Aaron Rodgers is widely considered to be one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he’s played at times in 2010. Over the past two games especially, Rodgers has performed below expectations – and not coincidentally, the Packers lost both of those games.
Week 5 at Washington, Rodgers completed only 27-of-46 passes, threw for just one touchdown and tossed the overtime interception that set up Washington’s game-winning field goal. Last weekend against Miami, Rodgers connected on 18-of-33 for 313 yards, much of that coming on one huge play to Greg Jennings, with one TD and one pick. He did punch in the game-tying touchdown on a QB sneak at the end of regulation, but once again, the Packers failed to make it happen in overtime and wound up on the short end.
Of course those poor performances weren’t entirely Rodgers’ fault. He was sacked nine times in those two games, partly because his offensive line is not that good, partly because defenses know the Packers can’t run and therefore load up to come after the QB. The Packers have also, as their fans never tire of reminding us, been hit by injuries to key offensive players, including Ryan Grant who is out for the season and Jermichael Finley who may end up being out for the season. The loss of these weapons has clearly affected the team’s offensive efficiency.
And then there’s the gameplan, which has come under fire from lots of quarters, including Rodgers himself. After a squeaker of a win against Detroit a couple of weeks ago, Rodgers offered up some criticism of Mike McCarthy‘s approach, saying, “Offensively we’ve got to find our identity again. I think we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got our best players on the field at all times and find ways to get them the ball. We had some ad-libs today where we hit Donald (Driver) on the big play today. Take that play away and there’s clearly not a whole lot of production. We ran 42 plays or 45 — I don’t remember how many plays we ran — but it’s not going to cut it.”
McCarthy responded to Rodgers’ comments by politely reminding him who is the coach and who is the player. These words clearly resonated with Rodgers, because now he is taking blame on himself rather than dishing it out. On Wednesday, Rodgers told the media he needs to play better if the Packers are going to turn around their fading season.
“I have to look at myself first and I have to play better,” Rodgers said. “I have not been playing up to the standard I’ve set…in my 38 starts.”
Kudos to Rodgers for not leaning on the injury or “my offensive line sucks” excuse. Of course just copping to your own lack of effectiveness is not enough – you have to go out and actually improve your play. If Rodgers is to do so, he will have to manage it without his top tight end or any kind of a running game. And, given the Packers’ offensive line woes, he will likely continue being pounded on a weekly basis, which will help neither his passer rating nor his physical well-being.
The Vikings hope the downward trend continues Sunday night in Green Bay, because they could really use the win. Rodgers did play well against Minnesota last season, but the Vikings also hit him a ton, and wound up beating the Packers twice. After Sunday, we’ll know for sure if the Packers and Rodgers have finally moved past the whole Brett Favre thing, or are still emotionally hung up on their ex-quarterback, who unlike Rodgers actually won some big games for them.