Over the past few weeks this question has been all the rage in Wisconsin and in the NFL. What happen to the super human quarterback who had a vice like grip on NFL and everyone in it? I challenge you to find a bigger supporter of No. 12 than yours truly, and even I have found myself staring in disbelief, wondering how this Greek god of a quarterback became a mere mortal. The answer to that question surely isn’t known by anybody, but here are some ideas and some things to look for as the Packers prepare to take on the Giants.
Aaron Rodgers has put up numbers in his career that make you think there must be some kind of mistake. Not the sheer amount of yards and touchdowns, but the efficiency and precision with which he did it. Just take a look at some of the records that Rodgers holds. His career passer rating is 104.0, Russell Wilson is second 101.6 with Tony Romo rounds out the top three at 97.1. His touchdown to interception ratio is even gaudier, sitting at 4 to 1. Russell Wilson is again the closest (3.15 to 1) and Tom Brady rounds out the top three (2.85 to 1). Those numbers make sense when you consider that he has the lowest interception percentage in history and the highest touchdown percentage of any quarterback since 1975. The point I’m trying to make here is that Rodgers isn’t just good, he’s a once in a life-time talent.
All that being said, let’s take a look at his last 15 games (from Week 8 last year through Week 3 this year, including playoffs). In that span, his quarterback rating has been a paltry 82.9, his touchdown to interception ratio is 2.7 to 1, and his completion percentage is 57.3%. Those numbers aren’t bad for most quarterbacks, but they are putrid for Aaron Rodgers. He’s been so good in his career that we as fans were justified in blaming every other part of the Packers for the team’s struggles last season, but now the rest of the team is clicking and it’s clear that Rodgers is the only part that’s out of sync. Jordy Nelson is back and as good as ever, hauling in four touchdowns and 27 receptions in his first three games back from a torn ACL, Eddie Lacy has averaged 5.0 yards per carry, the receivers have gotten open, and the defense is the best it’s been since the Super Bowl run in 2010.
So what’s the deal? There are a couple ideas that have been floating around lately.
- Defenses have figured out the Packers’ offense
The argument here is obviously that teams have finally figured out how to outsmart the Packers and the offense just can’t keep up. This thought is incorrect. NFL coordinators aren’t as fickle as some fans would like to believe, and when new offenses come in it doesn’t often take long for defenses to figure them out. The Packers offense isn’t built on tricks and gimmicks that a defense can figure out, it is built on precision and takes advantages of the gaps in a defense, which isn’t something that should just go away in a puff of smoke. It also doesn’t explain the missed throws and miscommunications that have typified Rodgers over the past 15 games.
- Rodgers is past his prime and on the downswing
Anybody with half a brain can see the tremendous ability that Rodgers possesses, he just hasn’t turned that ability into miraculous play after miraculous play as we’re used to. Don’t buy into anybody telling you that the man is past his prime. He’s a 32 year-old quarterback who takes care of his body, meaning that in the modern NFL he’s got as many as 10 years ahead of him, and several where he’s at the top of his game.
- He’s in a slump
Of the three ideas to this point, this is the most plausible. No player goes through a career without a slump of some sorts, and it’s hard to point to any other point in Rodgers career as a slump of any sort. The main detractor against this argument is that it’s not often slumps last almost a full year, which is what this run of poor play is approaching. His performance against Detroit last week (15 for 24 passing, 204 yards, four touchdowns, 129.3 passer rating) was a flash of the man we know and expect to see at quarterback, indicating a slump may be a thing of the past.
- Dissent within the Packers Organization
Along with the slump idea, this thought is the one I’d give the most credence to. The sight of arguments on the Packers’ sidelines is more common now than ever before in the McCarthy Era, especially between Rodgers and McCarthy. That frustration and dissent can easily manifest itself in miscommunications, distraction, and poor play. When players such as Josh Sitton are cut out of the blue, it leads to valid questions about what’s going on behind closed doors. If harmony were restored we may see a return to the Packers offense that has typified the Rodgers and McCarthy years.
As stated earlier, it’s impossible to say for certain what’s causing Aaron Rodgers’ poor play. The only thing that is for certain is that the play has been poor by his standards. For his sake, for the Packers’ sake, for our sake, here’s hoping things turn around soon.