Aaron Rodgers Isn't More Clutch Than Brett Favre, but He Will Be Soon
Looking back at Brett Favre's career, it's impossible to deny that he's been a clutch player.
But Aaron Rodgers, still relatively early in his career, is approaching that territory...or will be soon.
"It all comes down to how you want to define 'clutch,'" said Rob Reischel, author of the book Aaron Rodgers" Leader of the Pack and Packer Plus reporter.
If you're going to look strictly at late-game heroics, there's no doubt Favre has the edge over Rodgers.
By comparison Rodgers has a mere six career game-winning drives (ranking 165th all time) and only three comeback victories (ranking 200th).
Reischel doesn't mince words when it comes comparing Favre and Rodgers with the clock winding down: "Right now, Rodgers doesn't even hold a candle to Favre at the end of games."
It's not Reischel's opinion that Rodgers is more clutch than Favre. Rather, his insight was sought to provide a glimpse into the career of Rodgers, a subject he's followed closely as a journalist.
The purpose of this article is to define "clutch" differently, look at it in a new light and see how Rodgers is on his way to surpassing Favre in terms of "clutchness."
Rodgers Has Postseason Upper Hand
It doesn't matter whether a postseason victory is fourth-quarter comeback or blowout win from the opening kickoff. A win is a win.
And no games define a career more than playoff games.
The difference may be slight, but Rodgers has the edge over Brett Favre in postseason success.
Both have exactly one Super Bowl victory to their name, but Rodgers' Super Bowl MVP makes him the member of a very select fraternity of players to which Favre cannot gain entrance.
Granted, Favre played well in the Super Bowl XXXI victory over the New England Patriots, but Rodgers was superb in XLV.
One of only four players in NFL history to throw for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns in a Super Bowl, Rodgers joined only Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jake Delhomme to earn that distinction.
But it's not just his play in the Super Bowl that sets Rodgers apart.
"Out of the six (playoff) games, he's played A to A+ football in four of them," said Rob Reischel.
And even though Rodgers didn't exactly have a stellar outing in the NFC Championship win over the Chicago Bears in 2010, it was at least enough to come away victorious.
Only the most recent loss to the New York Giants can be described as a "stinker" for Rodgers.
Through their first three seasons that included playoff appearances, Rodgers is 4-2 while Favre is 4-3.
Favre would go onto win a Super Bowl since going 4-3 and go 13-11 in the playoffs overall (including with the Minnesota Vikings), but there were also some very poor playoff appearances in there as well.
Favre's six-interception game in a 45-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams in 2001 stands out as one of his worst.
Rodgers' Red Zone Success Is Notable
When driving inside an opponent's 20-yard line, it's imperative to come away with points, preferably touchdowns instead of field goals. And definitely no interceptions.
With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers are almost certain to come away with a score and rarely a turnover.
"His red zone numbers are incredible," said Rob Reischel.
Since he took over as the starter in 2008, Rodgers has the highest regular season red zone passer rating (107.3) and completion percentage (62.3%) in the entire NFL, which is ahead of the likes of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
During the past season in particular for which he earned the league's MVP, Rodgers threw 29 touchdown passes compared to only one interception in the red zone. He also led the league in red zone passer rating (107.0).
That's just part of the reason Rodgers had the highest single-season passer rating in NFL history last season (122.5) and the highest career passer rating as well (104.1).
Favre has also had his fair share of success in the red zone, but it hasn't played a part in setting all-time passer ratings records like Rodgers.
Bring on the Blitz
Sending a blitz might spell doom for some quarterbacks, but against Aaron Rodgers, that's just playing with fire.
Rodgers is adept at making teams pay when they rush more than four players or bring a pass rusher from off the line of scrimmage.
In 2011, Rodgers had one of the best seasons against the blitz in NFL history. His passer rating versus the blitz led the NFL last season according to STATS (131.4), which is second only to the season Peyton Manning had in 2004 (136.8) among all quarterbacks since 1993.
At the same time, Rodgers' average yards per attempt of 12.0 in the face of pressure last season is the most in a single season tracked by STATS, and it's not even close. The second-best season in yards per attempt was 9.83 by Kurt Warner back in 1999.
Rodgers also ranks No. 1 in the league in the face of pressure since 2009 with a passer rating of 114.7.
It all comes back to the Super Bowl victory over the Steelers for Rodgers, however. Facing a team from a city that's been called "Blitzburgh," Rodgers performance couldn't have been any more appropriate.
"He made some throws in that Super Bowl against heavy pressure, and obviously a couple of those were touchdown passes to Jennings that really stood out," said Rob Reischel.
Rodgers Excels on Third Down
Like Aaron Rodgers' performance in the postseason, in the red zone and against the blitz, his results on third downs speak for themselves.
Third down is obviously an important down in football, because it can mean the difference between keeping a drive alive and turning the ball over to the other team.
During Rodgers' MVP season in 2011, he ranked No. 2 in the NFL in passer rating on third downs (113.3) behind Drew Brees (127.4), but it was 2009 when Rodgers really found success.
For that particular season, he was No. 1 in the NFL on third downs with a rating of 133.5. No other quarterback in the league threw for as many yards (1,710) or touchdowns (14) on third down as Rodgers that year.
In fact, Rodgers' rating on third downs in '09 was the best in the NFL since Kurt Warner’s 137.3 rating in 1999.
Rodgers also leads the NFL in both passer rating (115.2) and average yards per attempt (9.31) on third down among all quarterbacks since 2009.
And to take it one step further, Rodgers has posted a 100-plus passer rating on third down in 35 of his 62 career starts.
Rodgers Has Time on His Side
"I wholeheartedly believe at this juncture of their careers, (Aaron) Rodgers has an enormous amount of work to do to catch up with (Brett) Favre in terms of 'clutchness,'" said Rob Reischel.
Because most people would define "clutch" by those late-game heroics that Favre was so famous for, no one could be blamed for giving the Ol' Gunslinger the nod over Rodgers in a comparison of the two, at least through this point in Rodgers' career.
But whereas Favre's career is done, Rodgers still has several years ahead of him, years that can still define his legacy.
By looking at being "clutch" through a situational lens such as the postseason, in the red zone, versus the blitz and on third down, Rodgers has a good base of skills that will serve him well in the future when he finds himself down to an opponent late in the game.
And that's a situation Rodgers may find himself in more and more as time passes.
To his credit, Rodgers has done a good job putting his team up early in games while the other team is forced to play catch-up.
"That's probably going to change in the next two or three years if they start to lose some guys to free agency and the heart of this team gets picked at a little bit," said Reischel. "And you would have to assume at some point in time, Rodgers is going to come back to earth a little bit and slip back down, and these games are now 24-20 in the fourth quarter instead of 34-14."
Rodgers' experience is going to pay off down the road. If he's faced with more situations where he's the hunter instead of the hunted, odds are Rodgers is going to start gaining ground on Favre.
Brian Carriveau is a Green Bay Packers Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained through an interview on July 3.