GREEN BAY, Wis. — As Aaron Rodgers recalls it, throwing deep passes wasn’t exactly something that NFL scouts were sold on about him when entering the draft in 2005.
Fast forward to Rodgers’ 10th season in the league and he holds the all-time NFL record for the most touchdown passes of 70 yards or more. Rodgers threw his 16th touchdown of that variety this past Sunday against the Chicago Bears when he connected with Jordy Nelson for a 73-yard score. That put Rodgers past Brett Favre and Peyton Manning, both of whom recorded 15 touchdown passes from that distance.
"That was actually, I believe, a knock on me coming out of college was my throws down the field, over 40 yards," Rodgers said Wednesday at his locker. "You just have to work on it and pick a spot and figure out who’s running it and give your guy a chance to catch it.
"(Former University of California) Coach (Jeff) Tedford used to talk about an on-the-screen off-the-screen ball, a throw that when you watch it on film kind of goes off the screen with some height on it and then comes down back on the screen. When you do that you give your guy a chance to catch the ball, and we’ve done a good job of making the most, the last couple weeks, of those opportunities."
Rodgers has always carried a chip on his shoulder for the negative things said about him as he made his way from high school to junior college to California to the NFL. Apparently, Rodgers was just a system quarterback who wasn’t athletic enough and panics under pressure. One scout even told Bob McGinn in 2005 that "(Rodgers) has a good chance of being a bust," while another scout stated, "I don’t like (Rodgers). He’s a clone of (Joey) Harrington and (Kyle) Boller."
Harrington played in the league for six years, throwing more interceptions (85) than touchdowns (79). Boller had the same issue in his eight-year career with 54 interceptions to 48 touchdowns. Rodgers, meanwhile, is a former NFL Most Valuable Player with 213 touchdown passes to only 55 interceptions.
It’s on the deep passes, though, where Rodgers has now officially set himself apart from any quarterback in league history. His touchdown pass to Nelson in Week 10 wasn’t even his first one of 70 or more yards this season. Rodgers had a 70-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the Packers’ Week 8 game at New Orleans.
With Rodgers’ stated goal of playing nine more seasons, he will likely add a lot more long touchdown passes to his record. And, even if Rodgers never throws another touchdown of 70 or more yards, it’s unlikely that any scouts will be critiquing his "inability" to connect on long passes anymore.