The Green Bay Packers are 5-1, and in the driver’s seat in the NFC North. But let’s not miss that Aaron Rodgers is in decline.
Bad officiating aside, the Green Bay Packers moved to 5-1 with a narrow win over the Detroit Lions on Monday night. They’ve also beaten each of the other three teams in the NFC North now, as Aaron Rodgers has run Matt LaFleur’s offense fairly efficiently in tandem with a vastly improved defense.
Since his second MVP season in 2014, Rodgers’ numbers have slowly dropped off. A elite-level stretch in 2016 led to him leading the league with 40 touchdown passes that season. then a collarbone injury cost him nine games in 2017.
Rodgers suffered what looked like a severe knee injury in Week 1 of the 2018 season. But he did not miss a game on his way to finishing with a career-low (for a full season) 25 touchdown passes and a career-worst 54.4 QBR. He did only throw two interceptions all season, but he seemed to often throw the ball away a lot as a concession to his dislike for Mike McCarthy’s play calling.
At his peak Rodgers had a strong argument at the most physically-talented quarterback in the NFL, perhaps ever. Now approaching 36 years old, the eye test along with surface and advanced numbers have clearly shown he’s not that guy anymore.
Through six games this season, Rodgers has a 62.6 percent completion rate, a 92.8 passer rating and a 53.0 QBR with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Those numbers and rates are all comparable, or slightly below, last year for him, while his yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt and yards per completion are down. On a more surface level, with a nod to throwing less (fewer than 35 attempts four times), he has also thrown for fewer than 240 yards four times.
It’s hard to call Rodgers washed up. He offers glimpses of his peak at times, and there aren’t many quarterbacks you’d want over him if you had to have a game-winning drive. But this is clearly a diminished version, and the “elite” label is not locked in when mentioning his name anymore.
The Packers only went to and won one Super Bowl when Rodgers was at the peak of his power, which can be laid at the feet of McCarthy and former general manager Ted Thompson. But this new formula can continue to be a winning one for Rodgers and the Packers, echoing the Denver Broncos and a late-career John Elway. Still, the decline is evident based on the numbers this year.