The New York Giants (11-5) rode a season-long defensive effort in 2016. The overall defensive effort propelled Big Blue into becoming point-stingy unit over the 16-game season. New York ranked second in the NFL; surrendering a mere 17.8 points per contest. This week’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers, are riding their own six-game winning streak. During that streak, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 15 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Sounds like the irresistible force is meeting the immovable object this Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Dec 24, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) acknowledges fans after the Packers 38-25 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Wood /Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK
Comparing Aaron Rodgers
Quite simply, Aaron Rodgers means more to the Green Bay Packers than any other player does to his team in these playoffs. That much cannot be denied. In his last seven games, Rodgers has thrown 18 touchdown passes and no interceptions. So let’s throw the dead cat onto the table right now.
Realistically, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb don’t make Rodgers better. The reverse is true. And Giants’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is no dummy. Spags faced and beat Tom Brady at his best, so Rodgers is certainly beatable.
This week, Big Blue should not play tapes of Super Bowl XLII, however. Rodgers is a different animal than Brady. Where Brady is technically sound, Rodgers doesn’t make the proper mechanics highlight tape.
And it doesn’t matter.
In this video, The Performance Lab of California attempts to compare Aaron Rodgers to Andrew Luck in their throwing motions. Ironically, the comparison is imprecise. The comparison throws are completely different. Luck throws inside the confines of the pocket, while Rodgers rolls out.
Ironically, no one seems to make this connection. Rodgers’ comfort zone falls outside of the normal quarterback pocket. Also, in reviewing game film, Rodgers also seems to have a preference to roll out to his left. Sometimes a left roll out happens organically, but most passers become infinitely more inaccurate doing that.
Uniquely, Rodgers remains comfortable with a left or right roll out.
Critiquing Aaron Rodgers
Earlier this season, Aaron Rodgers came under fire for his production. In fact Packers’ beat writer Bob McGinn emphatically stated on Oct. 15, 2016, “Rodgers should be categorized as a good veteran quarterback scuffling to regain his elite form.”
Good quarterbacks don’t come close to throwing 40 touchdowns in a season.
The fallacy of criticizing Rodgers was that it took a 16 consecutive game segment and gave it the credibility of a season. This is not the first time someone has made that type of comparison. Quite frankly, it’s irresponsible.
Another error comes into play from laying every offensive problem at the feet of Rodgers. “Through five weeks of the season the Packers ranked last in the NFL in average gain on first down at 3.79 yards. Atlanta leads at 8.63,” McGinn also wrote at the time.
From afar I know this much, Jordy Nelson was coming back from a knee injury. The team had also jettisoned offensive lineman Josh Sitton after training camp. Running back Eddie Lacy was never the total answer to the rushing attack.
In addition, McGinn quotes statistics and team metrics to critique Rodgers’ play. Football lags behind hockey and baseball in individual metrics, unless you count Pro Football Focus player grades. In that regard, Rodgers (92.6) was the third best QB in the league behind Tom Brady and Matt Ryan.
Irresponsibly, every offensive ill got heaped on Rodgers. That is until the conclusion of the 2016 season that saw Rodgers win six consecutive games to get the team into the playoffs. And he chucked 40 TD passes.
Rodgers Supporting Cast
Funny that the opposition sees more than the beat writer, but Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback. Is he a perfect quarterback? No. No one is. But at the end of the day, Rodgers has been better than Bart Starr and Brett Favre on the frozen tundra.
The current Packers receiving corps goes like this: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison and Jeff Janis. When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, the cast was: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Brett Swain.
First of all, Nelson is an anomaly, he’s a receiver who’s gotten better with age. He was on both rosters, but he’s the number one now. Randall Cobb is more sizzle than steak with one real Pro Bowl season (2014) under his belt. I would take the 2010 James Jones or Donald Driver over the 2016 Cobb any day of the week.
Dec 24, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via USA TODAY Sports
I am willing to concede the X-Factor is Adams, but that story has not be written yet. In no way, shape or form, can anyone say that this receiving corps is better than 2010’s.
As far as coaching, in his article McGinn compares Rodgers to Brady, but it’s really a comparison of the New England Patriots to the Packers. That’s a non-starter from several standpoints.
First, using McGinn’s terms, Mike McCarthy is a good veteran head coach. Bill Belichick may be the greatest of all time (with all due respect to Vince Lombardi & George Halas).
The Packers of this generation are no comparison to the New England Patriots. But comparing Aaron Rodgers to Tom Brady is a fair comparison. If Brady were on the Packers, do you think four championships follow? I don’t.
A simple point made by Jordan Raanan of ESPN, in a Jan. 4, 2017 article, highlights the skill of Aaron Rodgers. “The way several Giants players explained it was that Rodgers and his receivers almost have a second play called for when he starts to scramble. There seems to be a telepathic moment between quarterback and pass-catcher that opens the door for big plays.”
Can Brady do this?
Trust me, I am not dismissing Brady as a tremendous, future Hall of Fame passer. I am highlighting the fact that comparisons are largely made in a vacuum.
And when a local beat writer dismisses the overall impact of Aaron Rodgers, using a simple statistical measure, he has to be called out. McGinn should know that players are not robots, and they will have peaks and valleys. Green Bay saw both this season. But it’s not where you start, but where you finish.
Could it be that Packer followers are desensitized to the greatness of Rodgers? Can you say spoiled?