Sports

Aaron Rodgers Could Actually Be the Next Host of Jeopardy!

He has no right to be as good at this as he is.

Aaron Rodgers hosts Jeopardy!
This quarterback is actually rather good at hosting the game show. Screengrab from Jeopardy/YouTube

The most memorable moment of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ debut as Jeopardy! guest host came, naturally, in the form of a question. Stumped by the Final Jeopardy clue about Fred Rogers, contestant Scott issued a gag response: “Who wanted to kick that field goal?” It was a reference to the baffling play call that Packers head coach Matt Lafleur made near the end of January’s NFC Championship game. The decision helped seal the end of Green Bay’s season with a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who consequently went on to appear in and win the Super Bowl.

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Considering the episode was taped in February, one could assume the wound would have been raw for the QB, but Rodgers played it with the droll knowingness of a seasoned game show host.

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Monday’s broadcast marked the start of Rodgers’ two-week stint behind the Jeopardy! hosting podium, and he’s made it clear that he intends to be a serious steward of the beloved game show for as long as it’ll have him. When USA Today asked if he’d rather be Alex Trebek’s full-time replacement or an NFL TV analyst, Rodgers said it was “not even close”—he’d rather host Jeopardy!

Rodgers has called the hosting gig his “dream job,” and he’s even hashed out the logistics for how he can do it without sacrificing his current employment situation. “I don’t think I’d need to give up football,” he told the Ringer’s Claire McNear. “They film 46 days a year. I worked 187 this year in Green Bay. That gives me, eh, 178 days to do Jeopardy!” Spoken like a man who’s had some experience calculating Final Jeopardy wagers in his head. After all, Rodgers did win Celebrity Jeopardy! in 2015, beating Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary and astronaut and current U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly. In an act of good sportsmanship, the quarterback says Kelly was probably jet-lagged during filming because he had just flown back from Kazakhstan.

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Rodgers may want the Jeopardy! job, but does he have the chops? In an interview posted to the show’s YouTube account, the quarterback admitted to battling nerves during the first few games. “I had some problems with some of the clues,” he said. “I ended up writing on my podium some code words. Slow down. Relax. Speak clearly. Then I put a funny one on there: Don’t pick your nose, don’t pick your butt.”

After a somewhat stilted intro on Monday, Rodgers shook off any rust and put in a confident shift as soon as the game got rolling. Despite his self-effacing warning, there were no signs of him being tripped up by any categories, and he even nailed the clues that required difficult scientific pronunciations like “streptomycin” and “pharyngeal.” He also didn’t appear to pick his butt once during the broadcast, so it really was a successful debut.

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Rodgers is the fifth person to guest-host the show since Trebek passed away in November. First came Jeopardy! GOAT Ken Jennings, who ably steered the ship for six weeks before the two-week stints of Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards, Katie Couric, and Dr. Mehmet Oz. While Rodgers had the daunting task of filling Brett Favre’s shoes in Green Bay, he needn’t have worried about following the dreadful Dr. Oz, a man who really shouldn’t be on television.

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But any full-time Jeopardy! host will be compared to Trebek, not Dr. Oz, and it’s far too early to tell if Rodgers is the man for the job. Still, if one show is any indication, the Super Bowl winner won’t look out of place on the dais in the coming weeks. He even nailed the post-commercial contestant banter with the casual corniness of a multiple Daytime Emmy–winner. (“JoBeth Thomas from Carrollton, Georgia, is a database architect and she plays in a … [arches eyebrow] Celtic band?”) That cheesiness is generally a good quality for a game show host to have, and all those reps in front of the camera shilling insurance seem to have paid off for Rodgers. (To say nothing of the actual money State Farm paid him to appear in those commercials.)

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Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards has said that the plan is to appoint a full-time host either at the end of this season or later in the summer, but that no decision has been made yet. It may seem far-fetched, but Rodgers has a legitimate shot, and he doesn’t have to worry about any pesky field goal calls getting in the way of his dream.

Listen to an episode of Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen below, or subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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