GREEN BAY, Wis. — It’s not just the games that Aaron Rodgers has enjoyed about Monday Night Football. It’s the characters and legends associated with it.
Take John Madden, for example.
Even though Madden called Monday Night Football games for four seasons (2002-05), he’s someone Rodgers closely associates with the brand.
“My first production meeting with John Madden, you can imagine how exciting that was for me to be able to be sitting across from a guy who I feel like I know, I feel like he’s a part of my viewing family,” Rodgers recalled. “So that was really special.”
Rodgers’ first appearance on Monday Night Football aside — and Madden was there to call that disaster in Baltimore on Dec. 19, 2005 — it’s been a time and place where the Green Bay Packers quarterback has shined, especially of late.
Given Rodgers’ uncertain future in Green Bay, there’s a chance Monday’s game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field (8:15 ET, ESPN) could be the 37-year-old quarterback’s final appearance on Monday Night Football with the Packers.
“When you’re also a lover of the game, a historian of the game, and you grew up watching Frank [Gifford], Al [Michaels] and Dan [Dierdorf] on Monday Night Football, and John Madden and Al Michaels on Monday Night Football, and Dennis Miller when he was there, and you’re loving the history of … the opportunity to play on Monday Night Football, it’s a special thing,” Rodgers said before a MNF appearance in 2019.
He also has been special on Monday nights.
To be sure, it’s not exclusive to Monday Night Football. The three-time NFL MVP has shined equally on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, too.
But when looking at MNF alone, Rodgers has:
Won seven straight starts dating to 2014.
The second-most touchdown passes (33), fourth-most passing yards (4,373) and third-most wins (10) since 2008.
Here’s a look at some of the best — and a few of the worst — moments for Rodgers that make up his Monday Night Football legacy with the Packers:
Rodgers’ first win: Not just his first win on MNF, but his first NFL win ever came on Monday, Sept. 8, 2008, at home against the Minnesota Vikings. In his first start, which came after a summer dealing with a largely angry fan base over the Packers’ refusal to let Brett Favre come back, Rodgers didn’t put up huge numbers — just 178 yards passing — but he began to win over people. He made a Favre-like throw — off-balance and into traffic — for only his touchdown pass, and he ran for another on a QB sneak that sealed the win. Afterward, he did his first Lambeau Leap. “I’ve been dreaming about that for four years, to be honest,” Rodgers said afterward.
Losing to Favre: Perhaps no MNF game in Packers history had as much tension leading up to it as the one on Oct. 5, 2009, at Minnesota. It was Favre’s first game against the Packers. Rodgers was intercepted once and sacked eight times, including once for a safety by Jared Allen, who sacked Rodgers 4.5 times. “I definitely wanted to get this win for Brett,” Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said afterward. “He downplayed it all week, but I just knew it meant a lot to him. I could see it in his eyes.”
Best comeback: Down by a touchdown at the 2-minute warning, Rodgers led the Packers to 10 points in the final 115 seconds to beat the San Francisco 49ers 33-30 on Oct. 15, 2018. Rodgers hit Davante Adams for a 16-yard touchdown with 1:55 left, and the Packers improbably got the ball back on Kevin King’s interception with 1:07 left. Rodgers drove from his own 10-yard line into position for Mason Crosby’s game-winning 27-yard field goal. Rodgers finished with 425 yards, the most of his MNF career. “That last drive there was unreal,” Crosby said afterward of Rodgers. Eight days earlier, Crosby had missed five kicks — four field goals and an extra point — in a loss to the Lions.
Toughest loss: Two words — Fail Mary. Forget that Rodgers was sacked eight times — all in the first half. That wasn’t the story of Sept. 24, 2012. The end was. In what later became known as “Fail Mary,” the Packers lost when the officials — who were fill-ins because the regular NFL refs were in a labor dispute — ruled “simultaneous possession” between Seahawks receiver Golden Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings. That ruling resulted in the game-winning touchdown that gave Seattle a 14-12 win, even though at least one official signaled it was an interception by Jennings. “It was awful. Just look at the replay. And then the fact that it was reviewed, it was awful,” Rodgers said at the time. “That’s all I’m going to say about it.”
Best quote before a MNF game: “I think we can run the table.” Rodgers said it on Nov. 23, 2016 — five days before a Monday night game at Philadelphia — as the Packers were sitting at 4-6 with their season on life support. Sure enough, they beat the Eagles on a night in which Rodgers threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns while completing 77% of his passes. That started a six-game winning streak to end the regular season and reach the playoffs. Two more wins ran their streak to eight and they were on the brink of the Super Bowl, only to lose in the NFC Championship Game. “His positive attitude has been consistent through all this time,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Rodgers after the Eagles’ game. “He’s an excellent leader, always has been.”
Worst moment during a MNF game: On the opening drive of the Nov. 4, 2013, game against the Chicago Bears, Rodgers landed on his left shoulder while being sacked by defensive end Shea McClellin. Rodgers was later diagnosed with a broken collarbone that kept him out of the next seven games — the first time in his career that he missed more than a single start in the same season. However, that night also turned into one of Rodgers’ most emotional moments to that point in his career. When he returned to the sideline in street clothes in the third quarter, the crowd showered him with a resounding ovation, which he called: “One of the top five moments of my career. The reception I got from the fans was pretty special.” Rodgers would get revenge in the regular-season finale, when he returned and beat the Bears on a last-minute fourth-down touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with a playoff berth on the line.