This weekend, the two oldest quarterbacks in the NFL — Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, and Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — will face off for possibly the last time.
It’ll mark only the fifth time the two passing legends will share a football field.
Brady’s teams own a 3-1 record against Rodgers (we’re not counting Rodgers’ relief appearance in 2006), including the most consequential 2020 NFC Championship game.
Sunday’s game in Tampa could have season-long ramifications in determining who reigns supreme in the NFC. It’ll also serve as a reminder that a special era of quarterbacking is coming to an end.
Rodgers, like Brett Favre before him, has been flirting with retirement for over a year. And Brady, also like Favre, actually retired this offseason.
In fairness to him, he had a tiresome offseason.
Rodgers’ rare meetings with Brady are a symbolic reminder of what could’ve been. There’s been four match-ups. There should have many been more, but the stars never quite aligned.
The Patriots did their part in 2011, 2014 and 2016 as the AFC’s Super Bowl representative but, for one reason or another, the Packers couldn’t reach the big game.
And in 2010, the lone year Rodgers’ Packers did break through, Brady and the top-seeded Patriots sputtered out in the divisional round to Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets.
In an alternative universe, Packers vs. Patriots could’ve been the NFL’s version of Celtics vs. Lakers; an annual collision course between the league’s two most consistently strong franchises.
In the real world, the NFC’s last standing team has been far more diverse than the Packers would prefer.
Two years ago on the first episode of “10 Questions with Kyle Brandt,” Brandt asked a fascinating question to Rodgers: Who is your rival?
Rodgers tossed a couple names out there, from Matthew Stafford to Jay Cutler to Favre. But due to ineptitude within the NFC North and lack of comparable talent emerging in the drafts that followed Rodgers’, there’s really no slam dunk answer akin to Brady and Peyton Manning.
In a traditional sense, Russell Wilson is probably the best option due to the on-field vitriol between the Packers and Seahawks, and a legitimate coldness the two QBs have toward each other.
Toss aside conventional thinking for a second, and isn’t there an argument that it’s actually Brady?
Think about it: Rodgers’ and Brady’s dominance in the 2010s coincides with the rise of social media and debate shows. There has not been a more popular Twitter argument in the last 10 years than “Who’s better, Rodgers or Brady?”
Their careers have also shaped the debate on what’s deemed greatness from the quarterback position. Is it team success as Brady’s supporters would argue, or individual talent and accolades as Rodgers possesses?
Arguments have spawned comments such as, “Brady is the more accomplished QB, but Rodgers is better,” an opinion that is somehow both ridiculous and illuminating.
On Sunday, hopefully after a Packers win, the two legends will likely meet at midfield to shake hands and share some kind words.
That moment will surely induce complicated feelings of appreciation and sadness, for both the quarterbacks and us as fans. Even if you don’t adorn a jersey of either player, it’s easy to understand their impact on the sport.
Green Bay and Tampa Bay are two teams whose fates will be decided by the stoutness of their defenses. The two quarterbacks, whether it be their own ability or surrounding circumstance, are clearly diminished versions of themselves.
This Week 3 game probably won’t be won based on the magical right arms of two-all timers. But we should enjoy it all the same.