Coming Off Historic 2011 Season, Aaron Rodgers' Run Among Greatest Ever

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Coming Off Historic 2011 Season, Aaron Rodgers' Run Among Greatest Ever
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Rodgers comes into 2012, coming off an MVP season and one of the greatest ever for a QB

A year ago at this time, Aaron Rodgers' career statistics suggested 2011 would be a pretty good year for the third-year signal-caller.

I'd say so.

After an MVP season during which Rodgers threw for 45 touchdowns, just six interceptions, over 4,500 yards and an all-time NFL record 122.5 quarterback rating, No. 12 has cemented himself as one of the greats in the game today.

Even before his historic campaign through the 2011 season, I wondered aloud whether Rodgers' career numbers were on par with some of the greatest three-year stretches in the careers of all-time greats.

What I found was that Rodgers' first three seasons were already statistically better than any three-year spans for some Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly and even Joe Montana.

But after what A-Rodge did last season, it seemed relevant to rework the numbers to include his 2011 campaign and see once again where he stood against the best of the best.

Given the career time line for Rodgers, the assessment works even better given that it removes his first year as an NFL starter.

  Age Starts Comp  Att     Pct    Yards   TD INT Rating Win %
Troy Aikman '92-94 26 44 806 1226 65.7 9221 51 32 91.2 .772
John Elway '96-98 36 44 777 1324 58.7 9769 75 35 89.2 .833
Jim Kelly '89-91 29 42 751 1111 67.6 9303 92 34 105.2 .738
Dan Marino '84-86 23 48 1076 1754 61.3 13967 114 61 93.6 .738
Joe Montana '87-89 31 37 775 1181 65.5 9556 75 31 100.7 .783
Warren Moon '89-91 33 47 1046 1703 61,4 13010 81 48 89.2 .578
Steve Young '92-94 31 48 906 1325 68.4 11457 89 33 107.1 .771
Tom Brady '05-07 28 48 1051 1624 64.7 12445 100 34 99.7 .791
Peyton Manning '04'06 28 48 1003 1507 66.5 12701 108 29 108.5 .791
Brett Favre '95-97 26 48 988 1626 60.7 12179 113 42 96.3 .771
Kurt Warner '99-01 28 43 905 1392 65 12612 98 53 101.6 .813
Drew Brees '09-11 30 47 1279 1829 69.9 14484 113 47 103.2 .787
Aaron Rodgers '09-11 26 46 1005 1518 66.2 12999 103 24 108.9 .761

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Drew Brees' stretch the last three years is among the greatest the NFL has ever seen

What first jumps out actually has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers, but Drew Brees. The New Orleans QB has put up truly remarkable numbers the last three seasons.

Of this group, no one attempted or completed more passes than Drew Brees, nor did anyone complete passes with more efficiency than Brees (superlatives denoted in bold).

If you look a little closer, you'll notice something though. Just as Brees' run coincides with the streak Rodgers is on, nearly every quarterback on this list can be paired with a contemporary.

Troy Aikman and Steve Young both were at their peaks from 1992-94. John Elway's run overlaps two years of Brett Favre's and the same goes for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Jim Kelly and Warren Moon also had identical runs, leaving Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Kurt Warner on a historical island of sorts. In fact, beginning in 1984, the only gap where an all-time great wasn't in his prime was from 2002 until 2004. Although Brady was winning Super Bowls during that period, he wasn't putting up gaudy numbers.

As far as Rodgers is concerned, by including the 2011 season, you can see his run is the most efficient ever. His quarterback rating is tops and his interception total the lowest. In fact, of the five quarterbacks who threw at least 100 touchdowns, only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning also threw fewer than 34 interceptions.

If you look closely, Manning and Rodgers share nearly identical numbers.

  Age Starts Comp Att Pct Yards TD INT Rating Win %
Aaron Rodgers '09-11 26 46 1005 1518 66.2 12999 103 24 108.9 .761
Peyton Manning '04-06 28 48 1003 1507 66.5 12701 108 29 108.5 .791

It's almost eerie when you put the numbers side by side, but it gives you an idea of the kind of level on which Rodgers is operating in just four seasons as an NFL starter. Manning's run featured his second MVP award and a Super Bowl ring (not unlike Rodgers with his MVP and title), and is considered one of the all-time greatest in NFL history.

And only Dan Marino and Brett Favre started their runs at 26 or younger. Of course, we won't be able to truly judge Rodgers' career until it's over because the last three years may very well not be his greatest run ever.  

That's where this all becomes scary for opposing teams: Aaron Rodgers won't turn 29 until December, and the average age of the above quarterbacks heading into their prime was 29.

In other words, Aaron Rodgers may actually get better, despite the fact that his numbers are already among the greatest in the history of the league. 

When I said that last year, it seemed obvious. Despite the fact that the Packers were coming off a Super Bowl victory, the offense hadn't yet turned into the well-oiled machine we saw in 2011.

Now, we've seen the firepower this offense can generate with No. 12 under center. Rodgers has all of his major weapons back this year, not to mention that he faces an easier schedule this year than last.

Will Aaron put together another 45 touchdown, six-interception season? It might seem unlikely, but if he's just entering his prime, as history suggests is the case, there's certainly a possibility that Rodgers could put up even more eye-popping statistics this year.

Even if the numbers aren't better, they certainly won't dip much, meaning we could be back here next summer with Rodgers having rewritten the record books once again.

Does it mean the Green Bay Packers will win more games? Well, they won 14 games with him as a starter last year and 15 total games, so in order to win more, the Pack would have to go undefeated in the regular season.

Rodgers' win percentage is almost exactly the average of this list, and not improving at all on that number would put the Pack at 11 wins (because you can't win 11.46 games). If the Pack got to 14 wins, Aaron's three-year splits would give him the second-best winning percentage on this list.

In a tough division, that seems somewhat unreasonable, but something tells me Aaron and the Packers are more concerned with other statistics like two: as in the number of Super Bowls he wants to have after this season.

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