The Green Bay Packers have a problem. It’s not their head coach, though that is a problem. No, the Packers have the problem they’d never thought they’d have. A problem with their QB.
You see, this year, Aaron Rodgers is not the same. He hasn’t been a truly elite passer since 2014, when he was injured for much of the year. That injury was to his lower body, and cost him his ability to scramble.
Rodgers is by no means a Cam Newton type QB. He can’t rush for touchdowns at 15 miles per hour, and he’ll never be the fastest guy on his team. But he used to have the ability to scramble. Watch what Matthew Stafford can do, and you have a lesser version of Rodgers.
That Aaron Rodgers won a Super Bowl. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback. He’s the second franchise quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, immediately on the tail of Brett Farve. That Aaron Rodgers might even be better than Farve. That Aaron Rodgers has also not been seen on a football field in 2016.
Instead, what we’ve seen out of Aaron Rodgers is a pocket passer. A man who’s lost that ability to scramble, and who can’t find time for passes. He’s missing receivers, and seemingly lacks the vision he once had.
In other words, he’s missing what made him great.
While the Packers are still winning games, they’re doing it because of their defense. They used to win games because of their offense, and more specifically because of Aaron Rodgers.
What is wrong with Aaron Rodgers may be an external force. Perhaps Mike McCarthy’s not a good coach and it’s finally catching up with the team. Maybe the wide receiver core is no longer what it used to be. Randall Cobb is not the wide receiver he once was. Jordy Nelson is aging and now has a history of season-ending injuries. DeVante Adams is currently hurt, but he’s not setting the world ablaze when he’s healthy. Rodgers no longer has a true deep threat.
Maybe both of these things are true (they are). Maybe Eddie Lacy isn’t an elite rusher (he isn’t.) But Aaron Rodgers once had the ability to make up for this. Although maybe he hasn’t. There was a time in Rodgers quarterback career when Jordy Nelson was the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart (that team won the Super Bowl).
Rodgers doesn’t look like he’s healthy. When he’s been historically healthy, he’s won MVP awards. He’s gone to All Star Games. Now, he looks like he’ll do neither. It looks like he may not even make the playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers used to be able to do that. That’s from his MVP season in 2014. It’s also the last season he spent healthy. To date, this is his best week from this year. It came against the Detroit Lions, who lack a proper defense.
Rodgers is a good player. But even he himself has admitted something is up.
The Packers this year rate 29th in passing yards and are 26th (tied) for pass yards per attempt. Neither are good stats. Rodgers is well below QBs like Jameis Winston, Blake Bortles, and Alex Smith. The only starting QBs Rodgers ranks ahead of are Sam Bradford, Tom Brady, Trevor Siemian, and Tyrod Taylor. Bradford, Brady, and Siemian haven’t played every game. Taylor isn’t known for his strong arm and has 16 less passing attempts than Rodgers.
This year, Rodgers has posted the stat line of: 109 passes completed/181 attempted (60.2%), 6.46 yards per attempt, 10 TDs and 4 interceptions. Not bad numbers. Average. And for Aaron Rodgers, with his expectations, average is bad.
Rodger’s career statistics are: 2,742/4,228 (64.9%), 33,569 yards, 7.94 ypa, 267 TDs/69 int/49 fum, 103.5 rating. The last two years, by far, have been his worst. Those numbers: 456/753 (60.5%), 4991 yds, 6.57 ypa, 41 TDs/12 int/11 fum, 90.55 rating. That’s worse than the year he missed time (2013) because of injury.
So this fault isn’t new. It’s been around for two years. That means, whatever Rodgers might think, it may not be as easy to fix as he wants. I would not be surprised if the fault isn’t fixable at all. Rodgers is 32. That’s past a QB’s prime. Unless you’re Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady, or Brett Farve, it’s hard to play past that prime.
We used to think that Rodgers was like those guys. Like Drew Brees. That no matter what age he was, he’d be able to keep pushing. But maybe we were wrong. Perhaps Rodgers’s ability depended far too much upon his athleticism. That athleticism may have since left him, leaving him a different, lesser quarterback.
Tell the truth. It would be shocking if Cam Newton was as good as he is now when he was 32. If Dak Prescott is able to move this well in 11 years, he’s super human. Maybe that’s what’s happened to Rodgers.
Brady, Manning, Farve, Brees. None of them ever had that scrambling ability. Sure, they’ve all scored touchdowns on the ground, but you wouldn’t want to see it unless desperate. Tom Brady sometimes feels like the slowest human being alive. They were natural pocket passers. Maybe that’s what lends itself to longevity.
And maybe that’s why Rodgers is no longer as good. That ability is something he always counted on being there, but you slow as you age. You lose athleticism, and unless you’re Usain Bolt you won’t be as good.
Maybe it’s just a sign of Rodgers’s age. Perhaps he’s the rule and not the exception. Maybe, hell, we’ve seen too many exceptions and it’s time for someone to prove that there’s a reason people don’t want to give you contracts in sports past 30. Unfortunately, the guy that proves the rule might just be Aaron Rodgers. And that’s a loss not only for fans but for the NFL itself. Because Rodgers is – well, at least was – one of the sports’ premier talents. And now that talent might be gone.
And unless you’re an NFC North fan outside of Wisconsin, that’s a horrible thing to see. Luckily I am. Staying positive, it looks like the long-dominant team in our division may be on it’s way out. Congratulations Vikings, Bears, and Lions fans. Now let’s fight to the death. And in that fight, a Lion always wins.
Have a good day, be good to each other.