GREEN BAY, Wis. – In the summer of 2008, the Brett Favre saga gripped the football world. Favre ended his brief retirement and wanted his old job back as quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. General manager Ted Thompson, having hitched his wagon to Aaron Rodgers, sought to end the stalemate with a trade.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets were interested. Favre wanted to go to Tampa Bay. Thompson, instead, sent him to New York.
Fast forward six years. In 2014, Rodgers had the Packers on the brink of a second Super Bowl in five seasons. Instead, in the most gruesome of meltdowns, Green Bay gave away the NFC Championship Game at Seattle. And with that, an epic Super Bowl matchup between Rodgers and New England’s Tom Brady went down the drain.
This week, with the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the nation, NFL free agency was pushed to the back burner.
On Tuesday morning, Brady announced he would not be returning to the Patriots, the team he had led to an unprecedented nine Super Bowl appearances and six Super Bowl championships in an equally unprecedented 20-year run of dominance. Hours later, Brady picked the Buccaneers – the team that almost landed Favre in 2008 and the city that will host this year’s Super Bowl. He officially signed on the dotted line on Friday morning.
The Packers are scheduled to play at Tampa Bay in 2020. That means, barring injury, the 42-year-old Brady and the 36-year-old Rodgers will square off in a battle of living legends.
In 2010, when Rodgers was an ascending star and Brady was the owner of merely three Super Bowl rings and in the midst of a title drought that would last 11 seasons, Rodgers missed a late-season game at New England with a concussion.
In 2014, Brady and Rodgers squared off at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 26-21. Rodgers threw a pair of touchdown passes and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix broke up Brady’s deep pass to Rob Gronkowski in the waning moments.
In 2018, the quarterbacks met in Foxborough. Brady threw for 294 yards and one touchdown – a 55-yarder to Josh Gordon midway through the fourth quarter as New England routed the sinking Packers in the fourth quarter for a 31-17 victory.
Brady vs. Rodgers would be must-see TV. While the NFL won’t unveil the schedule for another month, it stands to reason that it could be Brady’s Bucs vs. Rodgers’ Packers in a clash of the quarterbacking titans in the first Sunday night game of the season.
“I love watching him play,” Brady said of Rodgers before their 2018 game. “To see him up close is great. I watch him play whenever he’s out there. I study a lot of the Packers’ offense, I study Aaron as a player and he just does an incredible job.”
And who knows? Even with Rodgers sputtering through a subpar year, the Packers reached the NFC Championship Game in 2019. Even with Jameis Winston chucking 30 interceptions, the Buccaneers were competitive at 7-9. If there’s a Brady vs. Rodgers III in September, maybe there will be a Brady vs. Rodgers IV in January.
“I think that’s the beauty of this league sometimes is you have players that are in different conferences and don’t get a chance to play each other a lot,” Rodgers said before the 2018 game. “Fans and media and the NFL can hope for certain things, but that’s the beauty in our game. There’s a great parity – maybe not always with (the Patriots) because they seem to be in the Super Bowl a lot – but it’d be nice to get back there and play against him one more time.”
NFL FREE AGENCY
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