The 2010 season was supposed to be the year of Aaron Rodgers, the year he joined the truly elite group of signal-callers in the NFL.
His face was on the cover of every football-related magazine over the summer. Fans, analysts and media members alike gushed over what he would do. His time had come.
Six games into the season, 2010 is looking like it will go down as the year Aaron Rodgers regressed.
We saw more of that again and again Sunday in the Green Bay Packers’ 23-20 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field. The loss, Green Bay’s third in four games, drops the Packers to 3-3 on the season.
Some fans will point to anything else they can, other than Rodgers. They will blame the refs, Mike McCarthy, the special teams or the injuries. They’ll tell you that Rodgers has little or no chance playing behind such a poor offensive line, that he’s been killed by the drops from the receivers. Can some truth be found in these options? Yes, there can. Certainly, it’s not all his fault this team keeps losing, despite consistently gutty efforts from an injury-ravaged defense, a unit that has allowed just 18.7 points per game this season.
But do not fool yourself, either. Rodgers simply has not been very good. The offense is a struggling, sputtering vehicle. Well, who is the driver of said vehicle? Oh, that’s right – QB12.
Numerous aspects of Rodgers’ game have fallen off during the season. The biggest, of course, being his complete inability to get rid of the ball in a timely fashion. We saw plenty of that Sunday. Some of Miami’s five sacks and 10 quarterback hits fall on an overmatched offensive line. But, far more often, Rodgers was given plenty of time to make a play. For whatever reason, he failed to do so.
(Quick – count how many times you yelled, “Get rid of the damn ball, Aaron!” at your television. I bet it’s more than the amount of fingers you have.)
This resulted in countless plays where he either took a sack or eventually had to run out of the pocket before simply tossing the ball out of bounds (the latter a huge reason he finished just 18-of-33 passing). Those dead plays were especially crucial in the second quarter. Clinging to a 10-7 lead, the Packers whiffed on two drives in Dolphins territory. Rodgers took two sacks and almost threw a pick in those series, in case you weren’t sure.
Miami had been rattled by the way Green Bay stormed back into the game early in quarter two. Had the Packers capitalized there, they could have put a stranglehold on the game. An elite quarterback would have gotten the job done. Rodgers didn’t. Making matters worse, you could sense he wasn’t going to do it.
Some may point to his receivers and say the sacks/pressures Sunday were due to them not getting open. That might be true (I’m not Cris Collinsworth – I can’t access the coaches tape). It seems impossible that the receivers could be completely blanketed on each of those plays week after week, though, doesn’t it?
The real problem here is that, far too often, Rodgers seems unwilling to attempt the tight throws, the “dangerous” throws. Making such throws isn’t always a good idea, but consistently turning them down isn’t, either. Think I’m wrong? Put on some tape of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. They often have small passing windows. They still make the throws, though, because to be elite, you have to.
Rodgers won’t do it, even with all the non-Jermichael Finley talent at his disposal. If he doesn’t have a clear passing lane, that ball is not coming out. My best guess is that he’s intent on being the anti-Favre. No dangerous throws from me. Honestly, that approach was fine when he wasn’t throwing picks. But he’s already thrown seven this season (he had seven all of last year). He won’t make the dangerous throws, but he’ll still throw interceptions? Not good, and even worse when you toss in all the sacks he’s taken.
And if he’s the player many make him out to be, wouldn’t he be able to get it done when it mattered most? Yes, he was great on the final drive of regulation, leading Green Bay to a game-tying score. You can not take that away from him. But in the clutch – the real clutch – Rodgers has flat-out failed in consecutive weeks. Last week, against Washington, he turned in a three-and-out (in which he was sacked on third down) and a game-changing interception. Sunday? Another three-and-out, which included taking another horrendous sack on third-and-6. How many chances does he expect the defense to give him?
Throw in his truly poor body language throughout Sunday’s contest – don’t tell me his displeasure with the refs didn’t bring down his game at times, because it did – and you come away with a picture of a quarterback who seems to have very much lost his way. That’s troubling. I’m not ready to say he’s hit his ceiling yet, but I am wondering how high his ceiling is, exactly.
For some reason, certain Packers fans just can not bring themselves to criticize whoever’s manning the quarterback position. Sorry, but this writer spent a decade and a half glossing over every flaw the last quarterback had, simply because he was a fan. He will not make that mistake again.
And it just so happens that that last guy is making his way back to town next Sunday night. Rodgers can erase many of my doubts with a strong performance in that one.
The season hangs in the balance. If it’s not panic time, it’s getting awfully close.
Your stage is set, Mr. Rodgers – what do you plan on doing with it?