Is he really as good as he looks?
Aaron Rodgers has some awesome stats. He's stepped out of the shadow of the legendary Brett Favre. He's everything Green Bay needed, wanted, and hoped him to be.
I get it. But if I have to hear the "he's the only quarterback to start his career with two straight 4,000+ yard passing season" again, I'm going to throw up.
Yes, he's good. But he's not that good.
Because numbers aren't everything. If you look a little closer, you may see that all those people that keep picking Green Bay to win it all in 2010 are in for a rude awakening.
That doesn't mean I won't pick Rodgers as my top quarterback in fantasy football, though.
Oh, look, Rodgers is about to get sacked.
Blame it on the offensive line all you want, but sooner or later, you have to start thinking about how the quarterback is playing, in addition to how the offensive line is protecting it's passer.
It's no secret, folks: Aaron Rodgers holds onto the ball too long.
While it keeps him from throwing a ton of picks and incompletions, it also leads to sacks, missed chances, killed drives, a better passer rating, and ultimately can lose games.
It started all the way back in his rookie season, when Rodgers took three sacks on just 16 passing attempts, and then three sacks on just 15 attempts the following season, and another three in his third year in the league, that time with only 28 passing attempts.
There's a trend here, folks, so please keep up.
In his first year as a starter, though impressive as it seemed, Rodgers absorbed 34 sacks. Last year, in his second season as a starter, he took an ungodly 50 sacks on the year.
There's only so much an offensive line can do, people. Rodgers is a more athletic, more effective version of former Buffalo and Jacksonville quarterback Rob Johnson.
Rodgers simply has better weapons and a better offensive system to help make up for this glaring flaw: the fact that he holds onto the ball way too long, way too often, and takes too many sacks.
There he goes, dropping the ball again.
It hasn't come back to bite him quite as much as it could, but in the NFL, forming a habit of holding onto the ball too long and taking too many sacks (as we just talked about) can lead to many avoidable bad situations.
Taking sacks can lead to injury (oh, one is coming, folks), stalling or killing a possession, a fumble, or even result in losing a game.
See: Arizona Cardinals playoff game loss.
Note: Yes, I know the Packers faithful will scream about a missed face-mask penalty, and rightfully so, but had Rodgers simply got rid of the ball and not taken a sack, he and the Packers would have lived to fight another day.
Many people don't now it, but in his two seasons as the full-time starter, Rodgers has fumbled the ball 19 times, while losing seven fumbles to the other team.
An interesting stat: in 2009 alone, three of Rodgers' four regular season fumbles occurred in games the Packers lost, and his fifth (in the post-season), also resulted in a loss.
Oh, and did I mention that he took five sacks in the loss to the Cardinals, too?
Go on, keep talking about all the yardage his offensive system and having to throw late in games gets him.
Outside of the near-triumphant comeback against the Cardinals in the playoffs last year, much of Rodgers' yardage is had in mop-up duty when his team is already out of the game, or against inferior competition.
But that's for another argument. The point in this slide is that this guy doesn't have "it." He's missing the killer instinct that he needs to consistently get it done in this league.
He's a great showman. He has great numbers. But he's not a closer. He's not a great NFL quarterback, and I'm not sure he has that "it" factor needed to be one of the best.
And, yes, he's only been a starter for two seasons. And yes, he's had a game-winning touchdown pass (one of them, whoa), but he's still not clutch.
You can make the argument that he led the Packers to an 11-5 record, that he led them to a lead over the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter of a game in 2008, that he threw that game-leading strike with under two minutes against the Bears in the season opener last year, and that it was pure bad luck what happened on that fumble against the Cardinals in the playoffs.
And to all of that, in order, I'd answer:
Big deal. Really. The Lions? Really. Two claps, let's see it again. No, that wasn't bad luck, that was simple logic when you hold onto the ball too long and take sacks at the wrong time too often.
It's not fair to use his "rookie" season in 2008 against him in any way. His supporting defense was atrocious, and it was his first season as the full-time starter. So, to be fair, just use his 2009 body of work to see where I am coming from.
After his solid winning touchdown against the Bears, this is what happened with Rodgers the rest of the season in "clutch" or "crunch time" situations.
Week 2: Lost 31-24 to Bengals, scoring just a field goal in the fourth quarter, and it came with under a minute remaining.
Week 4: Lost 30-23 to Vikings, as Rodgers took a safety to go down 30-14, and while he led the Packers to 10 points in the fourth quarter, he still came up short.
Week 8: Lost 38-26 to Vikings, pretty much the same story.
Week 9: Lost 38-28 to previously winless Buccaneers, as Rodgers threw three interceptions, one being a pick-six that closed the game with 35 seconds left.
To Rodgers' credit, he did lead the Packers to seven wins out of their next eight games to finish 11-5, although he did not come up with any bonafide "clutch" moments during the remainder of the season.
Rodgers and the Packers swept the Lions in 2009. Call the press.
Like I said before, I'm pretty much giving Rodgers a pass for his "rookie" 2008 season, as I really only knocked him for sacks and fumbles for that season.
But for his awesome 2009 season in which he led the Packers to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance, well, it needs to be said that this wasn't exactly as impressive as it looks or sounds.
Firstly, just look at the losses Rodgers and the Packers allowed in 2009:
Loss to Bengals: It was a close game all day, but Rodgers completed barely 50 percent of his passes, threw just one touchdown, took SIX sacks, and only guided Green Bay to one field goal in the fourth quarter.
The two losses to the Vikings: Yes, the Vikings ended up being as good as they looked all season long, but the early showings in both games were absolutely pathetic.
Rodgers and the rest of the offense only truly showed up when the game was already over, and despite late rallies in both contests, didn't have what it took to close the deal and win either game.
The Loss to the Buccaneers: Three picks, including a pick-six to seal it against a winless Buccaneers team with their rookie quarterback making his career debut. Just sad.
And here's who they beat:
Week One: a narrow victory over the Chicago Bears, who finished 7-9 in 2009. It took five Jay Cutler picks and Aaron Rodgers' only game-winning touchdown of his career to escape with a 21-15 win.
Week Three: a demolition of the Rams. Yay?
Week Six: A shutout over the Lions. Again, weak.
Week Seven: A crushing over the hapless Browns. Yawn.
Week 11: a win over the inconsistent 49ers. Eh. Nice, but nothing special.
Week 12: another win over the Lions. Throw a parade.
Week 14: winning on the road, 21-14 over the Bears. Division games are tough, but not very impressive.
Week 16: crushing the Seahawks. Not impressed.
I came away impressed with four games all season based on how Rodgers played, or based on the difficulty of the opponent.
1. Rodgers actually played like crap against the Cowboys, but the Packers were solid in a win.
2. Rodgers threw two picks and was erratic, but also threw three touchdowns in a win over the Ravens, who were inconsistent but not an easy win.
3. A bad luck loss to the Steelers, in which Ben Roethlisberger threw an amazing last-second touchdown to Mike Wallace, completing a 500-yard game against the Packers. Rodgers had his own awesome effort, throwing for four touchdowns and over 380 yards.
4. The playoff game against the Cardinals. I still blame Rodgers more than the Cardinals or a missed call for that loss, and I'll tell you why: the fumble happened BEFORE the hand ever hit the face-mask. I'm not excusing the penalty or missed call, but had the hand to the face never happened, it was still very clear that Rodgers turned the ball over EITHER way. However, despite this fact, his performance in this game was still very impressive throughout.
On the other hand, had Rodgers not played a helping hand in falling behind 31-10 in the third quarter, things could have ended a lot better.
Is Rodgers as good as his numbers suggest?
Before you call me a hater or a bash-artist, all I ask is that you look at the facts. I'm calling Green Bay's new golden boy overrated, but I'm not doing it because I hate the Packers or dislike Rodgers.
I just don't like it when a guy gets puffed up into something he's not. Rodgers puts up awesome stats, has done so for two straight seasons, and is rightfully so an elite fantasy quarterback option.
But that doesn't make him a top-five quarterback in the NFL, a great quarterback, or anything close to it.
I honestly have nothing against Rodgers, personally. If he comes out and goes 16-0 and the Packers win the Super Bowl, then he will have proven me wrong (to a point), and at the very least, overcome these short-comings that I have pointed out.
But, I really don't see that happening. First, because the Packers themselves are vastly overrated, and also because these issues I have pointed out are major flaws to Rodgers' game.
I mean, if he suddenly didn't hold onto the ball too long and didn't take so many sacks, then his completion percentage would go down, he would throw more picks, and the Packers probably wouldn't win 11 games, even against easy competition like they faced last season.
A quick look at what I'm talking about, before I get a little deeper into it:
Holding onto the ball and taking sacks in 2008 led to 34 sacks, 9 fumbles, and 13 interceptions. (Yes, I now he threw for 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, as well. But the Packers also lost 10 games.)
He held onto the ball even more the next season, jumping up to 50 sacks and dropping his interception total to seven on the season. But since he took so many sacks, he still fumbled the ball 10 times, losing four of them (plus that costly playoff fumble).
But we could pick away at his 6-10 season all day. Let's focus on his cakewalk 2009 schedule/season.
You don't do the stats justice by simply averaging them out and looking over the scale of the season.That doesn't make any sense, especially considering Green Bay's fairly easy schedule last year.
So, to be fair, let's focus on how Rodgers did against playoff teams in 2009.
He faced a 2009 playoff team six times last year (Vikings twice).
1. He lost to the Bengals at home, taking six sacks, completing just over 50 percent of his passes, and failing to generate a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
2. He put up good numbers, but was fairly erratic in both games against the Vikings before leading late comebacks that ended up falling short. He took a total of 14 sacks in the two contests.
3. The Packers beat the Cowboys, but Rodgers only threw for 189 yards and one touchdown, while taking four sacks and fumbling twice (although he didn't lose any).
4. Rodgers played OK in a win over the Ravens, but he did throw two picks.
5. Rodgers was pretty flawless in a Week 17 thrashing of the Cardinals, although he'd lose to them the very next week in the playoffs.
So, a quick refresher breakdown of his six games against teams that mattered in 2009:
3-3 vs good-to-elite competition
Rodgers took 25 sacks against these six teams, combined. That's exactly half of his entire season total. This shows that he held onto the ball too long in pressure situations, and wasn't as effective against tough competition as he was against inferior competition.
He still put up overall good numbers in all of these games, combined, but again, this is much due to playing from behind in the two Vikings games.
In closing, I don't think Rodgers is a bad quarterback. I think that'd be incredibly foolish to think or say. But he's not deserving of all the hype. Not if you actually look at his competition, how he fared against good teams, and how he performs in certain situations.
I think ignoring his tendency to hold onto the ball too long, to take sacks, and to fumble is a big mistake.
I also think that if he corrected this habit, it would lead to more risk-taking (which I deem necessary to win consistently in the NFL), and it would lead to more interceptions and losses, because I don't think he has that "it" factor to overcome those mistakes and huge deficits. I think we've already seen how he can struggle with that.
But hey, I'd still gladly take him as the top quarterback in my fantasy football draft!