Algebra may not have been my best subject in school, but I know good football numbers when I see them.
Aaron Rodgers finally got his chance to start in 2008 after sitting the previous three years behind a legend who never missed a game. And while Rodgers didn't get the number of wins fans were hoping for, he did show the Packer faithful they have little to worry about at the most important position on the team.
It would be easy to do a line by line comparison of Rodgers' stats from 2008 and Favre's stats from 2007. They were almost identical in the "fantasy football" stat lines (yards, touchdowns, interceptions) that most people care about.
So how can I prove Rodgers is a good QB if he only got six wins during his first season as a starter while throwing for similar stats as 16-year veteran Favre did during his MVP runner-up, 13 win season?
I will break it down by efficiency and a direct comparison to other great quarterbacks at the same points in their careers as Rodgers. In short, the first time starting 16 games in one season.
Now before anyone gets a wild hair up their backfields, let me say I'm not implying Rodgers is, or will be better than any previous quarterbacks. I don't own a crystal ball.
I am merely using key stats and comparisons to show Packer fans should be very happy with their current and future QB, and based on his first full year as a starter, he definitely has big potential.
First of all passing yards are overrated. Big time. Half of the 12 playoff quarterbacks last year threw for less than 3,500 yards during the regular season. Throwing for tons of yards doesn't always equate to winning records (see Drew Brees and Jay Cutler).
A team with a bad defense could lead to a QB always playing catch-up, leading to inflated yardage stats (see also Jon Kitna and Carson Palmer in 2007).
But for the sake of comparison, Rodgers threw for 4,038 yards last year. More than Favre (3,303), Tom Brady (3,764), Joe Montana (3,565) Palmer (3,836) or Steve Young (3,465) did in their first full seasons.
Even though QB Ratings use algebra, they are somewhat accurate in judging a QB's performance so I am forced to use them. However, I believe there is no place for algebra on the gridiron!
Rodgers finished last year with a 93.8 rating. Favre (72.2), Peyton Manning (71.2), Montana (88.4) and Brady (85.7) didn't rate quite as high their first time starting 16 games.
Third Down Conversions
When he had to keep the drive going, the Rodgers-led offense was fifth in the NFL with a 44.2 percent third-down-conversion rate. By comparison Favre led the 1993 Packers to a 37 percent conversion rate (17th in the NFL) his first full year. The 2002 Brady-led Patriots offense had a 43 percent rate (eighth in the NFL).
Red Zone Efficiency
Making it count where it matters most, Rodgers was nearly flawless from inside the 20. He threw 19 TDs, no interceptions, had a 60 percent completion percentage and a 106.8 QB Rating. Those are better numbers than Brady, Manning, Montana and Favre put up in their first 16 games as starters.
Home Field Advantage
Home cooking is always good, and Rodgers didn't disappoint. With a 67.9 completion percentage, 8.0 yard per pass average, 15 TD, 4 INT and a 104.7 QB Rating at Lambeau Field, the potential for the lost home field advantage to be restored looks promising.
Favre split time between Lambeau and Milwaukee County Stadium his first three years and didn't boast numbers nearly that good until 1995 when he played all eight home games in Lambeau. He also won his first MVP award that season, helped by his 64.2 percent, 8.1 Yds/Comp., 23 TD, 4 INT and 110.6 QB Rating at home.
Even though all those stats look impressive, the most important numbers for Rodgers will be the number of wins, especially in the playoffs.
Rodgers was thrown into a difficult situation. Having to follow a man who holds almost every major NFL passing record is going to lead to some lofty expectations. And so far in comparison, Rodgers is looking like he should do well.
He still needs to learn to make quicker reads and release the ball faster. Rodgers was sacked 34 times last year, but when you look at Favre's first five seasons he had some troubles with sacks too (34,30,31,33,40 respectively).
Rodgers late game heroics needs some work, too. His fourth quarter statistics and efficiency fell in several games in comparison to the first three quarters. But the intangibles and leadership should come with more experience. He is, after all, about to begin only his second season as a starter.
When you consider his first year numbers were better than some of the greatest quarterbacks past and present, the math could add up to some impressive numbers for Rodgers in the future. And who knows, with some luck, possibly his own algebraic equation: 12 > 4.