Aaron Rodgers Has Established Himself as One of the NFL's Elite Quarterbacks

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Aaron Rodgers Has Established Himself as One of the NFL's Elite Quarterbacks
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In today's NFL, when there is a discussion as to who is the best quarterback in the league, three names always come up: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Everybody else is a "second-tier" quarterback at best.

One of those "second-tier" quarterbacks is proving that he belongs with the three aforementioned names: Aaron Rodgers.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback was given the starting job in 2008 when quarterback Brett Favre announced his (first) retirement. Since then, Rodgers has produced at a Pro Bowl level every year that he has been the starting quarterback.

Both his regular season and postseason production have placed Rodgers in the company of some of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game. In fact, Rodgers is on pace to be one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

To illustrate how good Rodgers has been thus far in his career, I have done a statistical comparison between him and 11 other quarterbacks: Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon and John Elway as well as the recently retired Brett Favre and active quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.

For each quarterback, I use the first 47 starts of their career in the regular season (as listed on Pro Football Reference) and the first three postseason starts of their career as the basis for comparison. This gives every quarterback the same number of starts to work with, eliminating huge discrepancies in yardage or touchdowns due to differences in playing time.

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Here are the results of the comparison:

Regular Season

Completion Percentage

1. Aaron Rodgers, 64.6

2. Joe Montana, 63.6

3. Ben Roethlisberger, 62.8

4. Brett Favre, 62.3

5. Tom Brady, 62.1

6. Dan Marino, 60.9

7. Peyton Manning, 60.2

8. Jim Kelly, 59.6

9. Steve Young, 59.2

10. Troy Aikman, 59.2

11. Warren Moon, 54.1

12. John Elway, 53.5

 

Yards Per Attempt

1. Ben Roethlisberger, 8.20

2. Dan Marino, 8.05

3. Aaron Rodgers, 7.99

4. Steve Young, 7.81

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

5. Jim Kelly, 7.31

6. Peyton Manning, 7.31

7. Joe Montana, 7.21

8. Troy Aikman, 6.91

9. Warren Moon, 6.85

10. Tom Brady, 6.70

11. Brett Favre, 6.62

12. John Elway, 6.54

 

Passing Yards

1. Dan Marino, 12,988

2. Aaron Rodgers, 12,394

3. Peyton Manning, 12,004

4. Joe Montana, 10,979

5. Jim Kelly, 10,697

6. Brett Favre, 10,661

7. Tom Brady, 10,516

8. Warren Moon, 9,988

9. Ben Roethlisberger, 9,876

10. John Elway, 9,360

11. Steve Young, 9,187

Scott Boehm/Getty Images

12. Troy Aikman, 9,082

 

Passing Touchdowns

1. Dan Marino, 108

2. Aaron Rodgers, 86

3. Peyton Manning, 81

4. Brett Favre, 73

5. Tom Brady, 72

6. Joe Montana, 67

7. Ben Roethlisberger, 65

8. Jim Kelly, 63

9. John Elway, 57

10. Steve Young, 51

11. Warren Moon, 44

12. Troy Aikman, 42

 

Interceptions

1. Aaron Rodgers, 31

2. Steve Young, 36

3. Tom Brady, 39

4. Joe Montana, 40

5. Ben Roethlisberger, 47

6. Jim Kelly, 49

T7. Brett Favre/Dan Marino, 54

9. John Elway, 55

T10. Troy Aikman/Peyton Manning, 57

12. Warren Moon, 62

 

Passer Rating

1. Aaron Rodgers, 99.4

2. Dan Marino, 94.7

3. Ben Roethlisberger, 90.3

4. Joe Montana, 88.9

5. Tom Brady, 86.7

6. Steve Young, 85.7

7. Peyton Manning, 84.7

8. Brett Favre, 82.7

9. Jim Kelly, 82.6

10. Troy Aikman, 72.7

11. John Elway, 71.2

12. Warren Moon, 67.6

 

Aaron Rodgers finds himself in the top three in every single category, the only quarterback out of the 12 to do so. In his three seasons as a starter, he has been truly remarkable.

However, because he has not won a Super Bowl yet, there is the perception that Rodgers isn't as good as some of the quarterbacks on this list who have won Super Bowls.

First of all, he's only been in the postseason twice, and might very well win the Super Bowl this year, so it is way too early in his career to hold that against him.  

Second of all, he is also on pace to be one of the greatest postseason quarterbacks in NFL history. Here are the postseason comparisons, using the same rules as above and each quarterback's first three postseason starts:

Postseason

Completion Percentage

1. Aaron Rodgers, 73.3

2. Steve Young, 71.3

3. Troy Aikman, 68.5

4. Joe Montana, 63.6

5. Dan Marino, 62.6

6. Tom Brady, 61.9

7. Ben Roethlisberger, 61.6

8. Brett Favre, 60.6

9. Warren Moon, 60.4

10. John Elway, 53.5

11. Jim Kelly, 52.1

12. Peyton Manning, 47.6

 

Yards Per Attempt

1. Dan Marino, 9.63

2. Aaron Rodgers, 9.23

3. Troy Aikman, 8.93

4. Steve Young, 8.80

5. Joe Montana, 8.49

6. Ben Roethlisberger, 8.42

7. Warren Moon, 7.43

8. Brett Favre, 7.31

9. Jim Kelly, 6.94

10. John Elway, 6.40

11. Tom Brady, 5.9

12. Peyton Manning, 5.31

 

Passing Yards

1. Aaron Rodgers, 969

2. Dan Marino, 876

3. Jim Kelly, 812

4. Brett Favre, 797

5. Troy Aikman, 795

6. Steve Young, 766

7. Warren Moon, 750

8. Joe Montana, 747

9. John Elway, 685

10. Ben Roethlisberger, 615

11. Tom Brady, 572

12. Peyton Manning, 558

 

Passing Touchdowns

1. Aaron Rodgers, 10

2. Dan Marino, nine

3. Troy Aikman, eight

T4. Joe Montana/Ben Roethlisberger, six

T6. Jim Kelly/Brett Favre, five

8. John Elway, four

T9. Warren Moon/Steve Young, three

T11. Tom Brady/Peyton Manning, one

 

Interceptions

1. Troy Aikman, zero

T2. Tom Brady/Aaron Rodgers, one

4. Peyton Manning, two

T5. Steve Young/Brett Favre, three

7. Joe Montana, four

T8. John Elway/Dan Marino/Ben Roethlisberger, five

T11. Jim Kelly/Warren Moon, six

 

Once again, Aaron Rodgers finds himself near the top of every list. He has thrown for three or more touchdowns in every playoff game that he has played.

His only playoff loss came in a game where he had five touchdowns (one rushing, four passing) and led his team to 45 points!

There are some drawbacks to his approach: comparing passing numbers doesn't necessarily establish Rodgers as better than all of the quarterbacks.

There is an obvious difference between passing offenses in this decade and passing offenses in the early 1980s, which gives a statistical advantage to Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger and Rodgers.

Also, some quarterbacks were placed in more favorable situations than others, and it is almost impossible to adjust for that.

However, the statistical comparison does tell us two things.

First of all, Aaron Rodgers belongs in the Manning/Brady/Brees conversation as one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks.

Second of all, if Rodgers can stay healthy and continue to produce at his current level, he has the potential to eventually be the greatest quarterback of all time (emphasis on the words "potential" and "eventually").

Regardless of how Rodgers' career turns out, he is one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks.

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