This weekend marks Week 9 of the NFL season. And for football fans in Wisconsin and New England, Sunday night has been starred on the calendar for a long time.
The marquee game of the weekend is a rare match-up between the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots, and two of the best quarterbacks in football history — the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Patriots’ Tom Brady. It will be only the third time they’ve played each other in the regular season. And given their respective ages, it could well be the last time.
It’s also a match between a well-regarded coach in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy, and a coach regarded as possibly the greatest and the most controversial football coach of all-time, Bill Belichick. It’s Belichick who is the subject of a new biography by ESPN.com senior writer Ian O’Connor.
O’Connor also recently wrote a column on how things might have been different, had Aaron Rodgers been Belichick’s quarterback all these years, instead of Tom Brady.
While Brady is possibly the greatest football player ever, O'Connor says, Rodgers is still a better athlete. "I think if Belichick had Rodgers," he explains, "you would see more roll-outs and some bootlegs, and just some interesting ways to use tools - physically - that Brady doesn't possess."
But it's the hypothetical off-field relationship that O'Connor really finds intriguing. "I think the biggest question in a fictional Rodgers-Belichick partnership would be, how would Aaron handle Bill's Bill-ness? Just his unforgiving and unrelenting way of coaching."
O'Connor says Tom Brady managed that relationship, which he describes as "transactional," for 18 years before significant cracks showed up in it last year — cracks that have been repaired to some degree. O'Connor's book describes numerous instances where Belichick criticized Brady's play (with sarcasm and dry wit) in team meetings, in a way O'Connor says was reminiscent of Vince Lombardi's style with the Packers of the 1960s.
"Aaron Rodgers seems to be a sensitive sort with a very healthy ego — he deserves it — but I think that it'd be very interesting to see him try to deal with Belichick's style of coaching.
"I don't know how he would handle that for 16, 17, 18 seasons," he says.
The Packers take on the Patriots Sunday night at 7:20 CST.