Character flaws of Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers appear to have contributed to both the Packers and Broncos poor seasons.
To be an elite quarterback in the NFL, you have to have a significant amount of ego by default. It’s a position that involves extreme levels of leadership, confidence, and all the rest.
Ego is not necessarily a bad thing if you can put that ego in check when needed, but if you can’t, it can also be one’s own demise.
Case in point is Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, both of whom have had their worst seasons yet, and are leading teams who have vastly underperformed relative to preseason expectations. They appear to share a character flaw that has been a factor in their team’s lack of success: An inability to put their ego aside and do what’s best for the greater good of the team.
Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson have both played through injuries. Admirable on its face, it’s to the detriment of their teams
The prototypical quarterback is someone who can play through pain and will their team to victory no matter the circumstance. Again, that massive ego and undying confidence are part of what drives success at the position.
There comes a point, though, where a quarterback facing injury — and the coaching staff around them — needs to understand that the tough choice may be to swallow their pride and sit out, resting up to come back stronger and better. If that decision will help the greater team, that is.
It’s against the nature of the quarterback psyche, but being able to toggle back and forth between unbridled confidence and ultimate humility is important.
Early on in the season, the Broncos started slow, and Wilson was facing a shoulder injury that was identical to what Dak Prescott faced before the season began. Prescott took the conventional route for the injury by resting and not throwing for a few weeks (granted, he faced the injury in training camp during 2021 so the stakes were not as high). Wilson went the unconventional route and attempted to treat it with pain injections, playing through it.
It resulted in Wilson icing his arm on the sideline during games, something that isn’t typical for a quarterback.
Again, on the face, it looks admirable. It’s not. It’s destructive.
Instead, Wilson rolled out injured and has performed poorly, attempting to lead his team with a greatly reduced skillset and capability. The Broncos have averaged just over 14 points per game this season, one of the lowest marks in the last decade.
Flip to Rodgers. There has been widespread speculation that his thumb injury was worse than revealed, and this week we found out it was, in fact, broken, when he finally revealed as much to the media. Later, it was reported that the injury is actually quite bad.
The Packers‘ struggles are a bit murkier than Denver’s. While widespread offensive failure is clear in Denver and rests staunchly on Wilson’s shoulders, the Packers’ inability to give Rodgers anything to work with has curtailed much of a direct critique of Rodgers.
With the new information about the injury, it’s time to worth asking how much that might be contributing to slowing the team down, and if Rodgers playing injured is really worth it, or just that unbridled ego getting in the way.
In Denver’s case, perhaps a few weeks for Wilson to rest up at the start of the season after the injury would have given him the recharge and healing he needed to attack the remainder of the season with the same intensity and capability he has brought in previous seasonsd. In Rodgers’s case, perhaps resting the thumb now that their playoff chances are virtually dead would give them a chance to give Jordan Love some reps.
Of course, putting that ego aside puts quarterbacks in a very vulnerable position. We just saw Jameis Winston essentially lose his job to injury, which is difficult to watch. There’s a case to be made that if Rodgers sits and Love performs well, it could effectively end his career.
One author and countless stoics have posited that ego is the enemy, and at this point, it’s worth asking if that trait has killed the Broncos and Packers seasons.