Green Bay Packers: 5 Reasons Resting Aaron Rodgers Was Brilliant
Any decision should be evaluated based on whether the possible gains outweigh the possible losses. In this case, it's easy to quantify the possible loss (a Rodgers injury would cripple the Packers in the playoffs), but very difficult to quantify any possible gain (momentum? Rhythm?).
In a situation like that, it's always best to play it safe.
Rust, What Rust?
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
The most common argument against resting players before the playoffs is that those players will somehow be less effective after time off. With Aaron Rodgers, this simply isn't true. If anything, Rodgers plays better after he's had a week of rest.
He had one of his best games of the season coming off of the Packers' bye week.
On the road in San Diego, Rodgers completed a season-high 81 percent of his passes and tossed four touchdowns. By quarterback rating, his 145.8 performance was his second-best game of 2011.
That's an impressive stat line, but it's unfair to judge Rodgers' abilities on just one game. Since he became the starter in 2008, here's Rodgers' average line after a week off:
24/35 for 325 yards, three touchdowns and 0.4 picks.
His TD-to-INT ratio in games after a week off since 2010 is 12-to-0.
Green Bay doesn't need to worry about Rodgers being rusty.
He's Earned a Rest
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
There's a reason that every playoff team is gunning for that first-round bye. It's not just about home-field advantage, it's about giving your guys an extra week in the cold tub in a league where Week 1 is the first and last time that anybody plays at 100 percent.
If there was a chance for teams to play for a two-week bye, I guarantee that every playoff team would do everything it could to grab that extra time off.
As effortless as Aaron Rodgers makes his job look, 502 pass attempts will take a toll on your arm.
The Packers had a chance to selectively extend that bye for their star quarterback, and it would have been silly for them not to take advantage.
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
The most obvious benefit of sitting Rodgers is also the most important: He can't get hurt.
The Packers offensive line gives up an average of almost five quarterback hits per game. Against a ferocious Detroit Lions defense, there was absolutely no reason to expose Rodgers to that kind of punishment.
Rodgers has had a relatively clean injury record throughout his career, but the Packers did the right thing in choosing not to tempt fate.
There's a reason that quarterbacks get to wear that nifty red jersey in practice: Teams want their stars to take as little physical punishment as possible. Unless the Packers could have convinced the Lions to let Rodgers spend Week 17 in a similar protective bubble, sitting him down was the right move.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Injuries are a harsh reality that all of the NFL has to deal with. As the Green Bay Packers' biggest rival, the Chicago Bears, can attest, it's hard to make a deep playoff run without a safety net behind your quarterback.
The Bears were in thick of the playoff race this season, right up until the point when Jay Cutler was lost for the season. After that, backup Caleb Hanie took over and produced a string of performances that made Curtis Painter look like Peyton Manning.
After ripping through the regular season, the Packers certainly don't want to find themselves in a similar spot during these playoffs. If Aaron Rodgers does go down, Green Bay needs to be ready with a backup plan.
Matt Flynn is a very talented backup, but it goes without saying that getting him a full game of work at the end of the season will make him exponentially better prepared in the event that he has to fill in during the playoffs.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Is it smart for a team to base its evaluation of a potential starting quarterback on one exemplary performance? Probably not.
Did Matt Flynn just shoot up on the board for a few quarterback-needy teams after his performance in Week 17? Absolutely.
Sure, the list of backups-turned-starters includes mediocre quarterbacks like Scott Mitchell and Rob Johnson, but every once-in-a-while, a player like Matt Schaub shows up. With that in mind, somebody will be ready to give Matt Flynn a lot of money.
Flynn is eligible for free agency after this season, but if the Packers place the franchise tag on him, they could match any other team's offer for him or let him walk and receive two first-round picks as compensation. If no other team offers Flynn, the Packers could still sign him and negotiate a trade.