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Both Factions Are Wrong About Aaron Rodgers

The fallout from the Niners game left a clear division of fans: the pro-Aaron and the anti-Aaron groups – with the anti’s being particularly distressed and vocal.

Fans who are never satisfied with less than perfection found a ready scapegoat: “Rodgers hasn‘t been elite for years,” “we should never have signed him to a long-term contract,” “Rodgers just proved he’s a fraud.” Et cetera.

The truth is: Rodgers delivered two fine postseason passing performances.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers scrambles in 2019 NFC Championship game against San Francisco 49ers

Jan 19, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) in the first half of the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After all that talk about timing being off, Aaron went out against the Seahawks and put on a show of precision passing. For the most part, the eleven of his 27 passes that misconnected were throw-aways or were directed toward receivers who were covered. Aaron threw six passes over ten yards down the field, and he connected on every one of them. Has he ever done that before?

Aaron and Davante Adams certainly have no timing problem. He found his ace receiver eight out of 11 times, usually hitting him in full stride, which led to lots of yards after catch. And when the pressure was the greatest, on those two third downs as Green Bay desperately tried to keep from putting the ball back in Russell Wilson’s hands, Aaron, despite strong rushes, got the ball first to Davante and then to Jimmy.

Aaron’s passer rating in the game was 113.7, which eclipsed Russell Wilson’s 106.5. The only quibble I had following this win is his year-long bad throwing mechanics on his short passes in the flats – he keeps misfiring on his easiest of throws.

Against the 49ers, Aaron was even more accurate than he was against the Seahawks. This time he was 9 of 11 when targeting Davante, and again for big yardage: 160 and then 138. His 65-yard completion to Davante near game’s end was as pretty a deep throw and catch as you’ll ever see.

Rodgers’ timing on this day was equally good, including when he targeted his much-maligned supporting cast of receivers. Cumulatively, he went 10 of 12, for a whopping 138 yards, when throwing to Jimmy Graham, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow, Tyler Ervin, and Jace Sternberger. On the day, Aaron completed 79.5 percent of his passes.

Again, Aaron was off-target on a bunch of those short throws, though his receivers made up for it with some nice catches. In fact, did any Packers’ receiver drop a ball in either playoff game?

Despite the one-sidedness of the game, these games served as proof that there’s nothing wrong with Aaron’s 36-year-old right arm. Though the final passer rating was 97.2, until that last desperation interception, I think he was upwards of a 110 rating. Garoppolo in his meager eight throws recorded a 104.7.

What makes this extra impressive is that the 49ers had far and away the league’s best pass defense during the regular season, yielding just under 170 yards per game. Despite the fact that the Niners D was finally back to full health for this matchup, Aaron threw for 326 yards – a number he only exceeded twice in the regular season.

The numbers are irrefutable: Rodgers had one of his best throwing days of the year on the big stage of the conference championship, and against the league’s toughest pass defense.

The Trouble Was. . .

Uncharacteristically, however, Aaron had one of his worst ball security games. Three fumbles, one lost; two interceptions (though I don’t count his late desperation heave as a mistake). The timing of these errors couldn’t have been worse. During the regular season the Packers had the second fewest turnovers (13), while the Niners had 23 giveaways. On Sunday, however, the Packers lost the turnover game, 3-0.

On the botched snap from center, the Packers had a fine 5-play drive of 50 yards going, and appeared to be about to narrow the 17-point scoring gap. The first interception came with only a minute left in the half and Green Bay back on their own 22-yard line. Not only was Geronimo Allison surrounded by defenders, he never even knew the ball was coming his way. Given the field position and time remaining, throwing that ball had to be Aaron’s worst decision of the season. San Francisco pounced on the opportunity, finding the end zone three plays and fifteen seconds later.

Leaving aside the quarterback play for a moment, can someone tell me why the Packers would help out the Niners by calling two timeouts in the final minute of the half – at a time that San Francisco had the ball and was driving for a score that would put the game out of reach? LaFleur made this same mistake a number of times this season.

Criticizing Rodgers for the awful turnovers is completely warranted. But it was the mismatch of the Packers defense against the speedy 49er offense, and not the quarterback play, that sent the Packers packing.

The fact is, and the numbers show, that Rodgers got his passing mojo back in these two high-pressure postseason games – and that bodes well for next season.

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Rob Born

I’m with Matt: “You gotta make those chunk plays!”

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19 Comments

  1. PF4L January 24, 2020

    Rob Rieschel list the top five moves the Packers need to make. Reasons 2 and 4 list signing a veteran receiver, and hints at drafting drafting a receiver or tight end high, As
    Rob proposed 2 or 3 years ago. It seems to me, anyone knowledgeable feels like the Packers need receiver help. But then some yahoo somewhere, proclaims that Packer receivers lead the league in separation. Then some yahoo in here (you know who you are) reminds me of that claiming it’s Rodgers fault, not the receivers. Not until, after i ignore that person, do my brain cells stop dying.
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    Rieschel also mentions the fact that the Packers have only taken defensive players in the 1st round since 2012. Excuse me…but hasn’t someone in here been saying that for a few years?
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    A small select (elite) group in here (you know who you are) make comments and observations about this team, that are nailed spot on accurate, But somehow….it takes the outside media world 2-4 years later to make the same observations. Those in that group in here, i applaud and respect your views…Thank you..
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    As always, i enjoy my time in here being the 14th most popular and respected voice.

    Reply
  2. MJ January 24, 2020

    Good that someone picked up on the divide! Republicans vs Democrats, Rodgers vs Anti-Rodgers.

    While trying to make a point for the, admittedly, nice article, you conveniently forgot that most of Rodgers yardage came after the game was out of hand and the 49ers just playing to drain the clock (AKA garbage time).

    At this point in time, the heroic Rodgers of yesterday is gone. All we have is a good to very good QB who can, at times, perform some of his old magic. He can help a team win, but will not carry a corpse to victory.

    Now, for the reality check…
    No way around it, Rodgers’ uncanny accuracy has taken a hit. Even some caught passes were thrown behind the WR and knee-high, forcing them off their stride to attempt a catch. He always held on to the ball way too long, but his elusiveness bailed him out and he would often complete a wonderful pass on a broken play, much like Wilson does now. As his elusiveness waned due to him aging, his holding onto the ball started to be noticeable for the wrong reasons.
    He hasn’t been consistently throwing his WRs open, as his huge salary suggests he should be able to. No excuses here, and I don’t care how many other FAs are underperforming: we can get rid of Turner and Graham, and they are making a third of his salary anyways. Other FAs did contribute: the Smiths, Amos, Veldheer, Ervin. All teams hit and miss with FAs. Add the “home-grown” players that have second or third contracts: Bulaga, Bakh, Adams, Linsley.

    His WR core has not been up to par in the recent years, and he seems to take too long to trust them, which further compounds to the problem. I’m willing to bet the return on investment for a talented WR would be huge, and this is something the FO consistently neglected.

    Regarding the OL, we often complain about its depth, but teams often struggle to field five good starters, let alone have quality backups. For some reason our OLs have been characteristically bad run blockers but good-to-very-good pass protectors. All in all, we can’t reasonably complain about it.

    The other ugly stat that turned up recently is the number of throwaways by Rodgers. At least he is not taking sacks, though… but really, wasn’t there any quick route that he skipped in favor of the long completion? To his credit, he has successfully avoided interceptions. And that is probably the only record he will be keeping for long: TD/INT ratio. Whether it is due to wise decision-making or risk aversion is up for debate. The truth to me lies somewhere in the middle of the road.

    Yes, this team has been lacking a good defense for years. But those criticisms are not valid unless we are losing 54-48, i.e., in a shootout. If our offense goes three-and-out this often, it is also not doing its part. And it keeps our defense on the field to get tired and concede score after score. If we are 27-0, that is not a shootout, that’s a blowout, and speaks more about the offense than the defense, since we get the ball back after conceding a TD or FG. Very rarely I’ve seen a defense on the field that much and not collapse, the exception being the 2015 Broncos and the 2012 49ers (vs Peyton Manning’s no-huddle). Add in the Legion of Boom for good measure, but that’s it. More often than not defenses get exhausted and their play falters.

    What about that “snap the ball at the last second” thing? McCarthy is long gone now. I guess Rodgers surveys the defense and tries to force them to show their hand. But for every 5yds or free play we get, we are conceding enough false starts and wasting TOs. I would be fine if Rodgers snapped the ball with about 5sec remaning, that way the defense can’t jump the snap. And please, make him quit the “Greeneighteee-nah-nah-nah!” which by now just helps the defense by letting them charge as the playclock reaches zero, or us committed a false starts. No one else does that.

    I feel I bashed Rodgers enough already… But I have stated things that are demonstrably true. The point is, Rodgers has been so good that he achieved impossible stats despite having some defects to his game. He is like the hot girl that gets used to getting away with being rude to men just for her looks. When she gets to 30 she is not as hot, but still carries the ways of her 20-year-old self. She either starts treating people more nicely, or soon finds out more and more of them are telling her to eff off. Translating that back to Rodgers: he lost quite a bit of his prowess, so he either cuts back on his defects, or he won’t lead the team to a second championship. He can start by getting rid of the ball quicker, taking some risks with the ball (it’s the NFL, WRs don’t get that much separation consistently), stop with the hard-count nonsense and get the play in time.

    Rodgers has been a magician, carrying this team for a almost a decade, masking deficiencies everywhere on the team. That Rodgers is gone, and now he is what he is at this point in his career. He needs a supporting cast and a good scheme, much like every other QB. The fact that we even have to think about that shows how much he spoiled us during these years. He will need a decent running game, a couple of reliable WRs, and maybe a defense to bail him out at times. Even after the above criticism, I am in favor of sticking to him for the next couple of years, giving him the best we can to hopefully snatch one more title. And the good thing is we have quite a lot in place.

    Reply
    1. Zwoeger January 24, 2020

      Hear, hear.

      Reply
  3. MJ January 24, 2020

    My previous comment was getting long-winded…
    So here I propose a path to fill some of the holes the team currently has.
    WRs are IMO the second-fastest position to adapt to the NFL out of college (after RBs). I’d say, pick two WRs with the 1st and 2nd rdrs. We neglected the offense long enough, and we are in live-and-die-by-Rodgers mode anyway. Give him two studs for the years to come.
    Then… We need a run-stuffing IDL. Lowry and Lancaster are not consistent enough at that. DLs take a year or so to mature, so if we are winning the SB next season, we need a FA.
    For the ILB position, we can go both ways. ILBs transition well to the NFL, and we can also spend on a FA.
    TEs are slow to transition… so I am normally in favor of having other team do the development during their rookie years, only to poach them when they are a finished product. I’d say keep Tonyan and Sternberger, keep Lewis and maybe get a FA.
    Anything beyond that is a bonus (CBs, OL)

    Reply
    1. PF4L January 24, 2020

      So…..you say they neglected the offense, enough where you think they should draft a #1 and 2nd round receiver? What’s wrong with the receivers we have? Do we need to find new receivers with better personalities that Rodgers likes, so he can trust them? Or are you saying our receivers aren’t talented enough for Rodgers to trust them to the point we need to draft 2 in the 1st two rounds. Maybe you’re saying that the receivers we have, haven’t shown enough to be trusted?
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      I have to run out and get some tylenol

      Reply
      1. MJ January 24, 2020

        They are just average. Rodgers needs better than average. I thought I made that clear enough.

        Reply
      2. Mike Ditka's Mom January 28, 2020

        After reading your comment get me some too.

        Reply
  4. PF4L January 24, 2020

    Hmmm…just so i understand. You mention Rodgers can’t trust receivers (other than Adams). which further compounds the problem? So are you saying Rodgers creates more problems by refusing to trust his other receivers? Are you saying it’s Rodgers fault he doesn’t trust the other receivers? Do other receivers earn trust by their play, or is trust automatically given when a receiver signs his Packer contract, then full trust is given before running a route? Any clarification is appreciated.
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    Now…Rodgers can’t throw anyone open anymore you mention (other than Adams). Hmmm….Do you know why that is? Do receivers have any responsibility to get open on their own route running, or should they wait to be thrown open because Rodgers makes so much money? Just trying to understand you.
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    If the Packers wanted to trade their receivers (other than Adams) what do you think the highest draft pick they could get for either MVS, Allison,Lazard? Just curious. 3 1st? Two 7’s and a 6th? Two 3rds and a 2nd? Also, in closing, do you view any of those 3 as a #2 receiver?
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    I need to stop now, i’m getting dizzy

    Reply
    1. MJ January 24, 2020

      What’s so hard to grasp? Adams gets a ton of separation. It’s almost his trademark. The other guys get less separation. They are just guys.

      Coaches coach and players play. If they field those WR Rodgers needs to throw them the ball. If their separation is rather pedestrian, Rodgers could, in the past, help them.with ball.placement. Now he helps them with good placement as often as he hinders them with knee-level passes.

      So, I’ll say it again. The guys we have are, other than Adams, just run-of-the-mill receivers. Every team has them, so your snarky comment about their trade value is ridiculous.

      Now, any argument you want to add, beyond straw-manning the ones I provided?

      Reply
      1. PF4L January 24, 2020

        Ok, we have Adams and then average NFL receivers, It’s quite possible i just don’t know what an average receiver looks like, but i’m learning. Thanks for the lesson Sparky.
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        What are the chances 2 of those average NFL receivers are out of the league soon. Don’t answer that, i know you don’t like too. Maybe they’ll be on someones practice squad, maybe they can join average receiver J’Mon Moore on the Browns practice squad. Get the band back together.
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        Geronimo Allison PFF = 54.1
        MVS PFF = 57
        Jimmy G PFF = 55

        What could go wrong?……¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Reply
        1. MJ January 25, 2020

          Nah, nah… You are not getting away with that one, my aways-esteemed PF.
          You conveniently forgot to mention Lazard and Kumerow, with PFF ratings in the 70s and 60s. There you have your average WRs. To me, that means capable of winning their own 1-on-1s, but not as consistently as to force a defense to commit either a shutdown CB or safety help to them. By “winning their 1-on-1s” I mean without relying on a perfectly thrown pass by the QB putting the ball out of the DB’s range while making it catchable for the WR in question.

          Allison is, by all measurables, a bad WR, and yet he made some catches this season, including a critical 3rd conversion against the 49ers. MVS has speed and height going for him, so maybe that buys him one more year to develop and contribute. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.

          Reply
          1. PF4L January 25, 2020

            Ok ok, you caught me…kind of. I think Lazard played average. I just need a larger body of work. What i like about him, is out of 35 receptions, he moved the chains 24 times. For a UDFA, essentially in his 1st year, he had a nice season.
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            Jake Kumerow had some nice catches…but again, an even smaller body of work than Lazard. Out of the two, i think Lazard has more potential to be a #3.
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            Thanks for acknowledging Allison is poor. All receivers at this level are capable of making “some” catches. But it doesn’t mean they’ll stay in the NFL long. See Jeff Janis.
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            I’ve been known to be a (hopeful) supporter of MVS. But by all accounts, the scouting reports on him have been true. Here’s the thing….You have a tall, fast receiver (which are gold in the NFL), so don’t you then question, what is he lacking that he would drop to the 5th round? I remember a guy, tall, fast, metrics similar to Julius Jones, who was taken in the 7th round. Well….there are reasons why they are taken in the later rounds, something is very wrong, or they are viewed as a big project. Most don’t stay in the league long, despite their height, vertical, 40 speed, metrics, etc. Scouts get things wrong sometimes…but they get things right far more than they get it wrong.
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            When the Packers draft players, the very first thing i do is look at scouting reports. I don’t look on you tube for college highlights…at all. Based on those video’s, everyone’s a future HOF’er.
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            Blame Rodgers for his obvious fuck ups, throwing behind, over throws, etc…i’m down with that. But…don’t blame him for bad draft picks, or the team neglecting the offense, or royally fucking up in releasing a TD scoring machine, then shitting the bed in free agency and giving 30 million to Jimmy G. I don’t care who you are, if someone thinks Graham was worth anywhere near 30 million, your a god damn fool, and that includes Gute.
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            People say Rodgers can’t improve the play of the receivers around him like he used to. (One of the dumbest things i ever read). Go back and look at the receivers he had back then, compared to now. DUH!!
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            Sometimes a simple mind may make for a happy life, but it doesn’t make for good analytical football conversation.

            Reply
  5. Stiggy January 24, 2020

    Rodgers was dog shit in the niners game…but so was the entire team. Common rob… garbage time passing yards down 27-0 mean nothing.

    Reply
  6. PF4L January 25, 2020

    Stigg, at the beginning of the game when Green Bay had the ball, did you notice what their obvious strategy was, and the results?

    Reply
  7. Kato January 26, 2020

    Lol, most of Rodgers stats were garbage time stats. How was he when the game was in reach?

    Reply
    1. PF4L January 26, 2020

      So the entire 2nd half was garbage time? I guess the Packer defense allowing 27 points had nothing to do with it being “garbage time” and they bear no responsibilty? But why would Kato put any blame on the defense when he seems to get all his jollys (obsessively) bashing Rodgers…..everyday. Based on Kato’s laughter in his comment while bashing Rodgers, i think it’s very possible he roots against Rodgers during games. Showing us what kind of Packer fan he really is. To me i see genuine Packer fans, and every once in awhile i see POS Packer fans.

      Reply
      1. Robster January 26, 2020

        I agree. Rodgers at one time was either 29 or 30 out of 36. Two of his strikes to Lazard and his throw to Kumerow were top-notch, as were virtually all of his throws to Davante. To me this game established beyond any doubt that any physical slippage in Rodgers has been “de minimus.”. The mental component of his game is another subject – to which I subscribe to stubbornness, not aging.

        Reply
        1. PF4L January 26, 2020

          Agreed Rob, but i subscribe to the process of change, before stubborness or aging. When you do something the same way for over a decade (with success)…….. I think that’s the mental aspect.
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          That is why i say even if everything was as is next season, this offense will still be better with time, imo.

          Reply
  8. Deepsky January 27, 2020

    I blame Rodgers the most for results of the 49ers game, not because of his lack of arm or scrambling ability, but because of the turnovers. Although clearly in decline, Rodgers is very capable of taking the Packers back to the Super Bowl. He rarely turns over the ball, which is what is needed, plus I see better things out of this offense. The Packers had a top 5 offense in the first quarter this year, then it dropped significantly in the next 3 quarters when the plays probably weren’t practiced the previous week. That tells me the team simply doesn’t know the offense yet which could account for the inaccurate throws and receiver mistakes. How many times did the Packers run the hurry up offense – almost never – and more proof they don’t know the offense. Another offseason in this offense will help significantly. Matt Ryan had an 89 QB rating the first year he was coached by Kyle Shanahan. The second year in this offense, his QB rating shot up nearly 30 points. So you can’t blame Rodgers aging yet on the short comings of this offense.

    Reply

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