Permit me a little detour from the usual political fare this week as I and millions of Green Bay Packer fans, savor the Pack’s hard-fought victory over archrival Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I know there are many more pressing things in the world about which to be concerned but I can’t resist - beating the Bucs in Tampa is almost as satisfying as winning the Super Bowl. Packer fans will know why I think that. Jan. 24, 2021, the NFC title game at Lambeau Field. One win away from appearing in his second Super Bowl. All that stood between Rodgers and destiny was 43-year-old Tom Brady, supposedly in his final year, a 6-time Super Bowl Champ. One game for all the marbles in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in the dead of winter. You couldn’t have scripted it any better. I’ll spare you a recap of the entire game (it’s too painful), suffice it to say the Pack wound up on the short end of a 31-26 score. Brady and the Buccaneers went on to beat Cincinnati in the Big Game two weeks later.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. It was a tale of two halves for the Packers; they totally dominated the first half in terms of number of plays, time of possession and points scored. Brady brought his team back in the second half while Tampa’s defensive crew obviously made adjustments at halftime and limited Aaron Rogers and the Packers’ high-powered offense in the final 30 minutes.
I’ve never understood the psychology of why some people identify with certain sports teams. It is an odd phenomenon seeing grown men donning jerseys with the numbers of their favorite quarterbacks or running backs on them. I never went that far, but I’ve always loved the Packers. Maybe it is since Vince Lombardi’s Packers won the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 67’. I was too young to remember the rout of the Chiefs in Super Bowl 1, but I vividly recall the Packers’ drubbing of the Raiders a year later. Donnie Anderson and Elijah Pitts had taken over the running back duties from Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor who were at the end of their careers. The championship teams led by Bart Starr gave way to the lean years of the 1970’s, teams led by Jerry Tagge and Scott Hunter, great college quarterbacks but neither one ready for prime time.
It would be 30 years before Brett Favre would guide the Packers to another Super Bowl victory.
Aaron Rodgers has had a Hall-of-Fame career and is statistically among the all-time greats, but he has won only one Super Bowl. The comparisons to Brady, and who is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) are inevitable. Brady has roughly 150 more TD passes than Rodgers, while Rodgers has a better than 4-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. Brady is roughly at 3-1. Brady leads 3-2 in head-to-head matches. But football is a team sport, it’s not a boxing match. Rodgers can physically do things Brady could never do. Brady has admitted that. If winning championships is the metric for gauging the G.O.A.T. then Bill Russell is the greatest basketball player of all time. He won 11 titles, Michael Jordan 6, Lebron James 4.
As a football fan, it was a treat to watch two of the game’s greatest quarterbacks square off against each other one more time. Both men are in the twilight of their careers, but still performing at an unbelievably high level. It's still early in the season, but these teams are likely playoff bound. If they do meet again in the playoffs, Packers’ fans can only hope the game is played at Lambeau, and the outcome is vastly different.