Aaron Rodgers has made such a habit of quieting doubters over his career that it's amazing that some still come out of the woodwork.
The story is well known by now — lightly recruited, Rodgers began his college career at Butte College. He dropped to the 24th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, and his professional career had to wait behind Brett Favre.
Rodgers' sensational playoff run last season, culminating in a Super Bowl title and game MVP award, proved he was among the NFL's elite. But a lockout, paired with the fact that the Packers, unlike many teams, didn't have any player-organized workouts, brought the doubters back.
With one drive, Rodgers said to a national audience, so to speak, "What lockout?" He opened the season by marching the Packers downfield, completing all five passes, for the NFL season's opening touchdown.
Rodgers never looked back.
In the end, the Packers' signalcaller won his first Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America MVP award. Rodgers threw for 45 touchdowns and six interceptions and had an NFL-record QB rating of 122.5 for the NFL-best 15-1 Packers.
"It's a great award. It's obviously given to an individual, but it's an award for an individual that relies heavily on his teammates to get," Rodgers said. "I'm very thankful for my teammates, coaches, organization and our fans."
Rodgers' Week One performance — 312 passing yards and three scores in a 42-34 win over the Saints — put him atop the early MVP conversation.
"It's leadership, and we have a lot of it on this team," Rodgers said about the team not having much rust. "I wasn't worried about us when we got to camp, knowing that the leadership would take a hold of the team and the locker room."
Rodgers is as calm when he speaks as he appears when he picks apart opposing defenses. When the Giants scored with 58 seconds left to tie the game in Week 13, it looked as though the Packers' run might come to an end. Then, just like that, with four throws — all completions — Rodgers set up the Packers' game-winning field goal. It looked effortless.
"I can definitely tell you it's not easy at all. It's a lot of fun to be able to play the way you want to play, but it takes a lot of hard work, preparation, experience and the ability to recall things very quickly and be quick with your reaction," he said.
"It works for him to remain calm and cool and execute his part of the play," said Packers QB coach Tom Clements. "If we are successful in scoring a touchdown, he lets his emotions show."
You can generally tell Rodgers is having fun on the gridiron, and he has let that personality show a little more this year in State Farm ads that mock his signature touchdown dance.
"To be honest, I don't do a whole lot off the field. I like relaxing, I like playing golf and playing the guitar," Rodgers said. "I do enjoy these opportunities with these companies. I love the State Farm commercials. Those are great. In order to have a sense of humor, you have to be able to be made fun of and not take yourself too seriously. I think those commercials show a pretty good part of my personality."
Rodgers and the fun the undefeated Packers were having finally hit a wall in Week 15, when they fell to the Chiefs 19-14. With Saints QB Drew Brees approaching Dan Marino's all-time record for passing yards in a season, Rodgers' strangle hold on the MVP award seemed to be loosening. Then on Christmas night, Rodgers methodically put any remaining doubts to rest. He threw five touchdowns in a 35-21 win over the Bears.
In the Packers' season finale, Rodgers rested, and all backup Matt Flynn did was have the best passing performance in Packers history. In a win over the Lions, Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns. In the 24-7 sports-talk world we live in, the questions were raised: "How good is Rodgers if Flynn can do that? Is it Rodgers or the system?"
Clearly, Rodgers had heard that before.
"I think it's a two-part answer. First, we're all system players. Everyone from Brady to Peyton, a lot of us have been in the same system for a long time. You're either the product of a good system or you make your system better," he said. "We have a good system in place, incredibly gifted coaches and teachers, but we're able to put our stamp on this offense, as well."
"I think it's a silly statement," Clements said about the "system quarterback" argument. "You just have to watch Aaron play and how he goes about doing things. I think we do have a good system, but Aaron would excel in any system that they want him to run."
And what about Flynn? Well, Rodgers is his biggest fan.
"Matt Flynn is a damn good player. He should have a shot to be a starter in this league," Rodgers said.
With Flynn's game fresh in the minds of the voters and Brees rewriting the record book, Rodgers still won the MVP award with more than 80 percent of the vote, leaving little doubt who the league's most valuable player is.
MVP / Offensive Player of the Year
2011 QB Aaron Rodgers / G.B.
2010 QB Tom Brady / N.E.
2009 QB Peyton Manning / Ind.
2008 QB Peyton Manning / Ind.
2007 QB Tom Brady / N.E.
2006 RB Ladainian Tomlinson / S.D.
2005 RB Shaun Alexander / Sea.
2004 QB Peyton Manning / Ind.
2003 RB Jamal Lewis / Balt.
2002 QB Rich Gannon / Oak.
2001 RB Marshall Faulk / St.L.
2000 RB Marshall Faulk / St.L.
1999 QB Kurt Warner / St.L.
1998 RB Terrell Davis / Den.
1997 RB Barry Sanders / Det.
1996 QB Brett Favre / G.B.
1995 QB Brett Favre / G.B.
1994 QB Steve Young / S.F.
1993 RB Emmitt Smith / Dall.
1992 QB Steve Young / S.F.
1991 RB Thurman Thomas / Buff.
1990 QB Randall Cunningham / Phil.
1989 QB Joe Montana / S.F.
1988 QB Boomer Esiason / Cin.
1987 WR Jerry Rice / S.F.
1986 WR Jerry Rice / S.F.
1985 No Award
1984 QB Dan Marino / Mia.
1983 QB Joe Theismann / Wash.
1982 QB Dan Fouts / S.D.
1981 QB Ken Anderson / Cin.
1980 QB Brian Sipe / Clev.
1979 RB Earl Campbell / Hou.
1978 RB Earl Campbell / Hou.
1977 RB Walter Payton / Chi.
1976 QB Ken Stabler / Oak.
1975 QB Fran Tarkenton / Minn.
1974 QB Jim Hart / St.L. Cardinals
1973 RB O.J. Simpson / Buff.
1972 RB Larry Brown / Wash.
1971 WR Otis Taylor / K.C.
1970 QB John Brodie / S.F.
1969 QB Roman Gabriel / L.A. Rams (NFL)
QB Daryle Lamonica / Oak. (AFL)
1968 QB Earl Morrall / Balt. (NFL)
QB Joe Namath / N.Y.J. (AFL)