Aaron Rodgers has come a long way from Draft Night 2005. Back then, the expectation was that either he or Alex Smith would be the first-overall pick. Smith went first to the 49ers and Rodgers was left to toil in the green room for hours until the Packers mercifully called his name 23 picks later.
Twelve years later, Rodgers remains one of the league's two or three best quarterbacks and is destined for the Hall of Fame exactly five years after he retires. He has a career regular-season record of 90-45, earned Super Bowl XLV honors and is coming off a 2016 season that included a league-best 40 touchdown passes. At 33, Rodgers remains in his prime though he knows that his illustrious career is closer to the end than the beginning.
"I think I'm on the back nine of my career," Rodgers said Tuesday in an interview with NFL Network's Alex Flanagan. "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."
Rodgers could realistically play for another six or seven seasons and remain a top-10 quarterback. Tom Brady, 40 years young in August, is still the NFL's best passer and he's talked of playing for another five seasons. And like Brady, Rodgers has played for one team -- and he attributes that, in part, to his success.
"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."
It's easy to imagine that Rodgers will retire as a Packer. Of course, it was easy to imagine Brett Favre would do the same; instead, Favre was phased out after the 2007 season and finished his career playing for the Jets and Vikings. Whatever happens, Rodgers will end up like Favre -- with a bust in Canton.