Packers Annual Checkup: Aaron Rodgers
FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.
Aaron Rodgers, quarterback
Season stats: 10 games; 210-for-316 passing (66.4 percent), 2,713 yards, 18 touchdowns, six interceptions, 104.9 passer rating; sacked 25 times, fumbled five times (lost zero of the five); 32 rushing attempts for 131 yards, zero touchdowns
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 18.0 (ranked No. 4 out of 23 Packers offensive players; ranked No. 5 among all NFL quarterbacks)
Best game: Week 2 win over Washington; 34-for-42 passing (81.0 percent), 480 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, 146.0 passer rating; sacked four times; 4.6 PFF rating
Worst game: Week 3 loss at Cincinnati; 26-for-43 passing (60.5 percent), 244 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, 64.5 passer rating; sacked four times; minus-2.0 PFF rating
Expectations at the start of the season: High
Expectations were … Not met
Looking live: Aaron Rodgers began training camp by having to deal with two negative situations. In his first media session of camp, Rodgers took a hard stand in backing away from his former friend, Ryan Braun, with the Packers quarterback saying that he was lied to by the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder. That same day, Rodgers was asked about the comments of former teammate Greg Jennings, who had been taking almost every opportunity since joining the Minnesota Vikings to say something passive-aggressively negative about "12." With all of that out of the way, Rodgers looked as good as ever throwing the football during training camp. It’s easy to overlook Rodgers’ dominance in those practice settings. While groups of reporters who cover other NFL teams need to count every passing attempt and completion made by the quarterbacks of that team, great throws from Rodgers have become the norm. There’s little reason to track it, in most situations. It’s more notable when he misses a casual throw than when he launches a perfect downfield pass for a touchdown. Such are the expectations that follow a former NFL Most Valuable Player and Super Bowl-winning quarterback who is still in his prime. Rodgers concluded many of the practices by leading touchdown drives in the two-minute offense drills. When Rodgers was unexpectedly missing from the Aug. 20 practice, it set off a social media frenzy of worried Packers fans wondering what happened. Of course, it turned out that Rodgers was only battling a head cold and was able to return the next day.
Upon further review: For a quarterback who threw only six interceptions in 2011 and just eight interceptions in 2012, it was un-Rodgers-like that he had thrown three interceptions after just three games to begin the 2013 season. More importantly for the Packers, two of those three games resulted in losses, offering more evidence that when Rodgers isn’t at his best, Green Bay struggles to win. After returning from the early Week 4 bye, the Packers won four games in a row, and not coincidentally, Rodgers had only one interception in those games combined. Then, in the play that most defined Green Bay’s 2013 season, Rodgers was hit by Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin, landing on his left shoulder and fracturing his collarbone. The true test was underway to see how good a Rodgers-less Packers team was, and the answer was quite obvious: not good. With a 2-5-1 record during Rodgers’ absence, Green Bay went from the leader in the NFC North entering Week 9 to being incredibly fortunate to still be alive in a division that was having an off year as a whole. A team with a 7-7-1 record is not supposed to have a chance to win their division with a Week 17 victory. Rodgers’ miraculous fourth-down touchdown pass to Randall Cobb to beat the Chicago Bears was the NFL’s play of the year, but he wasn’t particularly good that day. Rodgers also wasn’t great a week later in the home playoff loss to San Francisco, a game in which he threw for only 177 yards with one touchdown. But, unless Rodgers has other future seasons that are cut in half by injuries, 2013 will be remembered as the injury year.
Overall 2013 grade: B
Status for 2014: One-hundred percent chance of being on Green Bay’s active roster to begin the 2014 regular season. Rodgers turned 30 years old in December 2013 and has a contract that extends until 2020. He’s the NFL’s best in-their-prime quarterback, with his top competitors for best overall QB — Drew Brees, 35; Tom Brady, 36; Peyton Manning, 38 — all much closer to the end of their careers than Rodgers is. The challenge for Rodgers is getting to another Super Bowl while in his prime. He won a title at age 27, but if too many more seasons pass without another trip back to the Super Bowl, the Packers will be in a similar situation to what the Saints, Patriots and Broncos are in now as a team that isn’t far away from having to prepare its next quarterback to take over the franchise. But for now, Rodgers shouldn’t have any lingering effects from his collarbone injury, and his presence alone will have Green Bay as the favorites to win the NFC North yet again in 2014.
Next: Offensive lineman Derek Sherrod
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