If Aaron Rodgers is on the back nine of his NFL career, there’s a chance he’s only on the 10th tee.
Retired NFL quarterback and new CBS lead NFL analyst Tony Romo believes that the Packers quarterback can do that which Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says he intends to do — play five years beyond his 40th birthday.
“I think Aaron is one of those guys who is uniquely talented,” Romo said during a Wednesday appearance on NFL Network. “Special player in our league for a long time. He can go as long as he wants to. If he stays injury-free, he may be in his eyes on the back nine, but as long as he wants to continue to take hits, he’ll be able to play until he’s 45.”
But Romo also touched on the factor that contributes most directly to Rodgers and any other quarterback avoiding hits and, in turn, injury.
“One thing that goes sometimes for quarterbacks as they get up to the 40 level, their legs and their arms start to go a little bit,” Romo said. “You just don’t see the same pop in the ball. And a little bit is they just don’t want to take the same hits they’re used to taking. Their body just doesn’t want it the same way they once did.”
A great quarterback with years of experience can compensate for an arm that isn’t what it once was (see Peyton Manning in 2015). But when the legs go, a whole new set of challenges will emerge. If the player can’t get run or slide or hop or whatever it takes away from pressure like he used to, he’s got no chance to survive.
And the legs can go very quickly and without warning. Which could be one of the main reasons why New England has kept Jimmy Garoppolo around.
Rodgers could be the exception to Mother Nature’s rules. He showed a fear years back that he can get it done even with a calf injury that significantly limited his highly-underrated mobility. As his mental collection of pre-snap looks and post-snap defensive movements continues to expand, he could be moving toward a point in his career where he can make decisions so much faster that diminished legs and a weakened arm won’t matter.
It ultimately comes down to whether he wants to play that long. Which ultimately comes down to what he wants his legacy to be. Whether it’s championships or career statistics (he’s 23rd in career passing yards, but already 11th in passing touchdowns), plenty more work needs to be done to vault him into the all-time top-five conversation. If he plays another dozen years (and if the Packers can put a team around him that can win another Super Bowl or two), Rodgers can give the recently-crowned quarterback G.O.A.T. a run for his money.