All things considered, head coach Mike McCarthy's decision to sit Rodgers is unequivocally the best one. McCarthy explained the situation, via Vic Ketchman of the team's official site:
Aaron Rodgers is declared out for Sunday’s game. It’s been a difficult morning going through the conversation with Aaron and Dr. McKenzie. He’s very disappointed. He’s frustrated. He was not scanned this morning. He felt like he was ready to play. It’s in our best interests as a football team for Aaron not to play.
The decision to withhold Rodgers from action came down from members of the organization itself:
(Rodgers) feels based on what he’s accomplished physically, what he was able to do at practice on Wednesday and Thursday, he’s ready to go. Hey, it’s not the easiest thing to sit there and tell your franchise quarterback he can’t play in the game when he wants to play in the game. This is clearly a decision that’s made in the best interests of Aaron Rodgers.
McCarthy sees the same things many should in this scenario. For one, the Packers do not need Rodgers to beat Dallas. Two, the team will need him to close the season—not to mention next year and beyond.
Simply put, giving Rodgers the go-ahead in Arlington would have been a bad move. The Packers sit at 6-6-1 and are only a half-game behind the Detroit Lions (7-6) and Chicago Bears (7-6) in the NFC North. The playoffs are still a possibility.
And, as mentioned, the Packers do not need help to beat the Cowboys. Dallas does that to itself. The Cowboys rank dead last with an average of 426.8 yards allowed per game. Unsurprisingly, they rank horribly against the pass (No. 32) and rush (No. 28) and give up an average of 26.8 points per game.
Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler puts it best:
Matt Flynn and the Packers offense can absolutely score on a god-awful Cowboys defense. Not saying they'll win, but I like their chances.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) December 13, 2013
Look at the damage opposing quarterbacks have been able to do to the Dallas defense since Week 10:
|Week 10 at Drew Brees||34/41||392||9.6||4||0||L, 49-17|
|Week 12 at Eli Manning||16/30||174||5.8||2||0||W, 24-21|
|Week 13 vs. Matt McGloin||18/30||255||8.5||0||1||W, 31-24|
|Week 14 at Josh McCown||27/36||348||9.7||4||0||L, 45-28|
ESPN. Week 11 Dallas was on bye.
Now take into consideration that Eli Manning is in the middle of a major down year (16 touchdowns to 20 interceptions), Matt McGloin is an undrafted rookie and Josh McCown is a career journeyman and backup.
To make it even more appealing to Packers faithful, Dallas will also be without star linebacker Sean Lee, per ESPN's Calvin Watkins.
Suffice to say, there is seemingly nothing stopping Matt Flynn from having a stellar outing. Flynn is coming off his best game of the season against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14, in which he threw for 258 yards, one touchdown and one interception while completing 75 percent of his passes.
He will have to overcome his own defense, which allows an average of 25.1 points per game and is tasked with shutting down an ofttimes-explosive Dallas offense, but it is a favorable matchup for the visiting team.
The other side to this coin is Rodgers' longevity, both in the short and long term. This week is winnable, but Weeks 16 and 17 see things ramp up in difficultly.
Rodgers sounds close to a return, and a Week 16 dance with the 5-8 Pittsburgh Steelers, owners of a top-10 pass defense, means the former MVP must be in the lineup for the Packers to have a good chance at winning.
Week 17 is a second bout with Chicago. The Bears are 7-6 near the top of the division, also have a top-10 pass defense and they already beat the Packers once this year via a Week 9, 27-20 outcome.
Is holding Rodgers out vs. Dallas the right move?
The game against Dallas is important, but if Rodgers has to miss another game, it would have to be the first of the trio.
Look, going to Dallas is no easy task. The Cowboys, for all of their inconsistency and patented missed-tackle woes, are 5-1 at home.
But few teams in the NFL currently have, or have ever had, a quarterback like Rodgers. Risking his long-term health in an attempt to sneak in the postseason via three straight wins is not just silly—it could jeopardize the future of the franchise.
Rodgers and the fans may not like it, but holding him out of action in Dallas is the smart play.