By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Nov 18, 2008 at 5:30 AM

It's almost impossible to overstate the importance of a quarterback in the National Football League.

I know that some people say the quarterback gets more praise and more criticism than he deserves. I don't believe it.

A good quarterback can lift a team. A great one can carry a team. A bad one can drag it down. A horrible one can sink a team.

Now, let's take a glance backward to the 2007 season. The Packers, with Brett Favre, were 13-3 and the class of their division. The New York Jets, with nobody at quarterback, were 4-12 and barely edged the 1-15 Dolphins for the worst record in their division.

Fast forward to this year. The Jets, with Brett Favre as quarterback, are 7-3 and in first place in their division after a huge road victory against their most hated rival. It was vintage Favre as the Jets won in overtime. The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, are 5-5 and have a 1-2 record since Rodgers signed his new multimillion-dollar contract.

I know I should probably let this go, but I can't. It makes me sick to my stomach to see Favre, still at the top of his game, wearing a Jets uniform. I watched the whole game Thursday night and it was like watching my daughter celebrate Father's Day with somebody else.

I know a guy who is very smart about a lot of things, including football. I'm not going to use his name, but he works on the staff of a United States Senator from the Midwest, who is not from Wisconsin and whose last name isn't Obama. This guy, who went to the Harvard Law School, is smart and has very good judgment. Here's part of the e-mail he sent after the Packers' loss to Minnesota.

"Rogers just looks really uncomfortable back there. He looks scared. He can't read a defense. He is totally lost back there. He has terrible field sense and no poise. He has happy feet. I really can't put into words how badly he has been playing.

"And, frustratingly, the local press does not call Rogers out. I saw (Journal Sentinel beat reporter Bob) McGinn this morning (after the Vikings game) criticize the kicker. The kicker? This game was entirely on Rogers.

"I feel like I'm watching the early years of the Bush years all over again. Everything is clearly a disaster, yet the local press keeps blindly taking the team's talking points, while the leader (Rodgers) gets rewarded (with some ungodly long term contract).

"At least the Bush presidency is coming to an end. The Rodgers disaster is just beginning."

I know it's hard to criticize Rodgers after the game against the Bears. But some things should be kept in mind.

First of all, Mike McCarthy seriously out-coached Lovie Smith. Smith was unbeaten at Lambeau Field and he appeared to rest on his laurels rather than actually try to win the game.

No matter what happened, he kept the same vanilla defense going against the Packers. He never brought any pressure on Rodgers, even though teams -- like Minnesota 10 days ago -- have shown repeatedly that is how you rattle the Packers quarterback.

The second thing that's important is that Rodgers was never in a difficult situation all day long. It's easy to be a quarterback when the other team is lousy and appears to not even be trying. The way you measure a quarterback and his mettle is during the tough times, during the tough games.

Rodgers, inexplicably, has a new contract and is the quarterback of a .500 team. The same team that was one game away from the Super Bowl last year.

I still think Ted Thompson and McCarthy made a bad decision (not as bad as John McCain picking Sarah Palin!) when they decided to send Favre packing. And I still believe Rodgers' performance continues to prove that I'm right.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.