Aaron Rodgers isn't broken — the Packers are
The Green Bay Packers won Thursday night, but the win was hardly anything to celebrate.
You shouldn't get much credit for beating Matt Barkley and the Bears 26-10 at home.
The Packers are not a good team, which makes them roughly middle-of-the-pack (no pun intended) in the NFL in 2016.
Amid all the talk about the Packers and their supposed fall from the NFL’s Mount Olympus, the main question has been about Aaron Rodgers. Thursday’s box score will only further those questions.
Is he still elite?
Is something wrong with him?
The numbers don’t lie, right?
Of course he is. No there isn't. And of course they can.
Rodgers’ decline over the past two seasons isn’t so much a difference in his ability to recognize defenses, and it’s not exactly a lack of arm strength. It’s because the Packers lack something fundamental to success in the NFL — balance.
The Packers lacked a running back Thursday night against the Bears, and not in a figurative way. Eddie Lacy, who was the only running back for the Packers’ game Sunday, is injured, leaving the Packers backless.
Here’s how desperate the Packers were for a running back — they traded for one.
Knile Davis, acquired on Tuesday, was in uniform for Thursday’s game, but predictably didn’t see much action.
The Packers instead opted to run wide receivers Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb 14 times.
What they really did was not run the ball much at all.
The Packers ran 81 plays Thursday, and Rodgers threw on 59 of them. (That’s not a percent — if you want that number, it’s 72.)
The NFL is not the Big 12 — that sort of imbalance won’t fly.
Considering the lopsided game plan, Rodgers played relatively well — the Packers coaches wanted short, quick passes, and Rodgers delivered those throws. He threw for 326 yards Thursday, a 5.8 yards-per-attempt average.
There’s not much any defense can do about those types of throws, but even the Bears — the lowly, pitiful Bears — were able to take away most passes that would really hurt them. They were happy to be bled to death by a thousand paper cuts.
The Bears didn’t get away with it because… they’re the Bears.
The rest of the NFL would be thrilled if the Packers maintain the same game plan moving forward.
So much is put on quarterbacks in the NFL — sometimes it seems as if they’re the only members of an offense. But transcendence is an illusion — every quarterback needs good players around him and, more importantly, a winning game plan. The elite quarterbacks execute game plans, no matter how flawed they might be, but that’s not fun to talk about.
Rodgers executed the Packers’ game plan Thursday night. It was a flawed one that won the game because it was going against a terrible opponent.
The Packers won’t get to face the Bears every week, and so long as Rodgers has to throw it close to 60 times a game for the Packers to win, he should be immune from blame for his team’s demise.
The Packers are not a good team, but that doesn’t mean Aaron Rodgers isn’t a great quarterback.