DALLAS – There's no better excuse for a short night's sleep than winning a Super Bowl.
A bleary-eyed Aaron Rodgers glanced at the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Monday morning and talked about collecting a few more. So did his coach, Mike McCarthy.
Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers for the storied franchise's fourth Super Bowl title and 13th NFL championship. Before accepting the game's MVP award and a car, Rodgers spoke of the next goals for him and the team.
"I guess I ran out of motivations, huh?" Rodgers said with a chuckle. "I always look for challenges. The challenge goes to repeating. We've got one, so now what? Let's go get another one."
Rodgers guided the Packers to three straight road victories in the playoffs before Sunday's win over Pittsburgh that made Green Bay the second No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl. He threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns against the Steelers' second-ranked defense, and the Packers displayed a resilience that marked their season.
Green Bay had lost 16 players to injured reserve heading into the Super Bowl, then defensive leader Charles Woodson (collarbone) and veteran receiver Donald Driver (ankle) went down Sunday.
The ability to rally when faced with adversity will serve the Packers well as they defend their first title since the 1996 season.
"I think the core and nucleus of this team is intact to make a run like this for a few years," Rodgers said.
McCarthy, who along with general manager Ted Thompson built these Packers, agreed with the quarterback he bypassed in the 2005 draft while the offensive coordinator in San Francisco — something Rodgers frequently reminds the coach about.
"This is an excellent football team I feel will grow and get better," said McCarthy, who carried the Lombardi Trophy in one hand into a conference room. "You give a good message that it's about the team and growth and development."
And confidence. McCarthy had so much faith in his team that he fitted the players for championship rings the night before the Super Bowl. Rodgers missed that, however, saying he was taking a shower.
Somehow, he'll probably get his ring size measured.
"We've talked to the football team about being real confident and this was an opportunity to express that," McCarthy said. "The measurement of rings would have a significant effect on the team the night before the game."
Rodgers and McCarthy have a solid relationship, certainly stronger than coach and quarterback shared when Brett Favre was taking snaps in McCarthy's first two years with the Packers. Rodgers jokes that he still carries a grudge for not being drafted by the 49ers — Rodgers was a college star at Cal and grew up a Niners fan — but he's thankful to be working with an offense-minded coach with a keen eye for talent.
And Rodgers is over having to sit for three seasons behind Favre before getting a chance to start.
"That's kind of been my career journey, waiting for opportunities and then making the most of it," Rodgers said.
"Mike is a players' coach. He thinks there's a negative connotation to that, but to me it means he allows input from his players. He allows input in the schedule and the way we do things and he sets up a routine that allows players to be successful, and allowing the coaches to coach."
The future for Rodgers, McCarthy and the Packers is murky because of a potential work stoppage as the union and league negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. If labor issues get settled and 2011 is a normal NFL year, Rodgers can't wait to get started on defending the crown.
There is, after all, much improvement to be done.
"Being a perfectionist," he said, "there are plenty of things to work on and plenty of time to work on them."