It’s hard to believe that Aaron Rodgers is entering his 13th NFL season. After a mesmerizing 2016 campaign in which he threw 40 touchdowns versus only seven interceptions, the Green Bay Packers quarterback is still at the top of his game.
Rodgers, who turns 34 in December, knows he’s far removed from being a spring chicken in the league. Yet, despite his possible advancement to a new stage in his career, Rodgers holds one clear advantage over several other quarterbacks creeping up in age.
“I think I’m on the back nine of my career,” Rodgers said Tuesday in an interview with NFL Network’s Alex Flanagan at the Gatorade Player of the Year awards. “But I think I’m just kind of starting the back nine. This will be my 10th year starting, I got to sit for three years. So I’m not the typical 13-year pro, having the opportunity to sit for three years and not take the wear and tear to learn the game.”
Once a quarterback hits his mid-30s, it’s hard not to think about looming retirement and contingency plans at the position. Rodgers was squarely in the middle of such a situation early in his career, which involved his predecessor Brett Favre. The Packers‘ current gunslinger believes his ability to play at a high level for a decade has been a product of one key factor: Remaining in Green Bay.
“I think we all have numbers,” Rodgers said. “When I was a young player, I remember thinking as I looked at some of the older guys, if I got to five that’d be cool, or eight, or anything after 10 would be amazing. For me, I think the longevity is tied to being a Green Bay Packer. I’d like to finish my career in Green Bay.”
As long as Rodgers is at his peak behind center, the Packers should always be considered contenders for the Lombardi Trophy. After holding off the Steelers to win the 2011 Super Bowl, however, it’s been a disappointing stretch filled with crushing playoff losses.
Despite entering last postseason with “hottest team in the league” status in the wake of ripping off six straight wins to end the season, Rodgers and co. failed to reach the Super Bowl for the sixth straight year. Over that span, the Packers have only had a first-round bye twice and home-field advantage throughout once.
The Packers have cost themselves better playoff seeding with stagnant stretches in the middle of each of the past two seasons. Rodgers hopes the team doesn’t fall into the same trap again.
“Well, we got to start faster,” Rodgers said. “We didn’t start fast last year, we lost four in a row in the middle there. We’re a tough team to beat late in the season, as we’ve shown the last couple years. But we’re really tough to beat at home, especially the last three, four, five years.
“We got to get those home playoff games again. We all feel like if we get that No. 1, No. 2 seed and it’s coming through Green Bay in the playoffs, it makes it really tough on other teams.”