The average person would like to have the “down-years” that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has. Rodgers knows too.
I sometimes laugh when people talk to me about bad years, Rodgers said on The Pat McAfee Showbecause often down years for me are career years for most quarterbacks.
Rodgers, 36, maybe notverybe the same quarterback he was in his prime. But he’s still one of the best the NFL has to offer as he prepares to play Tom Brady in week 6 of the 2020 NFL season in a match-up of future Hall of Famers. If we’re literal, everyone has “bad years”. Patrick Mahomes did not have as good a year in 2019 as in his MVP 2018. Rodgers has not played at absolute top performances every season.
But it’s silly to think of Rodgers’ worst seasons as “ down years, ” a statistics-driven fallacy that originated in a football-obsessed fantasy world. It’s not all that different from spending time arguing about whether Michael Jordan or LeBron James is the basketball GOAT. Rodgers’ “down years” are still some of the more fun and impressive quarterback seasons football has ever seen.
MORE: Matt LaFleur’s Plan for Aaron Rodgers Packers Looks Just Right
Was Aaron Rodgers’ 2019 season a down year?
When the Packers went 6-9-1 in 2018, it was Rodgers who came under a lot of fire. It didn’t matter that he threw 25 touchdowns compared to two interceptions. An all-time great wasn’t meant to go 6-9-1. But aside from Davante Adams, Rodgers didn’t have much to throw at when Randall Cobb was injured. And the Aaron Jones / Jamaal Williams split in the backfield wasn’t quite the monster it is today. Mike McCarthy was fired because of the struggles, not Rodgers.
Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur took a moment to meet in 2019. The attack was unlike the one Rodgers had committed for years. And so Rodgers didn’t go out every week to throw 300 meters. He didn’t have a ton of four touchdown games. He still threw 26 TDs compared to four interceptions, but the drop in counting statistics was seen as a “down year”. Only problem? Green Bay went 13-3.
The 2019 Packers didn’t need Rodgers to throw it everywhere to win all those games. An improved pass rush and impressive rush game made for a more balanced team than Green Bay had in years. If your only reason to hate Rodgers in 2019 was because you counted on him in fantasy, it’s your fault that you didn’t read all of the Sporting News fantasy articles warning Rodgers was “riskier than usual.”
So sure, if your measure of the type of season a player had fantasy points, Rodgers had a down 2019. But in a pass-happy NFL, he still threw as many TDs as Deshuan Watson and Patrick Mahomes, for 55 yards less than Tom Brady and had the lowest interception rate in football. Most everyone would take that “down year”.
What has changed for Aaron Rodgers in 2020?
The Packers have decided to broadcast it in 2020. Part of that comes from Rodgers’ increased confidence in Marquez Valdes-Scantling, whom he’s been talking to since training camp. Valdes-Scantling is one of the league’s top major threats, but it grapples with inconsistency. The Packers let him go in early 2020. They also benefited from the rise of Allen Lazard in late 2019, who looked like a longtime starter before sustaining a core injury.
Of course, there’s Adams, whom Rodgers often focuses on when he’s healthy. But it was never really about the receivers for Rodgers. He’s only thrown two touchdowns in his career on previous first-round picks, both on an aging Marcedes Lewis in 2019-2020. Green Bay signed quarterback Jordan Love in the first round, sparking speculation that Rodgers would move on, but he won’t go anywhere if he continues to play how to start 2020.
LaFleur having Rodgers throw the football across the field was a huge success, the Packers started 4-0 and Rodgers threw for 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns with no interceptions. They still have Jones and Williams to win the ground fight, so don’t be surprised if Rodgers has the occasional quiet week. His quiet, “bad” weeks are more due to the different ways the Packers have to win games than anything else.
Aaron Rodgers was Mahomes before Mahomes
Again, by the definition of “bad years,” Rodgers has had a few. It’s the years when he wasn’t as dominant as his best years. But it is impossible to repeat some of the best years in the history of the competition. Regression to the mean is real.
But Rodgers didn’t suddenly become a worse player. You know all those Mahomes who yawn at social media? Rodgers has been making them for years.
So at this point there is really no reason to argue whether Rodgers has a “down year,” this year or next year or the year after. The decline will begin. Retirement will eventually come. But for now, Rodgers is in the middle of one of the best seasons he’s ever had. Enjoy it.
Matt LaFleur’s plan for Aaron Rodgers, Packers looks just right
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