No. 9: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Updated: January 27, 2012, 3:16 PM ET
ESPN.com

Joe Namath and Aaron Rodgers ESPN.com IllustrationHall of Famer Joe Namath and Aaron Rodgers could scheme against defenses. MATCHUP GALLERY

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The playing days for our 20-member Hall of Fame panel spanned the '60s (Jim Brown) to the turn of the century (John Randle).

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Lofton

JAMES LOFTON: Yes, he took a lot of sacks his first year, but when I was coaching we'd say, "Get us to the next play." A defensive player will tell you that he'd rather have a guy try to throw it away and throw an interception. Aaron Rodgers, he's looking downfield, he's looking to throw, but he still takes sacks because he knows he can make up for it the next play and get them to the next down. Would I like to catch a pass from Aaron Rodgers? Yes, I'd like to catch a pass from Aaron Rodgers, especially the way he throws it. Get me near the sideline, I'd hang on to it.


Randle

JOHN RANDLE: My hat is off to him because he came into an organization in Green Bay and he was taking the place of God, Brett Favre, and he stepped up and played exceptional. The only thing he could do to replace Brett Favre was to take the Packers to the Super Bowl. And he did it. Being in Minnesota, you heard people say, "He can't replace Brett Favre," but he did it.


Little

FLOYD LITTLE: He's unbelievable. He's learned his lessons well behind Brett Favre. I liked Aaron Rodgers last year. I loved him this year. He has a commitment to win, and this year, by lifting the level of his play, he's lifted the level of play of his teammates. His leadership abilities make him the great player that he is. Guys with that kind of ability and those kinds of leadership skills, he could have played for anybody in history. He's going to be around for a while.


Wright

RAYFIELD WRIGHT: Aaron Rodgers has the ability to recognize and run an operation and run a team. You aren't talking only about physical toughness. You're talking about mental toughness with him, and he is mentally tough.


Ditka

MIKE DITKA: Aaron Rodgers is the epitome of tough, mentally and physically. He can handle the hits, but mental toughness is something more important.


Rodgers

In his second season, Rodgers took over for an injured Brett Favre during a blowout 35-0 loss to the New England Patriots on Nov. 19, 2006. On the first drive of the third quarter, he fell awkwardly while going out of bounds and broke a bone in his left foot. Rodgers would need surgery to insert a screw into his foot and would miss the rest of the season, but he finished the game on one foot.

It was the weirdest feeling ever. I had never broken a bone before. But when I came to the sidelines I told (third QB) Ingle Martin, "My foot feels like it's broken." I was limping around but I told the trainers it was my ankle, even though I knew it was my foot, because I wanted to keep going. I was playing like crap anyway; I was like 4-of-12 for 32 yards or something, and we were getting whooped too -- but I finished the game.

I didn't want to walk around with a badge on my chest saying "I'm the only one in here hurt and still playing," but when my teammates found out later that I played with a broken foot, I think that showed something to them. Subliminally, I hoped it would click in that "hey, I'm gonna put my body on the line for you guys, and the team is the most important thing."


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He's been a hot quarterback for more than a year and is making Packers fans forget about Brett Favre. His arm strength matches some of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the sport. I have been covering the NFL since 1976, but I didn't see Slingin' Sammy Baugh play in person. I have only watched the old Redskins QB on old, grainy film. But Rodgers has some Baugh-like qualities in the way he can pass and run effectively. Slingin' Aaron Rodgers; I kind of like that.

CLAYTON ON HALL OF FAME CHANCES: His career is in the beginning stages of Hall of Fame consideration, but he needs more on his résumé before we think Hall of Fame.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN



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Additional reporting by ESPN The Magazine's Morty Ain, Louise Cornetta, Amy Parlapiano and Alyssa Roenigk.