If you’re anything like me – sorry if you are – you sometimes have trouble viewing things at surface value. You’re more interested in digging through multiple layers in order to get a bigger picture of an issue.
The current predicament the Green Bay Packers find themselves in with regards to Aaron Rodgers’ concussion (his second of the year) is one such issue.
It’s obviously been the topic of the moment amongst Packers fans and rightfully so. Rodgers’ health, or lack thereof, will decide the future of the team, not just this year but for years to come. And one of the quickest ways in which a player’s health can de-rail is via concussions. With two under his belt, the clock is already ticking for Rodgers.
The first question on everyone’s mind is whether or not Rodgers should play this week. We’ll know a great deal more Wednesday from Mike McCarthy’s presser (Rodgers may be available to the media, as well). Rodgers will also undergo mental tests to determine his condition. The brutally honest fact of the matter, however, is that regardless of how he tests out, he really shouldn’t play Sunday. His absence leaves Green Bay with a less-than-zero percent chance of winning against the mighty New England Patriots, of course, but this shouldn’t be about that. Again, he’s the cornerstone. Protecting that at all costs is what this needs to be about.
Look, let’s be honest – this team has about a five percent chance of winning even if he plays. To beat New England on the road, you have to be perfect AND lucky. The Packers have been neither this season. If they have any shot at the postseason – and, again, I’d put the percentage on that as being low right now – their last two games, home contests with New York and Chicago, will hold the key.
He must be 100 percent for those games. Sorry, I don’t care what the men who test him may say, there is just no way he could bounce back to full force less than seven days after having his brain scrambled for the second time in two months. And, really, it’s about more than just those two concussions. Rodgers hasn’t been sacked in 2010 as much as he was last year, but doesn’t it seem like he’s been absorbing more violent hits this time around? More blatant helmet-to-helmet collisions that have gone largely uncalled? If you have little chance of winning, anyways, why not give your future a week off to prepare for your two biggest games of the year?
It’s there that we can begin to move to the second level of this issue. This one has little to do with Rodgers. No, this one’s about the men who are paid to protect him. In short, the Packers’ offensive line has regressed this season from its late-2009 brilliance.
There have been moments of solid play, but for the most part, the group just hasn’t done enough to protect its elite quarterback. Enough to protect Derek Anderson? Sure. But not Rodgers. People, myself included, wonder why Rodgers still gets a case of “happy feet” at times and why, on certain plays, he seems to break the pocket quicker than is necessary. If you think about it, though, it’s simple: He likely has little trust in the front five, despite what he may say publicly. After watching such average front sevens as the ones in Detroit and Washington get to him over-and-over, I can’t say I blame him.
If you’ve been harassed consistently, as he has in numerous games, you’re always looking for that escape, particularly if you have the athleticism that Rodgers has. That’s why Rodgers fails to recognize wide-open receivers on plays where he takes off. It has little to do with lack of awareness, but rather a keen sense of self-preservation.
As much as I love the work he’s done overall, in five years as general manager, Ted Thompson has yet to get really, truly serious about putting together an elite o-line. Brett Favre had the veteran know-how to make it work towards the end of his time in Green Bay; Rodgers hasn’t gained that yet. And until guys like Daryn Colledge and Scott Wells (a solid player who will always struggle at times because of his limited size) are no longer charged with covering him, the pressure will always be there. If that’s the case, Rodgers may not even make it long enough to gain Favre’s veteran savvy. The road from where he’s at to where Steve Young and Troy Aikman ended up is shorter than you think.
Of course, Rodgers is not without blame on this issue. He still hangs on to the ball longer than he should at times, which has led to hits he need not take. And we’ve known for a long time that Rodgers ran too recklessly (quick – how many times have you yelled, “SLIDE AARON!” at the television? I bet it’s a lot). Every time he went for that extra yard – and took an unnecessary hit as a result – you always worried as to whether or not he’d get up right away. At some point, we all knew there’d come a time when he didn’t pop right back up. That time came Sunday.
It’s unfortunate that it happened at the time it did – the Packers in a frantic playoff chase – but, again, make no mistake, this was going to happen. The hope now is that it can serve as a lesson to Rodgers. Fighting for that extra yard is valliant, especially when your line and playmakers aren’t doing their jobs (see: Sunday), but it’s more important to keep yourself intact.
Again, that’s the over-arching theme of the whole issue: keeping Rodgers intact. Playing him Sunday night won’t help that. The Daryn Colledges of the world won’t help that. And Rodgers himself won’t help that. Hopefully, the men who make the decisions for the Packers see this, as well.