Will Aaron Rodgers Follow Peyton Manning’s Path?
On Wednesday I wrote that Aaron Rodgers ought to emulate Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as he becomes an aging NFL quarterback. Basically, I urged that he transition into being a rapid-fire pocket passer.
This is by no means a wild idea. Manning made such a transition much earlier in his career. I just saw where Drew Brees is now being referred to as a check-down (AKA dump-off or dink-and-dunk) passer. Brees has never been sacked more than 31 times in his 17-year career. Sometimes the transformation is by design, and sometimes the aging process dictates the change.
I decided to take a more in-depth look into Manning’s evolution, as he seems like the perfect example for Rodgers.
Manning wasn’t always a devoted rapid-fire guy. In his first six years, he was sacked an average of 21 times per year. For the rest of his 11 active years, however, he was never sacked more than 21 times in a season. In his very prime years, from 2004 through 2009, he averaged being sacked only 14.8 times per year – less than once a game. Rodgers, in contrast, has been sacked as many as 51, 50, and 46 times in a season.
The reason for Manning’s declining number of sacks was simple: he began getting rid of the ball more rapidly.
Manning’s yards per catch, a better statistic than yards per attempt, tells us he managed to throw quickly while avoiding becoming mostly a dink-and-dunk thrower. His yards per catch average from 2004 through 2007 was never lower than 12, with his best ever being 13.6 in 2004.
Rodgers’ yards per catch has been dwindling. His best stat was in 2011, at a Manning-esque 13.5, but more recently it has been 12.8 in 2014, 11.0 in 2015 and 2016, and 10.8 so far in 2017.
Manning has always been able to spread the field and throw deep passes. I recall, when he was with the Colts, endless touchdown throws where Manning quickly released lofted long balls that speedy receivers such as Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne ran under. When Manning had a final glorious year at Denver in 2013, he had young Demaryius Thomas (4.38 dash time) to send out on fly patterns.
I’ve almost never seen Rodgers throw a pass of this type. Manning was named league MVP in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2013 – proof that rapid throwing can be highly successful.
The Missing Ingredient
You see the problem with my idea? Green Bay doesn’t have ideal receivers for a quick-throw passer – though Devante Adams, with his lightning-quick cuts, and stop-and-go routes, is a nice fit. That problem can go a long way toward being cured if Green Bay commits to the transformation by selecting a really speedy receiver with its first-round pick in 2018.
If need be, I’d even advocate trading up in the draft. It’s high time the Packers get a top-notch speed receiver as a complement to their top-notch quarterback.
In the meantime, if Rodgers’ collarbone is indeed only 80 percent healed at this point, that should be the clinching reason for him to commit to a rapid-throwing regimen for the remainder of this season. It would be foolhardy for Rodgers to risk taking any sacks on Sunday.