Is Aaron Rodgers Still in the GOAT Conversation? 

Calvin Lymper '25, Staff Writer

During the 2005 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers faced a tough decision. They were focused on getting their next franchise quarterback with the #1 selection in the draft, and had two options for their next trusted man under center: Alex Smith, the quarterback from the University of Utah, who had helped lead them to a undefeated season and a Fiesta Bowl win over University of Pittsburgh, or Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback from California Berkeley, who led the college to a 10-2 season. The historic franchise believed the former could help bring them to their 6th Super Bowl victory. Aaron Rodgers’ draft spot would drop all the way to the 24th selection by the Green Bay Packers, whose franchise quarterback Brett Favre was in his mid-30s and declining, growing closer and closer to retirement. Rodgers, a lifelong 49ers fan who had made himself a football legend in the California bay area, was interviewed after the Packers drafted him. A reporter asked him if he’s “disappointed” that he will not be a 49er. Rodgers would then respond with the infamous, “Not as disappointed as the 49ers will be that they didn’t draft me.”

On January 22, 2022, nearly 17 years later, Rodgers walked off of the football field at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, after a disappointing 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. This would be the fourth time the Rodgers-led Packers would lose to the 49ers in the playoffs. He lost previously to them in 2012, 2013, and 2019. At the time of Aaron Rodgers’ Super Bowl XLV win in 2010, the confident remark Rodgers made about the 49ers was very cool and stylish, but nowadays NFL fans look back at the moment and laugh. 

Pictured above: Aaron Rodgers after his 13-10 playoff loss in the NFC Divisional Round to the 49ers (picture from USA Today)

How is it that four-time MVP, one-time Super Bowl champ, former Jeopardy! host, and “Greatest of All Time” (also known as simply “GOAT”) contender Aaron Rodgers always seems to be unable to go far in the playoffs, especially in the last few years? If Aaron Rodgers ends up returning for another season on the Packers, and can’t get to the Super Bowl, should sports fans still throw Rodgers’ name into the “GOAT conversation” ring?

There are many factors that most NFL fans use in order to determine an all-time great quarterback. These factors include Super Bowl wins and appearances, all-time passing yards, touchdowns, career win-to-loss, records broken, awards and longevity, just to name the most popular ideas. The most common names that are stated as the GOAT quarterback are Tom Brady and Joe Montana. Brady has won 7 Super Bowls, 3 MVP awards, 15 Pro Bowl appearances, 84,520 passing yards, and a total win-loss of 243-73 over 22 seasons. Montana has won 4 Super Bowls, 2 MVPs, has 8 Pro Bowl appearances, 40551 passing yards, and a total win-loss of 117-47 over 15 seasons played. 

Now let’s take a look at Aaron Rodgers’ stats over his 17, and counting (that is, if he returns next year), seasons. Rodgers has won only 1 Super Bowl in 11 playoff appearances, 4 MVP awards, 10 Pro Bowl appearances, 55360 passing yards, and a win-loss of 139-66-1 overall. While these numbers can compare to those of Brady and Montana, a key factor fans don’t overlook is the amount of Super Bowl championship rings Rodgers wears on his hands: only 1. This number, out of eleven total playoff seasons, has made people skeptical. Although Rodgers is always able to lead his team to a great record in the regular season, he and his all-star team always seem to disappoint and disappear out of nowhere. Since Rodgers is the captain of the team, should the losses be blamed on him? What is the true reason behind the Packers’ controversial performances in the playoff?

Most Packers fans find themselves blaming the defense or special teams, a term for the team of kickers, punters, and other playoffs, for the losses. Let’s look at the 4 NFC Championship games that the Packers lost in the Rodgers era. The NFC Championship Round is between the best two NFC teams, and whoever wins goes to represent the conference in the annual Super Bowl game. The Packers defense was to blame heavily in 2016 against the Atlanta Falcons, as they allowed the Falcons to score 44 points against them. The Falcons’ offense walked all over the Packers defense, and yet Rodgers put up an excellent performance of three touchdowns on 287 yards. The Packers can be given a slight pass for this disaster of a loss since they were facing injuries that year on the defensive side. In 2019, against the 49ers, the Packers defense allowed the 49ers to stomp all over them as well. The 49ers led 27-0 at halftime, and 49ers running back Raheem Moestert unleashed for 220 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s just embarrassing, on the Packers’ end. 

In 2020, it was clear to the entire NFL that the Packers defense was ruining Rodgers’ legacy. The Packers faced the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in what looked to finally be Rodgers’ year for his second Lombardi trophy. The Packers’ defense allowed Tom Brady to throw 280 yards and three touchdowns, while they also were able to intercept Brady’s passes three times. Packers’ defensive back Kevin King seemed to be getting cooked by the Buccaneers’ wide receivers, for example when receiver Scotty Miller was found by Tom Brady for a very easy 39-yard touchdown at the end of the second quarter. The Packers would lose 31-26. Keep in mind, the Packers were coming off a regular season where they went 13-3, and Rodgers threw 48 touchdowns, just 7 short of tying Peyton Manning’s single-season record of 55. Many NFL fans predicted the Packers would easily win it all that year, but the Buccaneers took advantage of the Packers’ defensive weaknesses to win.

Pictured above: Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller (right) catching the ball yards ahead of Packers cornerback Kevin King (left) during the 2020 NFC Championship. (Picture from Chicago Tribune)


Two tough games shouldn’t ruin a legacy, right? Many NFL fans became skeptical once the 49ers and Packers faced off once again for the 2021 Divisional Round. While Rodgers played decently, throwing for 229 yards, he also seemed to miss receivers open, and just couldn’t score a passing touchdown. There was a big reason for the 49ers’ comeback from being down 7-0 in order to win 13-10. The Packers’ special teams, which consists of their kickers, punters, kick returns, and kick defense, seemed to give the game away. At the end of the second quarter, in order to try to gain a 10-0 lead, Packers kicker Mason Crosby tried for a field goal, but it was blocked by 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward. Later on, Corey Bojorquez, the Packers’ punter, attempted to punt just outside the Packers’ own end zone on 4th down. The punt would be blocked by the 49ers’ defense, and then 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga recovered the blocked punt into Green Bay’s end zone for a touchdown to tie the game 10-10. On the final play of the game, a field goal by the 49ers to win the game, the Packers special teams only rolled out with 10 men on the field, when you are supposed to have 11 men on the field for the play. This allowed the 49ers to easily kick the field goal and roll out of Green Bay to the NFC Championship. Rodgers lost in the playoffs once again.

With all these examples of the Packers’ defense and special teams falling apart, what about Rodgers himself? In eleven playoff appearances as the Packers’ starting quarterback, he’s actually racked up 45 passing touchdowns, a stat he’s ranked 2nd all time in, and 5,894 passing yards, which he’s ranked 4th all time in. The quarterbacks that can join this elite club of playoff stats are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roesthlisberger, Joe Montana, and previous Packers’ QB Brett Favre. Surely, if you look past his 10 losses in 11 playoff appearances, Aaron Rodgers is still one of the greatest quarterbacks playoffs-wise. The only difference is how many rings are on his fingers, compared to the other best-of-the-best that were just named. We already know he’s one of the greatest regular season quarterbacks, so if you never looked at those playoff losses, it would stand clear that Aaron Rodgers is one of the best of all time. Rodgers’ name should rightfully be placed among the all-time greats. I believe his “GOAT’ status would be less disputed if he won a second Super Bowl in one of his 10 playoff losses.

Pictured above: Aaron Rodgers (picture from Forbes)

Aaron Rodgers is now 38 years old and just finished his 17th season in the league. His frustrations with the Packers organization after their 2020 NFC Championship loss to the Buccaneers never seemed to go away, but he decided to tough it out and stay with the Green Bay Packers for 2021. Now, after an incredible season that led to him grabbing his fourth MVP award, but a disappointing playoff loss, Aaron Rodgers now faces a big decision. Rodgers’ status of returning to the Packers for 2022 or not looms onto the entire NFL, as analysts speculate his retirement, or possibly being moved to the Pittsburgh Steelers or Denver Broncos. Whatever happens, it shouldn’t be surprising that any news regarding him will be huge for the league, as Rodgers is one of the greatest, despite what his playoff record may tell you.