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In Case You Forgot, Aaron Rodgers Is Still NFL's Best Player

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In Case You Forgot, Aaron Rodgers Is Still NFL's Best Player

Did you forget about Aaron Rodgers?

If so, who could blame you? As far as most NFL watchers seemed to think this offseason, he was just some washed-up has-been.

In the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs, Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers laid a 45-31 beatdown on Rodgers' Green Bay Packers. Outrun and out-gunned, Rodgers could only watch as Kaepernick ripped the imaginary championship belt right off his waist. At the ripe old age of 29, Rodgers had passed the torch just a year after it had been passed to him.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

At least that's how most fans and media seem to remember it, even though the Packers were only down by one score going into the fourth quarter.

All offseason long, people talked about the Packers like a team whose window had closed, if they talked about Green Bay at all. Rodgers and the Packers had become dinosaurs, flat-earthers, pistol deniers. 

When the Packers' biggest offseason change was letting star wideout Greg Jennings leave, that was it: The Packers had ceded their lane in the title race to teams with flashier quarterbacks like the 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins.

Except, well, not.

 

Without Me

In the second week of this season, Rodgers showed the world he's not passing that "NFL's Best Player" torch any time soon.

Facing off against one of the little hellions, the Redskins' Robert Griffin III, Rodgers completed 34 of 42 passes for a career-high 480 yards and four touchdowns. The final score, 38-20, didn't do justice to the devastation the Packers levied against the Redskins.

Rodgers put on a clinic, beating the Redskins just about every way a defense can be beaten.

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He beat them on the run and in the pocket, down the seam and down both sidelines. He beat them deep, and by letting his receivers do the work. He rolled out, pump-faked, fit his passes into windows and threw his receivers open. Rodgers and the Packers rolled up 31 points before the Redskins even got on the board.

The contrast between Rodgers at the peak of his powers and a still-weakened RGIII was stunning. 

After two games, Rodgers has completed 55 of 79 (69.6 percent) attempts for 813 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. At that rate, Rodgers would finish with 6,504 yards and 56 scores, shattering the NFL single-season record for both.

More incredibly, he'd probably throw the fewest interceptions of any starter in the process, with just 1.3 percent of his attempts going back the other way.

Remember the part about letting Greg Jennings walk?

 

Forgot About Rodgers

Playing the quarterback position better than anyone else ever has is nothing new for Rodgers. In fact, he's been doing it so long NFL fans are sleeping on him.

The Packers finished 11-5 in 2012 in one of the NFL's toughest divisions. For almost any other team, that's a season to shout about, but fans and media have gotten bored with the Packers racking up double-digit wins, year after yawn-inducing year.

The Packers had the fifth-best scoring offense in the NFL in 2012. In fact, they've had a top-five scoring offense in four of the five seasons Rodgers has been starting for them.

The one exception was 2010, when the Packers' 10th-ranked scoring offense was good enough to win a Super Bowl.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In 2011, with Peyton Manning out of the NFL, Rodgers finally got the individual awards his game deserved. He was named MVP by the Associated Press and first-team All-Pro, and it's no wonder why.

Rodgers led the NFL in yards per attempt (9.25), NFL passer efficiency rating (122.5), QBR (87.1) and touchdown percentage (9.0 percent). He finished second in interception percentage (1.2 percent).

In 2012, Manning returned, and the incredible trio of youngsters (Kaepernick, Griffin and Russell Wilson) burst onto the scene. Even so, Rodgers led the NFL in passer rating (108.0) and touchdown percentage (7.1 percent). He finished third in interception percentage (1.4 percent)—all behind an offensive line that got him sacked 51 times, more than anyone else in the NFL.

 

The A-Rod Show

In Rodgers' six years as a starter, his performance has been historically great. For all the attention given to the breakout stars and older greats like Manning and Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers might be the best quarterback anyone reading this article will ever see.

Top All-Time QBs by Passer Rating Index, >1,000 Attempts
Player From To GS Cmp% Yds TD Int Y/A Rate+
Arnie Herber* 1930 1945 56 40.94% 8,041 81 106 6.84 140
Otto Graham* 1946 1955 114 55.75% 23,584 174 135 8.98 126
Steve Young* 1985 1999 143 64.28% 33,124 232 107 7.98 126
Aaron Rodgers 2005 2013 79 65.62% 21,994 174 47 8.14 124
Sammy Baugh* 1937 1952 83 56.53% 21,886 187 203 7.31 122
Joe Montana* 1979 1994 164 63.24% 40,551 273 139 7.52 122
Roger Staubach* 1969 1979 114 56.96% 22,700 153 109 7.67 121
Tom Brady 2000 2013 177 63.58% 45,279 337 124 7.49 118
Sid Luckman* 1939 1950 62 51.83% 14,686 137 132 8.42 120
Len Dawson* 1957 1975 159 57.10% 28,711 239 183 7.67 119

Via Pro Football Reference.

Per Pro Football Reference, Rodgers has the highest career passer efficiency rating of all time. He has the highest career touchdown rate since World War II and the seventh-lowest career interception rate in the modern era. He has the third-highest career completion percentage of all time and the highest career yards per attempt since Norm Van Brocklin hung 'em up in 1960.

Rodgers is as aggressive downfield as any quarterback has ever been. He puts more points on the board than any quarterback ever has, yet he avoids mistakes like an ankle-biting game manager.

Rodgers is an underrated athlete, has a fantastic arm and spins the ball like nobody else in football. He makes stars of everyone Packers general manager Ted Thompson puts around him and produces no matter how little time or space his offensive line gives him.

He's the best there is at the game's most important position at a time in the game's history when that position has never been more important.

So, tie a string around your finger if you have to, but don't forget: Whether or not Rodgers rewrites the record books this season, whether or not the Packers win it all in February, Rodgers is still the best player in the NFL.

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