I don’t watch a whole lot of NFL games other than Green Bay Packers games. Last year, though, I watched enough to surmise that the three quarterbacks most likely to suffer a major injury were: Carson Wentz, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson.
In the case of Wilson and Wentz, it wasn’t their propensity to run that worried me – it was their holding the ball until huge pass rushers were within reach before throwing. Cam Newton, on the other hand, recklessly exposes himself when he takes off on the run, and especially when he tries to leap into the end zone.
Wilson, now in his sixth year, has yet to miss an NFL game, but he’s played through enough injuries to rival Brett Favre. Now in his seventh year, Newton has missed but three games. Both of these premier players have been incredibly fortunate in avoiding injuries, but the odds are their luck will run out.
Wentz’s luck did run out last Sunday. It happened as he planted his foot to leap into two defenders and across the goal line. It appeared that he tore his ACL just before colliding with the two tacklers. He’ll be out of action until next year.
Which brings me to Aaron Rodgers, will return on Sunday after breaking his collarbone against the Vikings on October 15. I view Rodgers as being more cautious than the above three QBs. His injury was not the result of being hit immediately after a throw, but rather because Anthony Barr, after making initial contact well after the throw, proceeded to pound him into the turf with all his weight on him.
Many are wondering if Rodgers is going to alter his rather reckless style now that he’s suffered two major injuries and a bunch of minor ones as well. My thought: I hope so.
I don’t foresee Rodgers entirely abandoning his Fran Tarkenton style of juking around in and out of the pocket as he tries to extend plays. While it provides some opportunities for completions, it’s also hazardous to his health – especially when there are so many guys out there like Barr, whose goal it is to put opposing QBs out of the game.
The primary reason I expect Rodgers – a smart guy – to significantly alter his style is that it isn’t necessary. Many of the best NFL quarterbacks have had long and illustrious careers without unduly exposing their bodies to onrushing pass rushers.
Four Current QB Comparisons
Cam Newton: 251 sacks in 106 games. In seven seasons (including 2017) he’s played every game five times, and has never missed more than three games.
Russell Wilson: 235 sacks in 93 games. In six seasons (including 2017) he’s not missed a game.
Carson Wentz: 61 sacks in 29 games in less than two seasons. He’ll now miss about a year of playing.
Aaron Rodgers: sacked 360 times in 141 games. Over 10 seasons as a starter, he played in 15 or 16 games eight times, while missing seven games in 2013 and seven again to date this year – both due to broken collarbones.
Sacks per game: Wentz: 2.10; Newton: 2.37; Wilson: 2.53; Rodgers: 2.55.
Comparisons to All-time Great QBs
Dan Marino: sacked 270 times in 242 games. In 17 seasons, he played in every game 11 times, and played in at least 11 games every year except 1993, when he tore his Achilles tendon, though he was untouched on the play.
Peyton Manning: sacked 303 times in 266 games played. In 18 years played, he missed one full season, played in just six games in another, and played in every game the other 16 years.
Drew Brees: sacked 375 times in 232 games. In 16 seasons as a starter (including 2017), he’s played in every game or every game but one 15 times. In 2003 he was replaced by Doug Flutie and missed five games.
Tom Brady: sacked 446 times in 233 games. In 17 seasons as a starter (including 2017), he’s played in every game 13 times. He played in but one game in 2008, and he was suspended for four games in 2016.
Sacks per Game: Dan Marino: 1.12; Peyton Manning: 1.14; Drew Brees: 1.62; Tom Brady: 1.91; Aaron Rodgers: 2.55.
The above four all-time great passers have been among the most productive in league history – while largely avoiding injuries and enjoying long careers.
What do they have in common? They almost always threw or throw the ball before pass rushers can reach them. There’s hardly any mobility in the foursome. It doesn’t matter because rapid-fire throwers don’t need it.
Rodgers’ new role models ought to be Peyton Manning and Dan Marino – ranked No. 1 and No. 5 all time in passing yardage (Brett Favre is No. 2, Brees is No. 3, and Brady is No. 4). Manning and Marino did just fine with their contact-avoidance styles. So could Rodgers – who might just possess as good an arm, and a quicker release, as any of the other QBs mentioned.
If Rodgers needs any more convincing, at age 34 his mobility is about to start to noticeably decrease, making rapid-fire pocket passing an even smarter way to play – and a career extender. The arm generally remains strong for years after the legs have gone.
Let’s see if Rodgers has changed his style any come Sunday.