Bucs-Packers: Imagining the Aaron Rodgers Effect

In this Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, file photo, Green Bay Packers injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers watches warm ups before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. Rodgers is expected to return to practice on Saturday. The two-time MVP was placed on injured reserve six weeks ago after breaking his right collarbone in an Oct. 15 game against Minnesota. The (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)
In this Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, file photo, Green Bay Packers injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers watches warm ups before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. Rodgers is expected to return to practice on Saturday. The two-time MVP was placed on injured reserve six weeks ago after breaking his right collarbone in an Oct. 15 game against Minnesota. The (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)
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It’s called the butterfly effect. It means that small causes can have large effects. A butterfly flaps its wings once and causes an ever so slight wind shift, which then goes on to affect the weather all over the world.

In Tampa Bay, we have something similar: the Rodgers effect. It stems from the time the Bucs almost drafted quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Next up for the Bucs: Green Bay today. And on the sideline, Rodgers will be nursing an injured shoulder, hoping to return soon in a last-ditch effort to get the Packers into the playoffs.

Instead of standing in street clothes on the Packers’ sideline, he could’ve been playing in a Bucs uniform. Imagine all that might have happened if Rodgers had come to Tampa Bay.

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The scene: The Bucs had the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft. They were two seasons removed from the only Super Bowl championship in franchise history and were coming off a 5-11 season. They had Brian Griese and Chris Simms at quarterback.

When it was their turn to pick, the Bucs had several choices. With quarterback Alex Smith going first overall, Rodgers and Jason Campbell were the next-best quarterbacks on the board. The Bucs also could have taken cornerback Pacman Jones or linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman. Instead, they chose running back Cadillac Williams out of Auburn. Rodgers fell to No. 24 and the Packers.

In the short term, it wasn’t a bad pick. Williams rushed for 1,178 yards his first season and was the league’s offensive rookie of the year. The Bucs went 11-5 and made the playoffs. They’ve made the playoffs once since.

Jon Gruden was the Bucs’ coach during the 2005 draft. In ESPN’s oral history of Rodgers’ draft fall, Gruden says he still has a photo in his office of Rodgers as a college kid.

"It’s a memento of why I was fired,’’ Gruden said. "You can see one of the greatest regrets in my lifetime."

Think of all the lives that were affected by the Bucs not taking Rodgers. Take a deep look at the Rodgers effect:

Aaron Rodgers: He’s perhaps the best quarterback of his generation not named Tom Brady. At times during his career, you could argue, no one has played the position better. It’s impossible to say he would have had the same career in Tampa Bay, but you know what? Something tells me he would have been better than Griese, Simms, Jeff Garcia, Bruce Gradkowski, Tim Rattay, Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich, Josh Johnson, Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon, Josh McCown, Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick. He would still be a future Hall of Famer.

Jon Gruden: He might still be the Bucs’ coach. He would not have been fired after the 2008 season, that’s for sure. He would not be the Monday Night Football analyst.

Ron Jaworski: Poor "Jaws." He was forced out of Monday Night Football when Gruden came aboard. He might still be the MFN analyst.

Raheem Morris: When Gruden was fired, Morris was only 32 when he was named head coach. Morris likely would have been named a head coach someday. But not then. And not here. And if he hadn’t been named a head coach before he was ready, he might be a head coach now and be very successful.

Greg Schiano: Would he be at Rutgers? University of Miami? Another NFL team? University of Tennessee after all? Who knows. Tell you where he never would have been: Tampa Bay, unless it was to coach at USF. No toes on the line in Tampa Bay.

Lovie Smith: No way Lovie comes to Tampa Bay to coach the Bucs. And that means right now he probably wouldn’t be coaching what might be the worst Division I program in the country, Illinois.

Dirk Koetter: Another coach who would not be here. Maybe he would be in Atlanta coaching a quarterback out of Florida State. Speaking of which …

Jameis Winston: If Rodgers was in Tampa Bay right now, maybe the Bucs wouldn’t have won another Super Bowl by now. (But I think they would have!) I tell you for sure what they wouldn’t have done: finish 2-14 in 2014 and end up with the No. 1 overall draft pick. And they certainly wouldn’t have needed a QB. Winston maybe is in Tennessee or Jacksonville or, heck, Green Bay these days. Maybe he’d be doing discount double check commercials.

Brett Favre: The legendary quarterback would not have been shoved out of Green Bay prematurely. No bad divorce there. No stint with the Jets. No stint with the Vikings.

Jenn Sterger: If Favre doesn’t go to New York, maybe he never comes across Sterger and we don’t have Sterger saying Favre sent her lewd photos. That’s an ugly allegation we all could have done without, especially Sterger.

Cadillac Williams: Maybe if he had played somewhere other than Tampa Bay, he wouldn’t have suffered two horrific knee injuries and lasted longer than seven years in the NFL. Maybe he would have become a Hall of Famer with Green Bay.

Olivia Munn: Hmm, would she date a quarterback from Tampa Bay?

Wayne Rooney: The Glazers took control of Manchester United around the same time they were drafting Williams instead of Rodgers. Perhaps if they had drafted Rodgers, they would have had to spend a big chunk of money to keep him happy, meaning they wouldn’t have had the money to pay soccer star Rooney through most of the 2000s. And maybe Man U wouldn’t have won five Premier League championships during that time. Maybe a few Chelsea fans would have liked that.

Others: Bruce Allen, Mark Dominik, Jason Licht, Gerald McCoy, Mike Evans and on and on. Every draft. Every roster move — not only here but in Green Bay and throughout the NFL — would have been different if Rodgers had come to Tampa Bay. And there’s one other person who would have been greatly affected …

You: If you’re a Bucs fan, imagine how much fun the past 13 years might have been with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.

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