Aaron Rodgers is one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks and smartest players overall. When talking to media around the league, he’s been known for his calculated, composed manner of speaking.
There’s no question Rodgers’ intelligence and personable nature have been major assets during his successful two-week run as guest host on “Jeopardy!.” Rodgers once excelled as a celebrity competitor on the show and the Packers MVP quarterback would have made the late great Alex Trebek even more proud of how the did in his new role.
Like with the previous fill-in hosts, Ken Jennings, Mike Richards, Katie Couric and Dr. Mehmet Oz, Rodgers was at first nervous welcoming the contestants and delivering the clues. That would come for anyone trying to live up to the legacy of a beloved legend.
But once Rodgers “R-E-L-A-X-E-D” a couple of episodes into his run, he found a cool, dry place at the lectern. He showed his good sense of humor, from being trolled by a wrong response in Final Jeopardy to everyone missing a clue about his Packers in a sports category.
He kept the show moving through the board and connected with the players. He offered fun flavor text when necessary and didn’t err in reading clues.
Rodgers took a football-like approach, watching film to prepare for hosting”Jeopardy!” , and it showed in honoring some of Trebek’s style while mixing in his own. That’s created the toughest question of them all: Should Rodgers be a candidate for full-time hosting duties?
At 37 and arguably coming off his best Packers season in his Pro Football Hall of Fame career, no one is suggesting Rodgers will give up his NFL day job for “Jeopardy!” this year. But as other older QBs leaving the game such as Peyton Manning, Tony Romo and Drew Brees find various post-playing television gigs related to football, Rodgers has proved he already should get an opportunity to be more of a renaissance retiree headed for regular daytime TV, a la Michael Strahan.
When Trebek was hosting the show, he committed around 50 days to taping a year’s worth of new “Jeopardy!” episodes, including various tournaments. Rodgers, should he keep playing for the Packers, would have a limited window to get those shows in, and only between the end of February through the middle of July, at best.
Just like it comes into play in analyzing QB play in the NFL, there is some recency bias at work. Rodgers has been great and for die-hard NFL fans who love “Jeopardy!” just as much, he’s brought an even greater reason to tune in every afternoon or night.
Jennings was a fine opening act post-Trebek. Couric’s years of broadcast experience showed in her spectacular run. Dr. Oz, just like with his other shows, was rather underwhelming. But with Anderson Cooper, Mayam Bialik, Savannah Guthrie, Bill Whitaker and Dr. Sanjay Gupta still yet to guest host, there will be several TV heavy-hitters to whom to compare Rodgers over the next few months. Added to the list was Buzzy Cohen, another former great contestant whom Trebek called “Mr. Personality” and will handle hosting this year’s Tournament of Champions.
With the exception of Richards, the executive producer of “Jeopardy!”, Couric gets the slight nod as the best so far, and to Rodgers’ credit, he was on par with the “Jeopardy!” GOAT, Jennings. Of the rest, expect Cooper and Bialik to stand out.
The bottom line is, despite how much we loved Rodgers, guest-hosting also might be a welcome new normal for “Jeopardy!”, given how much more the show is giving to charity to honor Trebek in the ultimate way and bringing in more casual fans to watch. It would be fun to see more NFL players and professional athletes taking turns at the lectern. OK, Rob Gronkowski might be weird, but Richard Sherman, Larry Fitzgerald and Ryan Fitzpatrick? Sure.
Would Rodgers rock full-time hosting “Jeopardy!”? Of course he would, but he’s one of those transcendent athletes who can do pretty much everything and anything he wants once his playing days are over, whether he’s in Green Bay, L.A. or back in Northern California.
Doing a double-check on Rodgers’ episodes, it was impressive how he made a seamless transition into something he never had done before. It was like being blown away by Romo in the CBS broadcast booth for the first time, going in with limited expectations.
Like most of the “Jeopardy!” viewers, Richards would be down with Rodgers hosting more and loved the job he did. Expecting Rodgers to be Trebek’s successor, however, is a big ask, and it’s a big decision that may not be made with the current format being embraced.
But let’s hope Rodgers will be kept in the host rotation somehow for future shows. Now that we’ve seen him pass and ace the new kind of “Jeopardy!” test, he’s left us wanting more.