Monday, August 11, 2008

Hats off to Aaron Rodgers in debut

Green Bay's James Jones loses his helmet on a 30-yard touchdown reception against Cincinnati safety Marvin White in the first half Monday in Green Bay.

It's a good thing I didn't play the Brett Favre Drinking Game, or I wouldn't have made it out of the first quarter.

If I'd taken a shot every time Mike Tirico, Tony Kornheiser and Ron Jaworski uttered Favre's name, it wouldn't have been long before I would've been tanked like George Jones on an international flight.

The Packers opened their preseason with a Monday Night Football date at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was the first time since 1993 that someone other than Favre took the opening snap, as Aaron Rodgers shed the red jersey for some live action.

All in all, he looked pretty good. He went 9-of-15 for 117 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT; at least one of those incompletions was a bobble by Donald Driver that should've been caught (and, failing that, probably should've been picked), and the INT was not Rodgers' fault, as it was bobbled into the air by Chris Francies. So while it counts in the stat book, it's irrelevant in terms of Rodgers' development.

Most importantly, Rodgers displayed much of the elusiveness and discipline - such as throwing the ball away rather than forcing something - that he showed flashes of at Dallas last November.

I'm not worried about Rodgers - my primary concern for him is regarding his health - I was more curious to see Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn.

If Brohm's stomach was churning with his first NFL action ... well, then he played like he felt (8-17, INT). He looked lost the whole time he was out there. His INT came on a play where he locked onto his receiver, though the receiver did get hit from behind. It's Brohm's first NFL action, and Papa John's Cardinal Stadium only held about 42,000 fans, so I'll cut him some slack.

But Flynn, on the other hand, was impressive. The former LSU QB appeared decisive, finishing 12-of-21 and guiding the Packers to a late touchdown to pull the team to within 20-17. (Kregg Lumpkin may have played his way off the roster, as the backup RB fumbled in Packer territory while Flynn was driving the team toward a potential game-tying FG.)

The best moment of the game came during Rodgers' stint, when he hit James Jones at the 15 on a 30-yard TD; Jones took a wicked hit and lost his helmet. I believe it was the first Lambeau Leap by a hatless player.

Regarding the Favre saga, Tirico had the observation of the night; that the Packers' front office made a move toward getting its team back.

How true that is, and I would argue that it's taken until now for the team to recover from the Ray Rhodes era (OK, year).

1999 was the team's first season after the departure of Mike Holmgren. Rhodes was renowned as a "players coach," which in his case meant hands-off and letting them run the asylum. This was the beginning of Favre's presumed "ownership" of the team, I believe.

After Rhodes was fired and Mike Sherman hired in his place, then subsequently made GM by the departing Ron Wolf, it makes perfect sense to me that Sherman would've had too much on his plate to interfere with Favre's leadership role.

So when Ted Thompson took over as GM in 2005, his personality wouldn't allow for a player to hold as much sway over a team as Favre's did. It was evident through episodes such as Favre's tantrum regarding Thompson's refusal/failure to bring in Randy Moss in 2007, and his no-nonsense approach to handling Favre's retirement this year, that Thompson felt it would be HIS team, or at least NOT a player's team.

So far, Thompson has made some fine draft picks and the team - the youngest in the league - appears loaded for ... err, "bear" for some time to come.

Bring on the season!

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