When thinking of the playstyles of Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre over the course of their careers, it is hard to describe either player as remotely similar.
Rodgers has always been the ultimate protector of the football, rarely turning the ball over and seemingly calculated in his every move. Undoubtedly, Rodgers has been much more inclined to take a devastating sack than make a risky pass. Favre, meanwhile, became the NFL’s leader in interceptions by a long shot. He was the classic gunslinger willing to try to make a play happen even when it was not there. That tendency either led to unfathomable highlights or six-interception performances. Yet, regardless of their highs and lows, the franchise achieved a high level of success under both players. Favre brought the Packers back from the shadows and Rodgers maintained that winning tradition for another decade and a half.
However, if this indeed was Rodgers’ last game in a Packers uniform, the two stellar quarterbacks will leave Green Bay with similar legacies despite their brilliance in distinct ways.
For both legendary Packers quarterbacks, there will always be a sense that the franchise never gave either player enough offensive star power to get over the hump during most of their careers. Many remember the team’s reluctance to trade for Randy Moss during Favre’s time, while most casual fans and members of the media would look at the Packers’ roster under Rodgers and argue at length why the team didn’t select a first-round wide receiver. Especially during the end of the Ted Thompson era, this notion could have been considered accurate. However, as the 2021 season came to an end for the Packers, it’s hard to blame the front office for a lack of weapons in Rodgers’ past two seasons, much like Favre’s final year in Green Bay.
In fact, if anything, Green Bay came up short in the last season of both quarterbacks’ Packers careers largely due to the errors of those said quarterbacks in the postseason.
Favre’s last pass for Green Bay in 2007 will forever be remembered as a fitting end to his tenure - an overtime interception that set up a game-winning drive for the New York Giants. Despite a 13-3 regular-season record, the Packers looked like the coldest team on their home field on a frigid evening and Favre had a below-average showing with a 19-for-35, 236-yard, two-touchdown, two-interception line. A fantastic regular season team fell short unexpectedly with a poor showing from its quarterback, who had one last opportunity to lead the offense down the field for the win but didn’t cash in.
Likewise, the Packers' 13-4 record this season still was not enough for the team to reach the promised land, stunningly losing at Lambeau Field in the same cold weather that used to be its forte. Rodgers had one of his worst games as a Packer, leading five drives that finished in a three-and-out, including the final three offensive possessions of the game. His 20-for-29 performance for 215 yards is unspectacular, but still doesn’t tell the full story after 75 yards came on one pass to Aaron Jones. Even after a blocked punt resulting in a touchdown, the game was still tied and left for the taking with five minutes to play. Like Favre, Rodgers couldn’t march the team into field goal territory and the Packers instead ended up moving backward on the drive.
On a night in which the special teams let the Packers down but the defense rose to the challenge, just one additional offensive drive could have been the difference. Instead, Rodgers led the team on just two scoring drives and failed to throw a touchdown pass. That Jones and Davante Adams combined for 18 of Rodgers’ 20 completions is telling in itself, as Rodgers locked his eyes on the same two receivers again and again. There was perhaps no better example of this than on third down at the end of the game when Rodgers turned down an open Allen Lazard for a first down to sustain the drive in favor of an unlikely deep heave to a double-covered Adams. If it indeed was Rodgers’ last passing attempt in Green Bay, he went out looking much like Favre and some of his high-risk, head-scratching playoff moments.
While the book is not closed on a return to the Packers for Rodgers, championships are the bottom line in the NFL. The math is simple. One Super Bowl appearance and one win for Rodgers. Two appearances and one win for Favre. The Packers’ combined regular-season record since 1992 is 306-173. To play just three games on the final day of the season in that timeframe has been a massive underachievement for two quarterbacks that accrued three Most Valuable Player awards each (for now). While the playing styles of Favre and Rodgers could not be more different, the ultimate results were about the same.
In the end, both Hall of Fame quarterbacks have been fun to watch in their own ways and left plenty of lasting highlight moments to be retold for generations to come. They will each have their numbers retired by the Packers organization, even after historic fall-outs with the front office and first-round quarterback selections. They may each even leave Green Bay after one of their best seasons ever.
But the final legacy for both quarterbacks might sadly just be that they were great, but not great enough when it mattered most.