We’re heading into what promises to be a lovely Fourth of July weekend here in the Northeast. Albert Breer is on vacation and I’ve decided to take some time away from ordering nonalcoholic craft beer and perfecting my Old Bay potato salad recipe to answer some questions from his stuffed mailbag.
Let’s boogie …
From Myles Powicki (@MylesPowicki): How many Super Bowls would Tom Brady have on all of Aaron Rodgers’s teams and vice versa?
Hey Myles, thanks for submitting this very interesting question. I talked to former Giants safety Antrel Rolle not long ago, and he was talking about how their three-safety look puzzled both Brady and Rodgers alike during their 2011 run to the Super Bowl. My point here is that there were some brief innovations in NFL history that may have stymied both of them equally. That said, I think that Rodgers would have won three, maybe four, of the seven Super Bowls Brady won over that same window. I think Brady would have won zero of the Super Bowls that Rodgers won on the Packers, and here’s why …
New England in the early 2000s was the closest thing we’ve had to a true, nonpolitical meritocracy in the NFL. I don’t know if Brady, had he been drafted in the seventh round by the Packers, would have had the chance to rise through the organization like he did in New England, thus cementing himself as a journeyman backup. He was obviously good enough to become the greatest player in NFL history, but I think a lot of his rise had to do with a willingness from the Patriots’ coaching staff to buck traditional thinking and pour their resources behind someone like Brady, along with Brady’s ability to see that working the way he did was going to be rewarded. A lot of teams preach hard work, but few of them, I think, would have recognized and valued the little things that Brady did, like obsessively study opponent quarterbacks in order to give the Patriots the best scout team looks in practice. So, I think Rodgers would have done Rodgers things in New England on very good rosters with a great offensive coordinator. I think Brady would have supplanted Brett Favre in an offense that didn’t necessarily bend to his skill set, and he’d have had a difficult time ever achieving the kind of liftoff he had with the Patriots.
There are so many aspects of the Brady mythos that are situationally dependent. For example, would he have met his controversial super-trainer, Alex Guerrero, if he had not been in the locker room with Willie McGinest back in 2006 when the Patriots’ star defensive player started bringing Guerrero around? What would the back end of his career after his 2008 ACL tear have looked like otherwise? Would Brady have been able to succeed on a Packers roster that notoriously shunned the acquisition of free agents, unlike a Patriots roster that, over the years, acquired the likes of Randy Moss and also built one of the NFL’s real, top-to-bottom, middle-class rosters full of talented veterans hanging in New England’s orbit at a discounted price in order to win a championship?
Would he have won as frequently with Mike Sherman or Mike McCarthy, who were notoriously stubborn when it came to their systems, instead of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, who changed the way teams custom game planned for opponents (a large part of which, we admit, Brady also had a significant hand in)? Would he have won as many games without being in an offense for the better part of 20 years (one he carried with him to Tampa Bay, essentially convincing the Buccaneers to reroute at the end of the 2020 season to run)? Would Brady have gotten famous and expensive enough to take a notoriously lower contract to aid in Green Bay’s roster construction over a long period of time?
I think from a talent perspective, most of us can agree that the raw, God-given tools Rodgers has to work with are slightly better than the ones Brady was born with. Rodgers is a tremendous competitor, though Brady may have redefined the meaning of competitiveness over his tenure in the NFL. Is that enough on its own to have transformed him into the player he is now without all of the other mitigating circumstances? Have there been other Bradys over the course of NFL history who had the will and the work ethic to reach that level, but were ditched by coaches scared of the optics, thus shooting down promising careers before they started?
Brady needed to be paired with Belichick, the guy who had the fortitude to fire Bernie Kosar in Cleveland and, later, the guy who was comfortable moving on from Drew Bledsoe, in order to set a lot of this in motion. Rodgers, meanwhile, could have been put on a lot of rosters and won Super Bowls simply by virtue of being an exceptionally talented and driven player. And, because he was a first-round pick, he inevitably would’ve gotten more chances.
From Stagger McTipsy (@StaggerMcTipsy0): What is the best concert you’ve ever attended?
Thanks for the question, Stagger. Those who have read some of my work can probably guess which direction this is headed. I would say my first “real” concert, which was the Allman Brothers and Moe. at Montage Mountain in Moosic, Pa., will always hold a special significance in my heart. I have seen Moe. about a half dozen times now and have always enjoyed the atmosphere at their shows. A close second would be Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, which I caught at the Brooklyn Bowl. They had John Mayer, who currently tours with Dead and Company, sit in on Althea, and it was really special. I was always bummed I didn’t get to see The Grateful Dead in their prime (mid-to-late 1970s), but this felt about as close as I could come. Young, talented musicians really capturing the spirit of the thing.
Other close seconds and thirds:
• Rage Against the Machine, Rock the Bells 2007
• Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Fillmore in Philadelphia
• Paul McCartney at MetLife Stadium, 2016
From Craig Ginsberg (@CraigAdamG): How do you see the Green Bay–Rodgers saga ending?
Hey Craig, thanks for the question and happy Fourth. It’s interesting; I’ve talked to people in close proximity to the situation who aren’t sure how it’s going to end. Here’s ultimately what I think will happen, based on the current state of play and my gut instinct. Rodgers, one of the most competitive people on planet earth, needs to do a much better job of convincing the Packers that he’s willing to drop everything, take a massive pay cut and sit out while Jordan Love takes a crack at this very amenable offense than he’s currently doing. I don’t think he’ll be traded. I think he’s made the strongest point that he could possibly make, and at this moment, the ball is in his court to dig in his heels and find another layer of discontent.
If I were Rodgers, I would be looking out at the teams that were allegedly on my leaked trade destinations list. The 49ers have Trey Lance, so they’re out. Then you’re looking at the Broncos and the Raiders, neither of which have an offensive identity or established weapon set. Green Bay has the offense. The one every quarterback is calling their agent to try and find a way to run. They have the coordinator whom Rodgers respects. They have a great running game and a good defense. They’ve won 13 games each of the last two years and the division is still soft. Long-term marriages are complicated, but I would speculate that he’s smart enough to realize that his best shot at winning a Super Bowl is on this team, right here, right now. I would expect that at some point early in training camp, we’ll have the frantic, CNN-style helicopter landing, and Rodgers will come out and gracefully voice his displeasure while somehow managing to scoop the upper hand on management in the court of public opinion. There will be a new contract. Then a new viewpoint on the Love replacement timeline. And, of course, a relieved Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur, finally attempting to exhale.
From Tony C (@Bucz109): I have never heard of Jermyn, Pennsylvania and only live 2.5 hours away. Are the hot wings worth making the drive out there?
Hey Tony, the short answer is yes. Jermyn is home to the Windsor Inn, which advertises itself as having “the world’s second-best hot wings.” I might agree with that, as the only wings I’ve ever had that are better are at Bar-Bill in Buffalo. I made the trip home this past weekend (I was raised in Clarks Summit, Pa.) and picked up 120 wings from the Windsor to share with my friends. It was delightful. One of the rare times where something you build up in your mind during your childhood secures its excellence 17 years later.
From Michael Cameron Vegh (@MichaelCVegh): The Jaguars currently sit at 8-1 odds to win the AFC South. What would it take from their squad to win the AFC in Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer's first run in a seemingly winnable division?
Hey Michael, thanks for the question. I think it would take quite a lot for the Jaguars to win the division here. This is the Colts’ division to lose in 2021, and I don’t think it’s necessarily close. Carson Wentz will be back to looking like vintage Wentz in an offense that gives him reasonable reads and doesn’t force him to play hero ball on every down. The Titans will finish second and Jacksonville should hope that they beat the pulp out of the Texans twice this year and finish Meyer’s first campaign with enough steam to legitimize the massive decision to hire a collegiate coach in the first place. The Jaguars needed help stopping the run, but went with a running back for their second first-round pick. They’re in a division with Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor, which, regardless of how well Joe Cullen does in his first year as DC, is going to be a gargantuan task to stop.
I’ll also be watching Lawrence to see how quickly the offense goes from clunky to seamless. Brian Schottenheimer and Darrell Bevell have a lot of work ahead of them, and their schematic experiences tend to lean more pro style. Bevell did a good job protecting Russell Wilson early in his career, as did Schottenheimer with Mark Sanchez in 2009 and ’10, handing the offense over in chunks and increasing the responsibilities over time. Lawrence, though, will be expected to move at an expedited pace with a less-talented surrounding class. I’m not sure that’s possible.
From Connor Grossman (@connorgrossman): Who's the starting quarterback on the next 49ers team to win the Super Bowl? What kind of acai bowl does he like?
Connor! Miss you, buddy. It’s not the same here at SI now that people don’t mistakenly send me your emails. Trey Lance will win a Super Bowl with the 49ers. I have very little doubt about this. I think it will happen soon, quite possibly next year. Teams already have a difficult enough time stopping Kyle Shanahan’s offense. It has evolved to the point where they have answers for almost anything a defense is going to throw at them and their running game, buoyed by offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, is the most maximized and well-understood system in the NFL. And now that everyone has spent an offseason figuring out how to crack the code, Lance can become a power rusher and destroy the math defensive coordinators have been working with for the last five years. If you are in a dynasty fantasy league and do not pick Lance, I hope you enjoy finishing out of the money each and every year.
Part II: I don’t know if Lance likes acai, or what kind, but here is my mainstay of late, courtesy of the Playa Bowls near my house: Coconut base, vegan granola, flax oil, almond butter and bananas.
From Neal (@CapitolTitans): I don’t get the Zach Wilson thing. It seems like no one besides the Jets would’ve taken him at No. 2, they just locked on and wanted him for some reason. Am I wrong about this?
Hey Neal, I would say you are kind of wrong about this (the Eagles, for one, probably would have taken him), but here’s a fun way to think about the situation: Imagine being Robert Saleh, a first-time head coach, after waiting three cycles to land a gig. The first thing your team does is pick a quarterback. You’re a defensive-minded head coach, so a lot of the legwork is going to fall on the general manager and the offensive coordinator. The guy picking behind you was Kyle Shanahan, your former boss, who jetted up the draft board once it became obvious that you were taking Zach Wilson to select the guy after you. Would you be worried in the least? Would there be any hesitation?
I’m not saying any of this is true for Saleh, but it underscores the faith he must have in Joe Douglas and the faith the Jets have in Douglas to have traded away Sam Darnold in the first place. I think Wilson will succeed, but that’s because Saleh was savvy enough to lure Mike LaFleur and run-game coordinator John Benton away from San Francisco. That was huge. I took a trip to Jets OTAs last week at the end of minicamp and was impressed by a few high-difficulty throws Wilson made against a heavy pass rush. There were a lot of batted passes and a few notable throws behind wide receivers he has little to no relationship with, but there were also some touch passes he made against surging defensive players that resulted in big gains during a (somewhat) live situation. Those impressed me.
Thanks everyone for the questions! Jenny Vrentas will take over the mailbag next week, if you want to send her any questions now.
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