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The Ascendancy of the NFL Quarterback

We’ve all watched, helplessly, as the NFL has evolved into a passing league. Has this been good for the game, and for fan viewership? Packer fans, who’ve had a high-quality QB for going on 30 years, probably haven’t minded a bit, while the Jaguars, Jets, and so on, stay stuck in the mud.

We’re now approaching the midway mark in the regular season – enough time to pretty well see who are the contenders, and who are the pretenders. Let’s see where the Packers have fared against opposing quarterbacks up to this point of the season.

The top ten passer ratings (prior to Monday night’s game) belong to: Russell Wilson ( SEA, 125.3), Kyler Murray (ARI, 116.8), Matthew Stafford (LAR, 116.7), Dak Prescott (DAL, 115.0), Joe Burrow (CIN, 108.9), Aaron Rodgers (108.2), Tom Brady (TB. 108.2), Jameis Winston (NO, 108.1), Kirk Cousins (MIN, 105.4), and Josh Allen (BUF, 103.6). Mon Saints & Seahawks

There, fans, are your contenders – well, more or less. Can we eliminate the 2-4 Seahawks and injured QB Wilson? A recent addition to the list is the Bengals’ 2nd year man Burrow. Surely we can drop the 3-3 Vikings from the list, despite Kirk Cousins having another decent year. And does anyone have faith in the Saints’ seventh-year man Winston limiting his turnovers as the season wears on?

Are there any contenders who don’t have the services of a top-ten passer? We’ve got to include the 5-2 Ravens – with their run-and-pass wunderkind Lamar Jackson (17th best passer rating). Nor can we forget about the 5-2 Titans, with 23rd-ranked Ryan Tannehill (89.0) and the incomparable RB Derek Henry. At age 33, Tannehill has slipped from his previous two seasons (117.5 and 106.5).

Is anyone ready to pick a Super Bowl QB or two at this point? Brady again? Dak? Josh Allen? Stafford and the Rams? Can Brady repeat?

Packers’ Schedule to Date and Coming Up

I’ll ignore the season opener with the Saints, as it was a horrific aberration. In the other six games, who among the current top-ten QBs have the Packers faced? Just one: Cincy’s Joe Burrow – in that field goal debacle overtime win. The Packers have mostly avoided the top QBs so far, in part because many of them reside in the AFC.

Ah, but that’s about to abruptly change. The Pack plays the undefeated Cards on Thursday night. In Week 10, it’s the Seahawks and maybe Russell Wilson (I’ll bet he plays). In Week 12 it’s the Rams, and in Week 15 it’s the Ravens. By the way, did you see that the Cards just added TE Zach Ertz to their roster? You can do things like that when you have a star QB who’s still under his rookie contract terms through 2023.

Additionally, our guys play a number of other teams with winning records: Lamar Jackson and the Ravens (5-2) in Week 15, the Browns (Case Keenum/Baker Mayfield) on Week 16, and divisional rival Vikings on Weeks 11 and 17. And I’m certainly not ready to count out the 3-4 Chiefs – what’s with Mahomes, anyway?

Given the Pack’s injury picture, I’m without my usual optimism. I’d settle for a split in the remaining ten games, which would put the Pack at 11-6 – enough to win the division and enter the postseason playing at home. Realistic? I think so.

Final Thoughts

In watching Taylor Heinicke, who has the 24th-ranked passer rating, I’m drawn back to the notion of the value of a running quarterback. Heinicke, who totaled 95 rushing yards in 10 carries, was far and away Washington’s leading ground gainer against Green Bay – whose three RB’s managed only 27 yards in 12 carries. Five of Heinicke’s runs went for first downs, including converting a 4th down and 14 to go in the game’s waning minutes. Guys of modest passing prowess, like Heinicke, can add years to their pro careers and greatly contribute to their offenses by running for yardage in the right situations.

Before you conclude that Heinicke must be an extraordinary athlete, like Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, or Josh Allen, he’s 6’ tall and weighs 214, and with a Combine dash time of 4.62. He got his 95 yards on Sunday by breaking out of the pocket, running north and south, and sliding prior to defenders closing in on him. He didn’t need to put any moves on or break any tackles. I believe a running QB provides an opposing defense with its most difficult challenge.

Again by the way, Arizona’s Kyler Murray, who is nearly identical in size to Aaron Jones, and after rushing 133 times for 819 yards (5.2 ave.) last season, is off to a more modest start this season: 43 rushes for 126 yards (2.7 ave.) Will he burn the Packers on Thursday for 100+ yards on the ground? I’d be grateful for anything less.

To date Aaron Rodgers has been very smart, as you’d expect, in deciding when to break out of the passing pocket and run. He’s done it only on critical occasions, and he’s avoided contact. All those commenters who a week or so ago were advocating that Rodgers forego running at this stage of his career (here and here) might want to revise their thinking a bit. Quarterbacks usually get hurt when their pass protection breaks down and they get blindsided. QBs who judiciously scramble and run for yardage in open space do so in “relative” safety.

Rob Born

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

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18 Comments

  1. Deepsky October 27, 2021

    The Packers have a very tough schedule going forward. As I posted previously, there’s a good chance they could lose their next 5 games. They have gotten by by playing teams that could not capitalize on the weak, injured secondary and abysmal red zone defense. That won’t be an problem for the Chiefs, Cardinals, Rams, Ravens and even the Vikings. They need Alexander back. They needed Z Smith, but maybe Mercilus can fill that role. I think the Packers will lose the majority of their last 10 games and probably end up 10-7, which means another home loss to Tom Brady or worse, Mike McCarthy.

    Rodgers has a good QB rating, but I know that prior to the last game, his QB rating for passes over 20 yards was only 48. Many sports commentators are starting to question Rodgers’ accuracy with the long pass. Part of that is because MVS is out but his long passes have been off. Part of me wonders if he’s losing his arm strength like Drew Brees the last few years.

    Reply
    1. PF4L October 27, 2021

      Deep…most of his passes have been of the dink and dunk variety.
      People have been trying to write off Rodgers since 2015.

      Tommie and I are having none of it.

      Reply
    2. Dean October 28, 2021

      Nice effort all around by a physical GB team win missing 4 all-pros and 3/4 other starters.

      Reply
  2. Tom M October 27, 2021

    It will all come down to who gets healthy and who gets hot in December and January. And it could be any number of teams in the NFC. The one thing they will have in common is a top tier QB regardless of QB rating. Kyler Murray is in the MVP conversation because he’s running less and throwing more. QB’s get hurt when they get hit, blindside or otherwise. It still isn’t wise for a soon to be 38 yr old QB to run with the football. Run your HC’s offense, spread the ball around, and get the ball out fast. It’s the best way to stay healthy and to have a great passer rating that everyone seems to think is important but really isn’t. If the defense holds the Cardinals to under 30 then it’s on “Michael Jordan” to win the game in Arizona tomorrow night. Even without Adams and Lazard. The great ones elevate those around him. It’s time to find out what we have in Malik Taylor, Amari Rodgers, and Equanimeuos St Brown. I’d swing Jones out of the backfield and use him as a receiver and run the ball with Dillion. Rodgers has to start throwing to Tonyan more especially if he can’t hit MVS on deep routes. The injury to Alexander is far more costly than missing Adams. As the trading deadline nears there’s been a few foolish articles that say we should trade Jordan Love. And because it is a QB driven league, that’s exactly why you do not.

    Reply
  3. PF4L October 27, 2021

    “QB’s get hurt when they get hit, blindside or otherwise.” Tommi
    .
    Thank you Tommi, i didn’t even realize that.
    A QB can get hurt when he gets hit?…..WOW…that is just crazy…right?
    .
    It’s a wonder….whenever i feel like i finally know everything, bingo bango bongo…i learn some more.
    .
    That’s a lot to take in for one day, my head hurts, i think i better go lie down for awhile.
    .
    Thanks for the teaching moment Tommi. your insight and knowledge is of great value to us.
    .
    QB’s can get hurt when hit?….mind boggling stuff.
    .
    Thanks again Princess :)

    Reply
    1. Ferris October 27, 2021

      Or when they try to deliver a hit. Like stupid no brain Baker Mayfield.

      Reply
    2. Tom M October 28, 2021

      And this is how it always starts with you. Rather than say something intelligent, which you can’t seem to do, you try and challenge me. Stick to what you do best PF4L. Make love to your stats, expound on the virtues of team captains and catch rates. And tell us how Kurt Benkert in an NFL QB and Rashan Gary is a bust. You never have anything meaningful to say. You criticize management and make excuses for Rodgers and quote stats. That’s all you do. Tell us why we win or lose tonight. We can win without Adams. Can we win without Alexander going against a top tier NFL QB? Joe Burrow was a missed FG from beating us. Justin Fields and Taylor Hienike came close. If Joe Barry’s defense holds Kyler Murray under 30, then it’s on Aaron to get it done. No excuses. This is a game we can win tonight even without Adams and Alexander but “Micheal Jordan” has to be great. Don’t want to hear you tell me how great Aaron Rodgers is. I want to see it. You tell me he’s the best, then get it done.

      Reply
      1. PF4L October 28, 2021

        First of all Tommi….all i did was shower you with praise.
        Be thankful
        .
        Secondly: You are correct, i don’t know the first thing about NFL Football or the Green Bay Packers.
        Hence…why i never have anything meaningful to say.
        That is of course, other than things i write…and then you repeat. Correct isn’t it?
        You got me pretty much dialed in don’t you Princess?
        .
        “ALL i do is criticize management and make excuses for Rodgers” – Tommi
        Is that right Tommi?
        .
        Doing that is wrong Tommi because…..?
        .
        A) Packer Management is virtually untouchable and rarely makes any mistakes and as a fan i have no right to question them?……….Is that Tommi logic again?
        .
        B) Nothing that happens inside Packers management or on the field concerning other players performance on the team, has ANY direct effect on Rodgers performance….so therefore….i should shut my mouth and come to terms with the fact that anything bad that happens to the Packers on/off the field is all Rodgers fault?….Of course it is!…under Tommi logic.
        .
        C) A&B…and Tommi continues to be loudmouth blowhard.
        ************************************
        “ALL i do is criticize management and make excuses for Rodgers” – Tommi
        Is that right Tommi?
        .
        So, according to Tommi logic i never give credit to management…past or present, and i’ve never criticized Rodgers?
        .
        Ooooooh Princess…..you blind and stupid squirrel.
        .
        Then you wonder why others call you cunt in here?
        .
        Have a nice day my friend.
        .
        SKOL

        Reply
        1. Tom M October 29, 2021

          After all that and you never mentioned a word on why we would win or lose last night. We won because we ran the ball and played defense. We dominated time of possession. When’s the last time we’ve done that ladies? We’ve got a defense and we can run the ball. You see kitten, we have to transition away from Aaron Rodgers. Why? Because he’s told us he doesn’t want to play for the Packers anymore. He told us that all offseason. Nothing has changed. And damn Brian Gutekunst for actually building a team that can win without him! No wonder you girls hate him so much. Not to worry, you’ll be able to follow you man love on a lesser team next year where he maybe. And you can blame their management for his failures.

          Reply
          1. PF4L October 29, 2021

            Aaron Rodgers vs Kyler Murray
            .
            It’s fairly obvious who the better QB was.
            .
            It’s also a good thing Gute went out and signed Cobb.
            His two TD catches were pivotal.
            .
            Don’t look now but Cobb is tied with RB Jones for the team lead in TD receptions with 4.
            Credit when due, i guess Gute was right trading for Cobb.
            .
            OMG…i talked stats….are the “gloves coming off”?
            Lmao

            Reply
          2. PF4L November 1, 2021

            Still taking off the gloves?…lol
            .
            Understood…take your time. :)

            Reply
  4. Ed October 28, 2021

    Go back and look at the 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 drafts and see
    who the Pack drafted at skill positions on offense.

    Could any other brain trust do that bad of a job.

    And now they want me to buy more stock ?
    I love the Packers. But sorry. I’ll buy more stock when Murphy’s gone.

    Reply
  5. PF4L October 28, 2021

    Tommi….how many targets for Rodgers favorite receiver Randall Cobb tonight..15-20?
    I mean….he has his back…..right?
    What did Cobb get last game…0 targets?
    .
    Or are you not entering that realm in light of how stupid you looked the last time you made that a topic of discussion?

    Reply
    1. Dean October 28, 2021

      2 TDs on 5 targets for Cobb.

      Reply
      1. PF4L October 29, 2021

        Your silence answered my last question Princess…..thanks :)

        Reply
  6. Howard October 28, 2021

    In regards to Murray, I think the Cardinals and Murray have shied away from Murray running as much since the throwing shoulder injury last year. In addition Murray has been dinged a few times this season. I know against the 49ers Murray hurt his throwing shoulder or arm. Murray also took a couple of big hits against the Texans on Sunday.
    .
    In the last three Cardinals games it appeared to me the Cardinals and Murray are even more resolute in trying to have Murray avoid running the ball on option plays. I guess it is possible that after the Cardinals saw what Heinicke did to the Packers on the ground they let Murray take off more often. Joe Barry has game planned against Murray and the Cardinals heavy QB run/pass option offense four times in the last 2 years. Although Barry won’t be calling the plays, Barry was involved in the game planning this week. It will be interesting to see how the Packers play Murray’s option motions. If it was me I make Murray keep the ball, but that will require a strong and disciplined surge by the front 4 or 5, and the linebackers and safeties not getting drawn up by the run option fake only to have Murray throw over them.
    .
    Murray has put the ball on the ground a few times in the last 2 or 3 games when carrying out the QB run/pass option handoffs and fakes. There have also been some errant Cardinals shotgun snaps in recent games. Not sure if the errant snaps and handoffs/fakes are normal for the Cardinals? So far they have been lucky because all the fumbles and errant snaps have been recovered by Murray. Maybe that will change this week?

    Reply
    1. Dean October 28, 2021

      I think AZ is playing the third string Center tonight…

      Reply
  7. Ferris October 29, 2021

    I just have two questions. How could they overturn that TD? (Clear visual evidence?) And why has Kenny King not been waived already? They can’t let that guy back on the field ever again. Just keep him “injured” or cut him.

    Reply

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