X

Green Bay Packers Failed Aaron Rodgers and It's Coming Back to Haunt Them

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 12, 2022

Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers once famously told fans and reporters to "relax" in regard to the Packers' perceived struggles.

And to a large extent, he hasn't given Packers fans a reason to stress.

After getting shellacked by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 last year, the Packers went on to lose just two more games the rest of the way en route to a third straight 13-win season, an NFC North title and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Despite all that, the season culminated in a disheartening loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round. That was followed by the stunning trade that sent star wide receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Packers made an effort to replace Adams, but rather than with an impact veteran or first-round pick, it was with Day 2 and Day 3 draft capital and journeymen.

It was a continuation of a trend. It has been two decades since Green Bay took a wide receiver in Round 1, and while the team hit big in Round 2 with Adams in 2014, the Packers did little to add talent around him in the interim.

On Sunday in Minneapolis, that longtime philosophy blew up in Green Bay's face. Facing a Vikings pass defense that was 28th in the league last year, the Packers could generate next to nothing on offense on the way to a lopsided loss.

It's just one week, but the Packers didn't look like a Super Bowl front-runner against the Vikings, let alone the best team in their division.

The Packers looked like a deeply flawed team—one that has failed their MVP quarterback.

AP Photo/Abbie Parr

Green Bay's new-look receiving corps was the talk of Titletown all through training camp. Rodgers admitted a month ago that youngsters like Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs had a way to go before they would be consistent NFL contributors.

"The young guys, especially young receivers, we've got to be way more consistent," Rodgers said to reporters. "A lot of drops, a lot of bad route decisions, running the wrong route. We've got to get better in that area."

Rodgers also made it clear that if those young players weren't ready, then veterans like Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb would have to step up.

"We're going to play our best guys when the season starts. And whoever those guys are, those guys are going to get the reps," he said.

"It's the guys I trust the most and the guys the coaches trust the most. A lot of it is just the simple responsibility in the offense. Way before body positioning and movement and throw, and all that stuff, are you in the right spot at the right time? Are you running the right route?"

Against the Vikings, it really didn't matter if it was rookies or veterans. None of the Green Bay receivers were a factor.

For the game, Rodgers completed just 22-of-34 passes for 195 yards. He threw an interception against an NFC North opponent for the first time since 2019. His passer rating for the contest was 67.7—nearly 37 points below his career average.

As the game wore on and the Packers continued to struggle, it became plainly evident that Rodgers was not a happy camper.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Aaron Rodgers is NOT happy<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a>)<a href="https://t.co/DDOCzq0XIi">pic.twitter.com/DDOCzq0XIi</a>

All you need to look at to figure out why Rodgers was displeased is look at the team's receiving stats for the game. With Lazard sitting out with an ankle injury, Green Bay's leading receiver had five catches for 46 yards.

That receiving leader? Running back AJ Dillon.

The leading wide receiver for the Packers in the game was Doubs, who had four grabs for 37 yards. Watkins and Cobb combined for five grabs for 32 yards.

As for Watson, who the Pack drafted 34th overall in April out of North Dakota State?

Yeah, his first NFL target didn't go so well.

Action Network @ActionNetworkHQ

Oh no, Christian Watson... 🤦‍♂️<a href="https://t.co/jk4dWxUfVI">pic.twitter.com/jk4dWxUfVI</a>

Watson finished with two catches for 34 yards.

Take out Dillon, fellow running back Aaron Jones and tight end Robert Tonyan, and every pass-catcher on Green Bay's roster combined for 151 receiving yards.

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson had 184 yards and two scores by himself. And again, this wasn't the Buffalo Bills pass defense. Last year with Adams, Rodgers torched this same Vikings team for 673 yards and six scores without a pick.

Now, this is the point where Packers backers trying their level best not to freak out will point to the fact that Lazard wasn't out there. However, we aren't talking about a guy who was an early pick or has stacked a bunch of 1,000-yard seasons. He's an undrafted free agent who has never had more than 40 catches or 513 receiving yards in a season.

Lazard isn't scaring defensive coordinators. And even if he did, after witnessing Green Bay's offense flounder Sunday, all they would have to do is bracket him. None of Green Bay's other receivers are going to win one-on-one battles with any consistency.

Watkins and Cobb have big seasons on their professional resumes, but they are shells of the player they once were. Doubs and Watson looked very much like the raw rookies they are. Amari Rodgers is just a guy.

David Berding/Getty Images

It's a menagerie of meh. A basket of blah. And at this point, there probably isn't that much the Packers can do about it.

The best free agent available (Odell Beckham) tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, and by the time he's ready to make any kind of impact, the season could already be circling the drain. Adding another mediocre free agent or swinging a trade for another team's cast-off is just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

To be fair, Green Bay's receivers weren't the team's only issue Sunday. With tackles Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari both out with injuries, Minnesota's pass-rushers were in Rodgers' face in a hurry to the tune of four sacks and five QB hits. But with the line banged up, it's all the more important that the receivers help them out by getting open quickly.

Green Bay just couldn't do that against the Vikings. And if they can't do it against Minnesota, good luck doing it against Tampa in Week 3. Or at Buffalo on October 30. Or against any quality opponent.

For several reasons (including paying Rodgers $50 million a season), Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst rolled the dice that the two-time reigning MVP would be able to elevate a moribund group of pass-catchers. But if Sunday's loss was any indication, some things are beyond even Rodgers' abilities.

Those dice Gutekunst rolled appear to have come up snake-eyes. And in counting on Rodgers to spin straw into gold rather than surrounding him with weapons for one more run at the Super Bowl, the Packers have set the stage for the final chapters of Rodgers' career to be a disappointing one.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.