Aaron Rodgers by the Numbers: Why History Tells Us He Could Be All-Time Great

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Aaron Rodgers by the Numbers: Why History Tells Us He Could Be All-Time Great
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Kevin Seifert, who writes for ESPN's NFC North Blog, wrote a really great post comparing Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers to some Hall of Fame quarterbacks, as well as some of the elite signal callers of the modern era through the first three years of their careers.

What he found was Rodgers has been as good or better than basically all of them, at least in terms of statistics. While we know statistics aren't everything when it comes to defining a quarterback's legacy—just ask Dan Marino, who would probably be considered the greatest ever if he'd won a ring or two—the guys on this list are basically the best of the best in the last 20 years.

Seifert also points out that nearly every quarterback on the list got better after their first three years - a scary thought given Rodgers' start.

Aaron Rodgers holds a handful of "no one's ever" stats, a few "to this point in his career" stats and even some "all-time" stats, where he currently ranks first all-time in passer rating.

That tells me Rodgers' first three years weren't only "great for his first three years"; they were just "great." So I dug deeper into the greatest three-year stretches in the careers of some of those same all-time greats, with a few modern additions.

Remember, this is the first three years of a career for Aaron Rodgers, but the best three year stretch at any point in the career of these current and future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Which QB had the greatest three-year run in history?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Statistics are from pro-football-reference.com.

 

  Age Starts Comp Att Pct Yards TD INT Rat Record Win %
Title
Aaron Rodgers '08-10 25 47 1003 1552 64.6 12394 86 31 99.4 27-20 .574 1
                         
Troy Aikman '92-94 26 44 806 1226 65.7 9221 51 32 91.2 34-10 .772 2
John Elway '96-98 36 44 777 1324 58.7 9769 75 35 89.2 35-7 .833 2
Jim Kelly '89-91 29 42 751 1111 67.6 9303 82 34 105.2 31-11 .738 0
Dan Marino '84-86 23 48 1076 1754 61.3 13967 114 61 93.6 34-14 .708 0
Joe Montana '87-89 31 37 775 1181 65.5 9556 75 31 100.7 29-8 .784 2
Warren Moon '89-91 33 47 1046 1703 61.4 13010 81 48 89.2 26-19 .577 0
Steve Young '92-94 31 48 906 1325 68.4 11457 89 33 107.1 37-11 .771 1
                         
Tom Brady '05-07 28 48 1051 1624 64.7 12445 100 34 99.7 38-10 .792 0
Peyton Manning '04-06 28 48 1003 1507 66.5 12701 108 29 108.5 38-10 .792 1
Brett Favre '95-97 26 48 988 1626 60.7 12179 113 42 96.3 37-11 .771 1
Kurt Warner '99-01 28 43 905 1392 65 12612 98 53 101.6 35-8 .814 1
Drew Brees '08-10 29 47 1224 1807 67.7 14077 101 50 98.1 32-15 .681 1

 

One of the first things that jump out is the age of these quarterbacks. There are some outliers, like Marino at 23 years old and Elway at 36 years old, but for the most part every quarterback started his run in his late 20s.

The only quarterbacks whose best three years came in their first five seasons as starters were Aikman, Marino and Warner.

Given that Rodgers is currently 27, there's a historical probability that his best years are actually ahead of him since the average starting age for these runs is 29.

That is astonishing when you consider Aaron Rodgers, in his first three seasons, was statistically better than any three consecutive seasons by guys like Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon and even John Elway.

Then, notice that the two most similar players on the list, at least by what I consider to be important statistics like completion percentage and quarterback rating, are Joe Montana and Tom Brady.

Rodgers and Brady have almost identical numbers outside of touchdown passes and wins. Furthermore, the stretch illustrated above includes Brady's incredible 2007 season, where he led the Patriots to their 16-0 season and had arguably the greatest season for a quarterback in league history.

Just about the only statistical category where Rodgers doesn't measure up to his historical peers is in wins. Remember though, five of the 13 quarterbacks on this list didn't win Super Bowls during their stretch, while Rodgers did.

Also, if you discount his first season as a starter, where he battled injuries and his defense blew a ton of late leads, Rodgers is 21-10 in his last two seasons as a starter, including 4-1 in the postseason. 

That percentage isn't decidedly better than his 27-20 current mark, but he's gone from 6-10 to 10-6 and now 11-4 as a starter, capped with an historic 4-0 postseason run this past season.

It's also worth noting that guys like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre nabbed their only Super Bowl wins during their best statistical runs.

If it is the case that Rodgers' best is still ahead of him, these numbers indicate it's extremely likely he also wins another title and potentially more during that time.

If he can stay healthy, history shows Rodgers could be in for one of the great runs in quarterback history. In other words, Packer fans—more likely than not, it's only going to get better.

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