The Green Bay Packers thought that at least at quarterback, they were set for at least five more years without having to think of possibly making a change at the position. But Aaron Rodgers has been disappointing for about a year now, which makes one wonder if this is a fixable thing or an inevitable decline.
The Packers are 3-2 to start the season, losing in Minnesota and at home to the Dallas Cowboys. Rodgers, usually one of the more efficient and consistent quarterbacks in the NFL, a two-time MVP and one-time Super Bowl MVP, has always been regarded as someone who’s dragged down by poor coaching from Mike McCarthy, or not a good enough team around him, which is why an elite quarterback like him has just one Super Bowl appearance.
But Rodgers is only 26th this season in completion percentage (60.2%), 26th in yards per attempt (6.46) and his 88.4 passer rating is only 20th in the NFL. Those problems were evident last season too, despite the Packers going 10-6. From 2009 through 2014, Rodgers completed 66.3% of his throws, averaged 8.4 yards per attempt and posted a 109.0 passer rating. In 2015 all those numbers went way down, and combined with this season, over his last 19 games, Rodgers is completing only 60.6% of his passes, averaging 6.6 yards per attempt and his passer rating is just 91.7. He had a 101 passer rating or higher for six consecutive seasons before 2015.
Rodgers is almost 33, so maybe a decline isn’t that surprising. He’s “only” been a starter since 2008, waiting three years for Brett Favre to retire. He had an injury in 2013 that took him out for 7 games, but that didn’t seem to be a problem in 2014. And it’s not like he hasn’t had big games this season, with Rodgers throwing four touchdown passes and averaging 8.54 yards per attempt in a win over the Detroit Lions. But he doesn’t have a 260 yard game or more this season, which suggests two things: The Packers not wanting him to throw that much, or Rodgers having a problem throwing that much.
The defense seems to be in a more or less good spot. Eddie Lacy might not be the lightest running back on the planet, but he’s doing OK. The Packers have weapons to throw to around Rodgers. His protection isn’t perfect, but overall their offensive line has been good. It seems that Rodgers falling from elite status to way worse, maybe even below mediocre, is the biggest thing holding them back.
Not too long ago I was one of those aggressively shipping him as the best quarterback in the NFL. Last season? That just seemed to be a glitch in the matrix. It can happen to everyone, especially when your head coach is never too good at making the best of you and the talent around you. But this season suggests there’s more to the story, and that Rodgers, which should be very worrying to the Packers, just isn’t going to last forever, and maybe his peak is way behind him.