The initial meeting was far from organic, given that Josh Rosen and Aaron Rodgers were being represented by the same agency and were brought together for a little pre-draft publicity.
Yet in that time, the bond between the two quarterbacks formed quickly. And it couldn’t have been more natural.
“I think he’s an old soul,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “He’s a young kid but I think he sees things through a different lens. That’s probably why we connected.”
The Cardinals visit Green Bay Sunday for a game against the Packers, and Rosen will have a chance to watch his new mentor from the sideline. Football is the reason they had a chance to become friends. It is not the reason they are friends.
Rosen smiled when asked about the “connection” he had with Rodgers – “This feels like a dating show,” he said – but acknowledged he’d take Rodgers’ old soul reference as a compliment.
“In a world that wants you to think less and do more football, it’s cool to talk to people who think about other things,” Rosen said.
Rodgers first met Rosen in March for a video piece released on NFL Network, and then talked to him again just prior to Rosen’s pro day at UCLA pre-draft. There were a few words of football advice. There was much more conversation about the “circus” that would be Rosen’s draft and NFL life.
That included discussions about friends and family, about old acquaintances who might try to get back into a player’s life now that the NFL was calling, and about being smart off the field.
“Aaron will be the first to tell you he made a lot of mistakes, and it’s nice to hear from someone who is glad to have learned from those mistakes,” Rosen said. “Hopefully I gained some knowledge so I don’t trip over similar wires.”
Rodgers also delivered advice about how to be a backup – which was Rosen’s role all offseason and early in the year, with Sam Bradford in the starting lineup – honed during his three years sitting behind Brett Favre in Green Bay.
He told Rosen to learn from the veteran quarterbacks in front of him and the relationships they have on the NFL level, to mimic the parts of their preparation that fit and to figure out the things that wouldn’t for Rosen personally.
“It’s all about authentic leadership, and I don’t know there is anyone who knows themselves as well as Josh does,” Rodgers said.
That Rosen is playing as a rookie doesn’t surprise Rodgers, who said “the days of letting a young quarterback wait are going away.” It’s not the same as 2005, when Favre wasn’t going anywhere, or even fellow 2005 draftee Alex Smith, who was going to sit as a rookie until he finally was put in the lineup by the 49ers.
“I think the opportunity to sit is very beneficial just on a number of different fronts,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was on the 49ers’ staff when Smith was a rookie before becoming Rodgers’ head coach in 2006. “The obvious is that there’s pros and cons with everything. I think, clearly, what’s going on with Josh is that he’s getting incredible experience. That’s ultimately what all these young quarterbacks need.”
Rosen isn’t sure what would’ve been better, again showing his own self-awareness.
“I understand both sides of the coin,” Rosen said. “I can say I would’ve liked to sit, but I mean, maybe by Week 6, 7 or 8 I would’ve been, ‘I’m over it.’ ”
Both McCarthy and Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said they like how Rodgers is mentoring Rosen, although Wilks said the biggest benefit would come in the offseason when they have time to spent together for Rosen to download Rodgers’ experiences.
Rodgers said he talked to Rosen on Thanksgiving and again this week, but given the respective work schedules – Rosen as a newly-minted starter, Rodgers with injuries and a team struggling to stay in the playoff hunt – much communication is limited.
Their personalities aren’t all that mesh. Rosen does work on some things to mimic Rodgers, for instance, using different arm angles. What Rosen ultimately wants to mimic is Rodgers’ success.
“It’s cool how head coaches and defensive coordinators against him are always fearful ‘that’ play can happen anywhere at any time,” Rosen said. “That sense of lethality at any time and that sort of fear, only a few guys have in this league. Hopefully I can gain that someday.”
In the meantime, Rodgers – who turns 35 the day he and Rosen face each other this weekend – has found with a connection with a QB 14 years his junior.
“He’s not in his phone all the time playing Fortnite,” Rodgers said. “He’s doing some other things, and I can relate to that.”