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Armando Salguero: Aaron Rodgers Is Great But Understands His Legacy Is At Stake In These Playoffs

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have to worry about his reputation. That’s fixed, solid, sealed.

The guy is a great NFL player and no matter what has happened before or what is about to happen in the coming playoffs for the Green Bay Packers, the quarterback of the NFC’s No. 1 seed has a reputation that’s locked in a vault secure.

But legacy?

That’s another story.

That’s different.

Rodgers, you see, has done practically everything anyone can to end the argument about whether he’s talented and among the best at his position, and if you’re not sure, check his three MVP awards that are likely to get the company of a fourth when that’s announced in a couple of weeks.

But legacy is more than that because it speaks to greatness against historic figures and in big moments. Legacy is different because its standard rises beyond individual awards and statistics to an orbit that also includes feats on the biggest stage and against the best competition.

And that’s where Rodgers’ legacy is only in its draft stage, awaiting final editing.

Rodgers knows this.

“I think success is often based, for quarterbacks, on championships won a lot of times,” Rodgers said Tuesday. “I think success individually is much more than that. And failure, on the flip side of that, failure shouldn’t be based solely on your losses, and your failures and mistakes, your low points. It’s so much more than that. It’s mindset. It’s an approach. It’s the total package.

“But I understand that in our business, so much of it is focused on wins and losses, especially in the playoffs — Super Bowl rings and all that stuff. I understand that’s part of my legacy I’ll be judged on when I’m done playing. And every year’s important when it comes to furthering your legacy.”

This is where we all agree that if Rodgers retired today, his legacy would be a good one:

Outstanding quarterback. Won a lot of regular-season games. Won one NFC Championship Game. Won one Super Bowl. And if you want to go there, hosted Jeopardy! one week.

But that’s not the full story of the Rodgers legacy at the moment.

That’s because one win in an NFC title game compared to four losses glows in neon unsatisfying. And that’s not all.

There was that game-deciding fumble in the 2009 playoff loss to Arizona, those unremarkable 177 passing yards in a 2013 playoff loss to San Francisco, followed by that 178-yard passing performance the next year in the loss to Seattle.

And, of course, there’s the fact the Packers have won 13 games three consecutive seasons — but failed to get to the Super Bowl the last two years.

Those will eventually be part of the Rodgers legacy when his career is over. And to improve that legacy, it sure would be cool for Rodgers to counter with another Super Bowl title.

Because rings, plural, is so much better than ring, singular, versus those three rough paragraphs up there you just read.

Rodgers is all for it.

“I take a lot of pride in the success that we’ve had and that I’ve had,” he said. “And I hope we can add to it in both how we’re judged standpoint and how we judge ourselves standpoint.”

This is important for Rodgers now because he’s 38 years old. And he’s said that after this season, no matter how it ends, he’ll take a little time to evaluate where he’s at and then tell the Packers if he’s willing to come back for an 18th season.

Or not.

Against that career decision backdrop, the looming playoffs for the Rodgers and the Packers — starting with Saturday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers — is a bigger deal than anyone might imagine.

“Football mortality is something we all think about,” Rodgers admitted. “And we all think about how many opportunities we’re going to be afforded moving forward. And each in especially — every season is unique in its own way, as has this one been.

“There are four teams left on the NFC side. We’re one of them, we get to host playoff games. This is a special opportunity.”

One might suppose because Rodgers is aware of what the coming games mean, he’s going to place special attention on stuff or do special preparation or change things.

Nope.

“We’re not going to make it bigger than it is,” he said. “We’ve gotten this far being level-headed and even-keeled and not ride a roller coaster of emotions, and we’re going to keep on doing the same thing.

“So if it was good enough to get us this far, it’s good enough to get us past this point. I’m excited about our opportunity. I’m excited about the leadership we have on this football team, I’m excited about the guys coming back, and I’m excited to have a full crowd this year as opposed to last year.”

And what happens next will help determine Aaron Rodgers’ legacy.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

5 Comments

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  1. A “Legacy” in sports not to mention being GOAT is a subjective issue that every foam-fingered screaming loonie can judge for himself. No matter how many “rings” Tom Brady ends up with, some goobers will always bring up Deflate-gate et al. It’s the reality of this very silly bizness.
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    Mike Trout will probably never play in a World Series but is likely a first ballot HoF in 8-10 years. Team sports require a strong supporting cast for success … “a player” has no control over that factor. Individual sports – Golf / Tennis are solely dependent upon an individual’s success … ergo Tiger Woods, Roger Federer etc.
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    The only guarantee is Sports is Controversy. Every fan has “a right” to his/her opinion even if it is total BS as it so often is.
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  2. I’d point out Favre and Brees only won 1 SB. Elway lost 3 before winning two at 37-38 years old. Kelly lost 4. Marino never won one. I’d say owners think if your QB wins “any” SB he’s officially done his job as a franchise QB. Multiple is merely a bonus. Only 12 QBs in history have won multiple SBs, and most of those were not remotely the same level of QB as Rodgers. Winning SBs requires great “teams” on both sides of the ball, breaks, and peaking at the right time. I think his legacy as one of the best ever is pretty secure, and can only increase.

  3. I am soooo tired of hearing about athletes “legacy”. They play a game for a living and make a lot of well deserved money doing it. They are not changing the world by any stretch of the imagination. I appreciate their substantial contribution to my entertainment and gambling. They are by no means creating a legacy in my mind.

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