently, they have the luxury of being given perhaps more credit than is fair thrown their way. And this has the effect of the QB building confidence in himself, but also builds the team’s confidence in him.
- Running game. Ryan Grant has been only OK this year and our O-Line has been weak. Michael Turner has dominated and has won me many fantasy games. Having such a consistent and powerful running game takes a lot of pressure off the QB – especially in the clutch. For example, Ryan didn’t have to do much in OT yesterday because Turner was running wild.
- Rest of the team. Rodgers has had to battle his own defense and special teams this year. They have set Rodgers up in several games to fail. While Atlanta’s D and special teams aren’t phenomenal, they are at least competent. This also takes pressure off a QB, leading to more victories and therefore, more credibility as the team leader.
- Winning in the clutch. Cindy hits on a key reason why Rodgers doesn’t appear now to be the leader that Ryan is. Ryan has won I believe several games down the stretch with some good throws. I saw him beat Chicago when he completed a very clutch sideline pass with almost no time left that set up the winning field goal. His team knows that there is precedent now for him to lead them to victory when things get tense. This is a precedent Rodgers has not yet set. Rodgers has had 7 chances to do so this season and hasn’t delivered yet. He needs to do this to establish precedent.
I like Aaron Rodgers and think he’s very good. And, I think teammates and others actually do regard him as a good young leader (albeit a developing young leader). I have been impressed by what he’s done this year and believe it’s mostly just a matter of time before he leads comebacks and becomes that mentally tough QB that opposing teams will worry about…especially in crunch time. But it’s imperative that he win a close game, by making a great play or two at a critical time, soon. Either this year or early next year. If he doesn’t do it soon, it could become an ugly mental obstacle for him and potentially affect his ability to be viewed as a credible leader. Ultimately, I expect Rodgers to be a good leader and as this team evolves and hopefully becomes better, I actually think people will start talking about how good of a leader he is.