Aaron Rodgers is Not the Problem for the Packers

There were plenty of hot takes about Aaron Rodgers in the media after the Packers fell to the Seahawks on Thursday night.

To paraphrase: Rodgers makes the spectacular plays but not the routine ones; Rodgers isn’t clutch; Rodgers should be given more responsibility for the Packers woes; Rodgers doesn’t beat good quarterbacks anymore; See, this game proves Rodgers isn’t as good as Brady.

Let’s be clear about one thing – Aaron Rodgers is dead last on a long list of reasons for why the Packers are 4-5-1 and in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2006.

Could he be better? Of course. And there were a few plays on Thursday night where Rodgers absolutely should have made a different decision.

On the below 3rd-and-5 in the fourth quarter, Rodgers took a sack when he had a wide-open Aaron Jones out of the backfield for what looked like a certain first down. Watch Jones emerge at the top of the screen.

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Rodgers moved too early here and ended up taking a costly sack. Had he just moved through his progressions and come down to Jones, he likely would have had an easy first down. The Packers had to settle for a field goal instead.

Another play that garnered a lot of attention came on Green Bay’s final drive. On first down, Rodgers threw the ball away instead of, again, dumping it off to Aaron Jones out of the backfield. Watch Jones sneak out of the backfield and end up right over the center.

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To be fair to Rodgers, Jones had linebacker Bobby Wagner closing in on him while his back was turned. By the time Jones would have caught the ball, he likely would have been tackled immediately for just a 2-yard gain. The Packers would end up two yards short of the first-down marker on this drive, so maybe Rodgers should have taken this throw. But this wasn’t exactly the reason why Green Bay lost.

Two plays later, Rodgers one-hopped a 3rd-and-2 pass to end the drive. As he said after the game, the ball just stuck to his hand. This rare misfire by Rodgers was absolutely a throw that should have been completed.

Still, with four minutes remaining, this should not have been the last time Rodgers touched the ball. In fact, Green Bay should have gone for it on 4th down.

The choice Mike McCarthy faced was either putting the ball in Aaron Rodgers’ hands on 4th-and-2 or putting the ball in the hands of his defense, which was wearing down, had been gashed in the running game all night, and were facing a situation where the Seahawks were going to do nothing but run the ball.

McCarthy chose the latter. Unsurprisingly, the Packers never got the ball back.

We went through every throw and read of the game for Rodgers from Thursday night’s game. There were the three plays he would like to have back that we mentioned above. Aside from those, he made some spectacular throws, by and large took what the defense gave him, and kept the Packers in this game.

Is Aaron Rodgers having a great year by his standards? No. With that being said, he still has a rating of 102.2 on the year. He still has a 19-1 TD-INT ratio. He is averaging more than 300 passing yards per game. These are not just stats he has accumulated during garbage time of games.

Put that type of performance on most decent teams, and you’re talking about a playoff-caliber club. There is not some intangible that Rodgers is missing. There is not some unknown mystical force that is making the 2018 performances of Kirk Cousins, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Deshaun Watson, Tom Brady, Alex Smith, or Marcus Mariota (all having similar or worse seasons than Rodgers statistically) translate into more wins.

It might be boring and not make for a great sound bite in the media, but football is still a team game. The Packers are 4-5-1 because of a Clay Matthews game-extending roughing the passer penalty against the Vikings. They are 4-5-1 because Mason Crosby missed 4 field goals and an extra point in an 8-point loss to the Lions. They are 4-5-1 because of 4th quarter fumbles by Ty Montgomery against the Rams and Aaron Jones against the Patriots. They are 4-5-1 because Mike McCarthy failed to challenge a clearly incomplete pass on Seattle’s game winning drive, and Green Bay’s defense allowed 5 yards per carry.

Had Aaron Rodgers played better throughout this season, would the Packers be in a better position? Sure. But quarterback play is one of many components that determines winners and losers.

The discussion should not be about whether Aaron Rodgers deserves more blame for the Packers’ failures. This team would be vying for the top pick in next year’s draft without him. The discussion should instead be about how the Packers continue to surround Rodgers with a team that just isn’t competitive enough. The Packers do have some great individual talent, but the whole has been less than the sum of their parts for a while now, especially on defense – and that is not something Aaron Rodgers can control.