The window for NFL quarterbacks is larger than ever. Rules are friendlier for quarterbacks, and quarterbacks are also taking better care of their bodies. You see more guys flirting with 40 than you did in years past. But the longevity of a career doesn't erase the importance of right now for a guy like Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers quarterback is quietly rolling towards his mid-30s -- he'll turn 33 in early December of this year -- and "only" has a single Super Bowl title to show for it. This is not a criticism of Rodgers, it is something he completely understands.
Speaking during a sideline interview on Friday night, Rodgers said there's an increased sense of urgency for the Packers this year, having seen strong opportunities for a title run slip away in recent years.
"I think I get more motivated every single year. The mortality of your career kind of comes a little closer when you're getting older in this league," Rodgers said. "I think the window's still wide open for us and for me and I can play for a long time. But I think the urgency for our team has picked up. Personally and collectively it's been a while since we had a chance to play for a Super Bowl and that's obviously the goal every year.
"We've put together some good seasons the last couple of years. But it's all about getting to the championship and winning when you play in Title Town. And we realize that. We've got a great influx of young talent."
When Rodgers held up the Lombardi Trophy after a thrilling Super Bowl victory following the 2010 season, it was just the beginning, right? The Packers were going to rip off a couple of titles with the best quarterback in football under center and a wealth of talent at wide receiver and on the offensive line.
It didn't happen, with that looming as the only title during the Mike McCarthy-Rodgers era. Each missed opportunity alone isn't a big deal, but collectively it's understandable how they would weigh on Rodgers.
A 15-1 season in 2011 ended in a disappointing home loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants. 2012 was an embarrassing home rout by the 49ers in the playoffs, with Colin Kaepernick putting on a show with his arm and feet. Rodgers suffered an injury in 2013 and the Packers snuck into the playoffs at 8-7-1 but never felt truly dangerous.
2014 was the crippling NFC Championship Game road loss to the Seahawks after Green Bay held a 16-0 halftime lead and, even worse, a 19-7 lead with less than five minutes left in the game.
Jordy Nelson's injury and offensive play-calling issues derailed 2015, which ended (again) in a crippling overtime defeat on the road to an NFC West opponent, this time the Cardinals. It took multiple Hail Marys from Rodgers for Green Bay to even have a shot at the playoffs. It's also worth remembering the Vikings won the division, while the Packers looked vulnerable at home for the first time in years.
Individually these instances are heartbreaking. Collectively they are the sort of things you look back on after it's too late and cringe at the different times you missed a shot at a Super Bowl.
Rodgers' window is very much wide open. We've seen plenty of quarterbacks age well in the past decade or so. But the Packers are no longer living in a world where we wonder just how many titles they'll win with Rodgers under center. It's now about whether they can ensure a second title for one of the most talented quarterbacks to ever play the game.
2016 isn't time to panic, but it is absolutely smart to have that sense of urgency.