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Rodgers’ Quicker Release Won Him the MVP Trophy

Last Monday Wes Hodkiewicz published an in-depth article on the Packers’ website about Aaron Rodgers’ journey to his third NFL MVP award. Hod attempted to explain how Rodgers and his team turned in “one of the most decorated quarterback season in league history.”

From the first days of training camp, Hod noted that Rodgers was off to a strong start. When asked about his fast start, Rodgers said it had to do with his review of a film session from the 2010 season. He refused, however, to share the precise secret with us.

He apparently even kept Coach LaFleur in the dark. When asked about it, LaFleur replied: “I’m not exactly sure what he saw but I like how he’s playing right now. LaFleur summed up Aaron’s worth this way: “He’s the heart and soul of our football team. . .Just so appreciative of him buying into what we’re trying to get done around here and leading that group.”

Two days after the NFC title game Rodgers made his regular weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show,” and McAfee asked his buddy to reveal the secret as to what he saw in the 2010 film study. Rodgers said it had to do with sinking into his hitch at the top of his drop-back, and needing to put more weight on his knee when he stepped into the throw. Aaron also relayed that he did more conditioning and training in the offseason to strengthen his legs and regain trust in his knee.

And there you have the explanation of how Rodgers was able to return to his MVP form of 2011 and 2014. Only I’m not buying it.

The Prankster

I don’t doubt that Rodgers’ story about the film review and putting more weight onto his knee as he steps into his throws is true, but I hardly think this was the key to Rodgers’ transformation.

Right off the bat, why would this observation be kept such a secret? Why would the QB not even share it with his head coach? The fact that Aaron finally revealed the secret on his BFF’s program smacks more of hyping his buddy’s weekly show than anything else.

I don’t think you go from a passer rating of 95.4 to 121.5 due to an adjustment in your throwing mechanics. You don’t so easily go from 21st in the league in completion percentage to the top of the heap. You don’t go from 18th in the league in scoring to first – based on a weight shift. It takes more than that to go from around a top-10 quarterback to MVP.

You sure as hell don’t go from one of the league’s most-sacked QBs, year after year, to being sacked 20 times in 2020. In fact, take away the Panthers and Bucs games, and Rodgers was sacked 11 times in the remaining 14 games – that can’t be explained away by a change in Rodgers’ throwing motion.

Aaron is known to be a consummate media relations guy. When things get dull, he’s always there to create a bit of mystery, drama, or even controversy. Aaron does as much to create deception and misdirection off the field as he does on it. I think he “pranked” most of Packer Nation with that Super Bowl season film study revelation.

Though I never swallowed the bait, I did offer my own thoughts – in 2019, 2020, and 2021 – on how Aaron could return to being the game’s best quarterback.

A Realistic Improvement Plan for Aaron Rodgers

In a 2019 post, in a subsection titled “Time to Throw,” I used Next Gen statistics to show that Rodgers, though still possessing one of the NFL’s best arms and best minds, was wallowing near the bottom of the league in the time it took him to select his target and launch the ball on its way. I advocated that he use Drew Brees as a role model for quickly selecting a target and getting the throw off. I concluded the post as follows:

“My remedial plan is simply to establish ‘time to throw’ as the primary yardstick of Rodgers’ performance. It should be the main focus at practices, and diligently graded and studied following each game. . .Put succinctly, Aaron has become too slow in making his throws. He needs to grip it and rip it. Maybe the above proposal, or some version of it, would help.”

In 2020, Aaron actually surpassed Drew, the master of the quick release, in completion percentage: 70.7 versus 70.5.

A Surgical Look at Aaron Rodgers’ 2020 Performance

After lots of referencing back to my earlier post, I related that, just two games into the 2020 season, my eyes beheld Aaron Rodgers releasing the ball much more quickly than he had in the past. I made bold to predict things to come the rest of the season based on just those first two games[Link]:

“I’ll be closely tracking Aaron’s TT (time to throw) stats over the course of the season, watchful for signs of regression. I’m hopeful that LaFleur and his coaching staff will do the same.

If Rodgers can stay on track all season, we’re looking at passing efficiency that can match that of his 2014 or 2012 seasons. Even without a big change by Rodgers, now that Matt LaFleur is in his second year of installing his potent brand of offense, I’d expect a 10-point increase in Aaron’s passer rating, which slid to 95.4 last year, from that alone.

The legendary veteran might even approach his record of 2011, when he established the all-time NFL passer rating standard of 122.5. The only thing that stopped that juggernaut of a team from grasping the Lombardi Trophy was a porous defense.”

There you have it. Rodgers did indeed threaten to surpass the league’s best-ever passer rating. He also led the league with a 70.7 completion percentage, which handily bested his previous efficiency marks in 2014 (65.6%) and 2012 (67.2%). I also predicted a big uptick in the team’s third down conversion rates, and a greater time-of-possession differential – all keyed by Aaron’s time-to-throw improvement. All these speculations came to pass.

Remember: The Team with the Ball Dictates the Action

About a month ago, I did a preliminary review of some of the predictions I made based on what I saw in the first two games of the season. In the subsection titled “Quick Passing,” I made some further predictions:

“Though Aaron strayed a bit from his quick-release practice during the season (finishing at 2.72 seconds), I believe his big improvement in this area accounts for his very low number of sacks, 20, on the season. If Aaron releases his passes in the 2.5 seconds range versus the Rams, Aaron Donald and his mates won’t be getting any sacks – regardless of how well or poorly the Pack’s O-line blocks. The quick release is the optimum way of thwarting a strong pass rush. It also frustrates the hell out of those mammoth pass rushers.”

One day later, the Packers trounced the Rams by a score of 32 to 18. Wonder of wonders, against a team known for its stifling defense, Rodgers went 23 for 36, for 296 yards and two touchdowns, the team went 8 for 12 in third-down conversions, they ran up 484 total yards, they had 12 more minutes of time of possession – and Rodgers was never sacked. (Sorry, I don’t know what Rodgers’ time-to-throw average was against the Rams or the Bucs.)

Conclusion

Forget all that jazz about Rodgers doing lots of leg training and stepping into his knee more when he releases his throws. For now at least, I’m sticking with my theory.
More than ever, I believe that Rodgers won that MVP trophy because he made and kept a commitment to more quickly select a receiver and send the ball on its way to him. If he keeps the commitment again in 2021- and beyond – many more good things are in store for Packer fans.

 

Nov 22, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) passes the ball in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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10 Comments

  1. PF4L February 13, 2021

    It’s easier to have a quick release when you have an offense designed for a quick release and you have people open to release it to. This isn’t rocket science. This is 3 guys getting together and putting together an offense everyone could live with and believe in. The science was simple….be open minded and smart enough to work together as a team in the off season.
    .
    It has been reported that each, or some of the participance could take out plays that they didn’t like…..period.
    (Why have plays in that somebody doesn’t believe in, right?).
    .
    I’m not going to pretend like i was there and i know how it all went down.
    But…….i think the offensive results speaks for itself on how that plan of attack was instituted and executed. All done btw…..without a true consistent #2 receiver. I think that’s damn impressive.
    .
    As far as the secret?…lol
    I think occasionally Rodgers toys with people mentally, and plays them like a violin.
    I read Packernews.com back when Wes Hodkiewicz was hired out of school and had snot running out of his nose.
    He’s a younger version of green and gold Larry McCarren but without the football background.
    Somebody with the Packers fast tracked Wes’s hiring by the Packers.
    He’s just another Packer puppet.

    Reply
  2. Cheese February 14, 2021

    So I saw this interesting headline…
    .
    “Insane stat shows just how bad Packers needed to draft a wide receiver.”
    For the second year in a row, Aaron Rodgers’ receivers lost the most yards in the league to drops: 552 yards.
    That was more than 100 yards than second-placed Patrick Mahomes who threw 97 more passes than him.
    .
    A lot of those missed yards are probably from MVS. Too bad Funchess and his 50% catch rate weren’t around to help pad that stat.

    Reply
    1. Ferris February 15, 2021

      Who are the people that sit in the rooms and compile these stats? Sad…wait I may know one of them….

      Reply
  3. PF4L February 15, 2021

    G D I Ferris, that was a sick burn. I didn’t know ya had it in ya.
    .
    I think maybe the message you missed was, since the Packers started dismantling the receiving core since early 2018. Maybe……since it’s 2021, maybe we should try to find a true #2 receiver?
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    When i say “true” i mean consistent…runs a full route tree, catches an acceptable percentage of targets.
    .
    We’re heading into our (Gutes) 4th season now and so far, no serious attempt has been made to replace Jordy, or Cobb for that matter.
    .
    Not one serious attempt. Hopefully, if all goes according to Packer history of filling positional need, we’ll have one by 2024?
    .
    Maybe once we stop stockpiling tight ends, drafting non starters, we can give it a go. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    .
    But enough about tight ends, future RB’s, a QB who won’t play for years. Let Gute get focused, he’s about to draft for defense again after a 1 year hiatus, where he didn’t want to draft a receiver in the past because backups…are too valuable to pass up.
    .
    But who knows, maybe he’ll draft 3 more receivers in the 5th,6th and 7th round and see if one sticks.

    Reply
  4. PF4L February 15, 2021

    “Matt LaFleur Now Has Leverage Over His Star Quarterback” – May 20th 2020
    (I laughed and laughed and laughed.)
    .
    On Notice!
    ************
    “The discussion leads back to the acquisition of Jordan Love. No question, the Packers’ general manager has put Aaron on notice” – anonymous
    (i didn’t get you a wide receiver, instead i used a 1st and a 4th for your replacement.. your on notice…..BITCH!!
    .
    “Here’s another post-draft bright side: due to the presence of Jordan Love, Matt LaFleur suddenly has genuine leverage over his veteran.” – anonymous
    (Leverage?…Jordan Love?….i started crying i laughed so hard!!)
    .
    “Aaron needs to get himself back to where he belongs: into the top-six group of quarterbacks – I’m not asking for more than that. If he won’t or can’t do this, I fully expect that Jordan Love will get some shots sometime during the 2021 season at the latest.” – anonymous
    .
    Hmmm. interesting….before Love gets some shots at QB’ing the Packers during the 2021 season, He should probably win the 2nd string job away from the current 2nd string QB….an undrafted free agent.
    .
    Plus that way….he’ll actually be activated for his first NFL game. Translation…The training wheels need to come off.
    .
    Leverage? lol
    Jordan Love …threat?…lol
    .
    I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!

    Reply
  5. Skinny February 15, 2021

    Cowherd hit it right on the head today on his show about Watt to the Packers. Good stuff. Hes not wrong.

    Reply
  6. PF4L February 16, 2021

    Fun Facts……Adrian Peterson is ordered to pay nearly $8.3 million in loan default case
    .
    “Adrian Peterson hopes to break Emmitt Smith’s record, chase ring until he’s 40”
    Published: Feb 15, 2021 at 09:04 PM
    .
    Translation: Da boy broke.
    .
    Here’s a guy, who has made 102 million in the last 14 years. But still needs to take out chunk loans in millions…which he doesn’t payback. This is his 3rd lawsuit ruled against him.
    .
    Petersons wonderlic score was 16. Which tells me he cheated, it couldn’t have been that high. A score of 10 is considered borderline illiterate.
    .

    Reply
  7. PF4L February 18, 2021

    Dan Graziano
    ESPN Staff Writer
    .
    The NFL has informed teams that the 2021 salary cap will be no lower than $180 million, a slight increase from last year’s previous agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association.
    *****************************
    This is something, but a 5 million dollar bump in the salary cap floor is still a big hit from 198 million.
    It’s speculated the cap…once set, will be 180 – 185 million, but closer to the 180 mark.
    .
    Originally… judged by how much revenue was lost during Covid. The consensus was that the salary cap should be scaled at 160 million.
    But…the NFL and NFLPA felt that was too low for obvious reasons. This is why they bargained together for the initial 175 mil. salary cap floor, and now readjusting that to 180 million.
    With the new league year starting soon, expect that 180 million mark to be a close representation of the new cap.
    .
    180 million is still a big hit, down 18 million from 2020, but factor in the absence of an escalating annual cap, and the spread is closer to 28 million dollar difference teams have to adjust to and what they financially planned for minus Covid.

    Reply
  8. Mick February 19, 2021

    So far, this is a bit of good news considering the circumstances. Seems like both the league and the NFLPA put their heads together and realized what they are faced with. As far as we know, there probably wasn’t much bickering going on during those meetings; at least not publicly.

    Reply
  9. PF4L February 20, 2021

    Rob…all three of those quotes you made about Rodgers. were made two weeks into the season?

    Reply

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