INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl at age 39. Mike McCarthy believes Aaron Rodgers, 33, could do the same thing for the Green Bay Packers.
“I wouldn’t be surprised by it, with some good fortune,” McCarthy, the Packers’ coach, said during an interview at the NFL scouting combine. “As far as the conditioning and the level of conditioning from the guy, it’s off the charts.”
Brady played at an MVP-contending level — and more importantly at a championship level — last season, and McCarthy sees little that could prevent Rodgers from doing the same thing at that age.
“A lot goes into that; only the good Lord knows the answer to that,” McCarthy told. “But genetically, he definitely has those gifts.”
It has been six years since the Packers’ most recent Super Bowl appearance, when Rodgers was the MVP in the win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. But they’ve been back in the NFC Championship Game twice since — the 2014 overtime loss at Seattle and the blowout loss at Atlanta this past season.
That loss further raised the ire of those who think the Packers have wasted Rodgers’ prime by not getting to a second Super Bowl. But given McCarthy’s belief that Rodgers could do what Brady has done at his age, it would indicate that the coach thinks his quarterback is nowhere close to the beginning of a decline.
“Players reach their prime at certain stages, and I think there’s no question Aaron’s in his prime right now,” McCarthy said. “You definitely want to maximize that, but he is one of 53 and plays the most important position and makes a huge impact. I get all that.”
Rodgers got off to a slow start last season that had people around the league diagnosing what was wrong with the two-time NFL MVP.
“You had the middle stretch from Game 4 through probably [Game] 8 where we had a lot of challenges, but he played pretty damn good in that stretch, too,” McCarthy said. “We were going through an adjustment. We were running the ball early, Jordy [Nelson] was just getting back into things, and then we lose Eddie [Lacy]. We had a lot of things that were in flux.
“And then his numbers just went through the roof.”
Rodgers’ play during the Packers’ eight-game winning streak leading up to the game against the Falcons included 21 touchdowns and just one interception. His passer rating of 117.9 was second to only NFL MVP Matt Ryan (121.6) during that stretch.
Rodgers has begun to think about his longevity. He said it was one of the reasons he changed his diet last offseason. (Remember when he gave up cheese?) McCarthy said Rodgers is in the best shape of his career and remains dedicated to maintaining that.
“I can’t remember the last time he hasn’t been at a workout in the offseason,” McCarthy said.
Rodgers has been dogged by a few nagging muscle injuries (hamstring and calf strains) but played — and played well — through them and otherwise has been healthy since the broken collarbone of 2013, which was the last time he missed a game.
It was after the NFC title game when Rodgers said he did not feel like his age would become a factor anytime soon.
“I don’t; I still feel pretty young,” Rodgers said at the time. “I think I have a number of years left in me [where] I can play at a high level.”
What followed was his “all-in” remark that most took as a plea for general manager Ted Thompson to be more active in building a championship team. Thompson, for his part, said he didn’t interpret it that way, and McCarthy said he didn’t think there was any “hidden message” in Rodgers’ comment.
“I think it’s a statement of leadership,” McCarthy said. “He’s definitely at the point in his career where he knows how hard it is to get these opportunities, and I’m getting longer in the tooth, too. You only get so many attempts at the plate, and we all want to maximize it and we all have a responsibility to the organization to maximize these opportunities.”