Facing Aaron Rodgers in January isn’t intimidating for the 49ers


The 49ers have a date with the reigning league MVP on Saturday night at his building.

Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the league. His four Most Valuable Player trophies – and he is favorite to win his fifth in the coming weeks – are proof of that.

He’s a magician with the ball, he can throw shots that no other player can, and that’s the main reason the Packers are the NFC’s top seed and spent last weekend feet up watching the other teams battle against each other.

Rodgers is a player everyone covets, including Kyle Shanahan, who asked if he could trade for the wayward quarterback shortly before the May draft, when the 49ers head coach was looking to part ways. by Jimmy Garoppolo.

All of this should be a rather daunting prospect for the joker 49ers. Except that, in a way, it’s not.

Because — pardon my wording — the 49ers seem to be immune to Rodgers’ talent, at least in the playoffs. Rodgers started 20 playoff games and won 11, including the Super Bowl after the 2010 season. But of the nine games he lost, three fell to the 49ers.

He lost twice to a team led by Colin Kaepernick, once in San Francisco and once in Green Bay. And he lost two years ago in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.

The 49ers, more than any other team, are responsible for knocking the league’s best player out of the playoffs early and turning him into a very frustrated 38-year-old QB.

Rodgers’ only Super Bowl is more than a decade old, and the Packers haven’t done enough over the years — both in Rodgers’ opinion and that of many observers — to give him the supporting cast he needs. ‘he deserves. His frustration boiled over this past offseason, when his fractured relationship with the Packers became so public it seemed beyond repair.

Consequently, Shanahan’s question about trading for him, which was quickly dismissed and allegedly led to strain in the friendship between Shanahan and Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur (the terse handshake according to -match in September could have been the proof of this coldness). On Monday, Shanahan said LaFleur was “my guy” and that their relationship was good.

Of course, all that playoff history with the 49ers probably makes Rodgers more dangerous. He often played, usually with a chip on his shoulder and, in particular, against the 49ers, who failed to draft the Chico native and Cal alum with the first draft pick in 2005. He dropped to the Packers at No. 24. .

Rodgers is 6-3 against the 49ers in the regular season, including the last-second victory in September when the 49ers took a late-game lead but left 37 seconds on the clock, more than enough time to Rodgers bring in the Packers. position for a winning field goal.

At the time, the Packers were starting to take off as the best team in football, shaking off a lopsided opening loss to the Saints. Since Game 1, the Packers have lost three more times, once to Minnesota, a season ending to Detroit when they rested everyone, and to Kansas City when Rodgers was out with COVID.

This pandemic has made Rodgers even more of a lightning rod. He was intentionally dishonest about his vaccination status during pre-season when asked, responding to a direct question by saying, “I’m immune. This season, he aired podcasts spreading misinformation about vaccinations, then claimed to be “in the crosshairs of the woke crowd” and that he was canceled. Because you can’t turn on your TV without seeing Rodgers, the cancellation doesn’t really seem to be happening – but, hey, don’t let reality get in the way of the man’s narrative.

Where Rodgers seems to be undone is in the hearts of some Cal alumni who spent years supporting him, but were put off by his inability to recognize Cal in NBC’s Sunday night TV presentations (he says, “Butte College”) and now by its unscientific, anti-vax stance which does not reflect well on one of the best public universities in the world.

But whatever you think of Rodgers’ behavior off the pitch, on the pitch he’s a dangerous man.

Still, he didn’t intimidate the 49ers in January.

September’s loss to the Packers sparked the 49ers’ season slump, the first of four straight losses that lifted them to a 2-4 record. At this point, few would have predicted the 49ers would meet the Packers again in the playoffs.

But the 49ers are a different team now. Garoppolo, despite a torn thumb and – revealed on Monday – a sprained shoulder, is playing with more confidence and job security. In September, Elijah Mitchell was injured. Deebo Samuel had yet to become an unstoppable force. Brandon Aiyuk was in Shanahan’s niche.

As a team that wasn’t supposed to go this far, the 49ers come into Saturday night’s game with little pressure. The Packers, on the other hand, are under tremendous pressure. Rodgers is trying to make it to another Super Bowl.

And for the fourth time in his career, the 49ers stand in his way.

Ann Killion is a columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @annkillion


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