Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The morning after: the mourning after

The horror...the horror...

Apocalypse Now. Great movie. Marlon Brando as Col. Nutjob. Martin Sheen as the assassin. Dennis Hopper as...himself. A dark and chaotic journey into a surreal existence.

All those who feel this way today after hearing of Brett's retirement, please raise your hands. Yikes!

Those within TV or radio earshot of Wisconsin over the last 24 hours were bombarded with non-stop coverage yesterday of this momentous event. You heard or saw it all day long and went to bed with it being talked about. And you awoke this morning to your radio and TV once again reflecting on the aftermath of Brett's announcement that he was done. It's exhausting. One friend, known to joke about sticking one's head in the oven over dramatic events related to the Packers -- such as losses to Da Bearz, for example -- was asked by a buddy if he was going to have "an oven party" last night. The reply was that he was too depressed to even make it to the oven. So it is in Packerland. We have become Mudville. There is no joy.

OK, OK...we have to snap out of it, people! And forget all the finger pointing related to the Pack not getting Randy Moss and that's why Brett retired. Moss wanted to stay in New England, as is obvious by the fact that he turned down more money, according to reports, to sign with the Eagles. As one Packers reporter said this morning, the Packers played this situation "right down the middle." Meaning that they were not going to put undue pressure on Brett one way or another. As GM Ted Thompson said, it was Brett's decision. So, as the Packers reporter noted, if Brett decided to return, great. But if he didn't, the Packers have a first round draft pick who's been riding the bench for three years, absorbing everything possible from the greatest QB of all time, and being coached the last two years by one of the better QB coaches in the league, who just also happens to be the head coach, Mike McCarthy. The reporter noted that the Packers are anxious to see exactly what they have while Aaron Rodgers has two years left on his contract. They need to see him play this year to determine whether they will want to ride this pony and re-sign, or cut bait and go in another direction.

It's Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood Now
Yes, this is the direction of the conversation now, as it needs to be. We are now in the Aaron Rodgers era, kids. And it's scary, because no one yet knows what we have or what that means. Fortunately, he's had time to mature and get playbook smart. But he hasn't played much. And the last two seasons, as most any fan will tell you, he's gotten hurt almost immediately during or after what little game time opportunities he did have. According to Wayne Larrivee, who is the radio voice of the Packers, he has no doubt that Rodgers has the mental make up to do the job, as well as the physical tools to be a good QB. His opinion is that he will do well with the Packers, although he also acknowledged that the glare of the spotlight will be intense. Following a legend is not easy. It may be impossible. The pressure to perform well immediately will be extreme. Fan tolerance...we'll have to see.

Then there is the matter of durability. We won't see another Packers QB -- likely any QB anywhere -- surpass Brett's string of consecutive starts. And that's the thing, Larrivee said, that will be missed most: knowing that week after week the same guy will always be there. We haven't even been able to say that about Rodgers as a backup, let alone as a starter. Which means the Packers also better scour the wires or deal for an experienced backup. Who do the Packers have on the roster currently as possible backups to Rodgers? Veteran Craig Nall and first-year free agents Dalton Bell and Jerry Babb...yup...better start looking.

Ted Thompson will, one would assume, now also be looking to pick up a QB in the upcoming draft, as well, although probably in the second (where the Pack now has 2 picks) or later rounds. Who are the prospects there, after you get by Matt Ryan, out of Boston College, who is a top 5 pick? Brian Brohm from Louisville who also is a likely first round pick. There is also Andre Woodson of Kentucky, Chad Henne of Michigan, Joe Flacco of Delaware (who, according to scouting reports, sounds a lot like a raw young Brett Favre in terms of arm strength...and wildness), John David Booty of USC, Erik Ainge of Tennessee, Colt Brennan of Hawaii, and a host of others which offer some intriguing possibilities. It would seem that this would be a unique draft for the Packers in this regard: having to draft a QB who would not only be a serviceable backup, but also potentially a starter should Aaron Rodgers fall flat or get injured. Fortunately, there is a bumper crop of QBs who just could fill that bill.

This is different, isn't it? Talking about something we haven't really had to deal with since 1992. 1992! Wow. It is surreal. But real it is.