The Aaron Rodgers Panic Index: How the media soured on an elite quarterback
- The media left Rodgers for dead in the middle of the season, and he responded by running the table and entering the league MVP conversation.
Much like last season, the arc of Aaron Rodgers takes in 2016 would best be drawn by a roller coaster engineer. It’s hard to believe after a commanding 38–13 opening-round playoff win over the Giants, but the Packers quarterback was once cold, losing five games in six weeks and convincing even his biggest supporters that he and his team might be toast.
Sure, they hedged their bets a bit, but for the most part the media left Rodgers for dead after the team, at rock bottom, appeared destined to miss the postseason. He couldn’t “hit the broad side of a barn with some of his passes.” He was fumbling away great performances by the Green Bay defense. The McCarthy-Rodgers era was done for. We heard all the takes.
And then, magically, Rodgers returned from the dead and entered the MVP conversation, helping Green Bay reel off six straight wins to end the season. The public opinion of Rodgers took a triumphant turn in the other direction, and it’s worth looking back on as he prepares to lead the Packers on another long postseason run.
Here is a snippet from a postgame column or gamer from each week this season to give you a sense of where Rodgers stood.
Week 1 @ Jacksonville (W, 27–23)
Eric Adelson, Yahoo! Sports: Why it’s time to appreciate Aaron Rodgers even more
[In a column leading with his amazing play to fool Jalen Ramsey]
Just a little smoke and mirrors from the wizard. Rodgers was sacked only once on Sunday, and that too was a sterling play by the quarterback – dashing and ducking out of pressure from all sides and finally falling right near the line of scrimmage. He saved so many downs and drives on Sunday in just that fashion. Basically the entire game was a tight window. The entire season might be the same.
RODGERS INDEX: A bit concerned about his play, but he is still making cool plays.
Week 2 @ Minnesota (L, 14–17)
Rob Demovsky, ESPN: Recurring pattern: Aaron Rodgers, Packers' offense still out of sync
When was the last time the Green Bay Packers quarterback thoroughly dominated a game?
RODGERS INDEX: Officially worried
Week 3 vs. Detroit (W, 32–27)
Michael David Smith, PFT: Aaron Rodgers carving up the Lions
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers got annoyed this week by questions about his declining production. Now he’s getting to work on putting those questions to rest.
RODGERS INDEX: Here he comes! He’s coming back!
Week 5 vs. New York Giants (W, 23–16)
Ryan Wilson, Sean Wagner-McGough, CBS Sports: Aaron Rodgers looks more like Eli Manning but Packers win anyway
It's one thing to struggle against the Vikings -- everyone does it, including Rodgers in Week 2 -- but it's something else entirely to do it against the Giants' 23rd-ranked pass defense.
Since we’re doing this with Cutler, I feel like it’s fair to say that Aaron Rodgers has been signfiicantly worse than Brian Hoyer this year.— Sean Wagner-McGough (@seanjwagner) October 10, 2016
RODGERS INDEX: The Packers won in spite of him.
Week 6 vs. Dallas
Neil Greenberg, The Washington Post: Aaron Rodgers’s completion percentage stinks. That might not matter for Packers.
You probably remember a time when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was widely considered one of the best players in the NFL. The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time most valuable player was even ranked No.6 in the NFL’s list of this year’s top 100 players.
Now he can’t hit the broad side of a barn with some of his passes. (Relatively speaking.)
RODGERS INDEX: He’s definitely bad now.
Week 7 vs. Chicago (W, 26–10)
Jonathan Jones, SI.com: Aaron Rodgers heats up to beat Bears despite Packers’ receiver problem
What should have been clear before Thursday night was blatantly obvious after the Chicago-Green Bay sleeper. Aaron Rodgers’s receivers cannot get separation, and it’s the biggest impediment to the two-time MVP’s down 2016 season.
RODGERS INDEX: Look, it’s not Aaron, it’s his receivers. And he just had a good game in spite of them.
Week 8 @ Atlanta (L, 32–33)
Matthew Rothstein, UPROXX: Who Won The NFL Weekend? Aaron Rodgers, Who Even In Defeat Proved He’s Back
Both his otherworldly arm and his above-average legs were on display for the touchdown and two-point conversion that took the lead for the Pack in the fourth quarter.
RODGERS INDEX: He lost, but there’s still optimism
Week 9 vs. Indianapolis (L, 26–31)
Brad Gagnon, Bleacher Report: Packers, Aaron Rodgers Officially Out of Excuses After Loss to Colts
By and large, the defense has given Rodgers and Co. plenty of chances to win. And yet the Packers have just two victories since the end of September.
RODGERS INDEX: OK, it’s almost totally his fault that the Packers stink
Week 10 vs. Tennessee (L, 25–47)
Michael Silver, NFL.com: Packers' loss puts Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers at crossroads
Is Green Bay an ultra-talented team that's merely taking a short sabbatical before mounting a late-season charge? Or has the McCarthy/Rodgers era reached a crisis point from which the Super Bowl-winning coach and two-time MVP quarterback might not recover?
RODGERS INDEX: Turmoil in Green Bay. The Packers won’t recover.
Week 11 @ Washington (L, 24–42)
Greg Bedard, SI.com: Blanket Coverage, Week 11
Aaron Rodgers (26 of 41 for 361 yards and three touchdowns) and the Packers’ passing offense were actually pretty good in this game.
RODGERS INDEX: It’s now surprising when Rodgers has a good game. They were actually good.
Week 12 @ Philadelphia (W, 27–13)
Ian O’Connor, ESPN: Vintage Aaron Rodgers returns, and now the Packers have life
Rodgers reminded everyone Monday night that, at 32, he still has some prime-time football to play.
RODGERS INDEX: Still kind of washed, but he’s got some good games left to play! You don’t use “vintage” to reference a player’s performance unless they’re sort of washed.
Week 13 vs. Houston (W, 21–13)
Jason Wilde, Wisconsin State Journal: Aaron Rodgers effective again as Green Bay pulls back to .500
The question now becomes: How much longer can Rodgers continue to carry such a heavy burden?
RODGERS INDEX: Just two weeks ago, a good game raised eyebrows. Now he’s carrying the team. Rodgers is back.
Week 14 vs. Seattle (W, 38–10)
Eric Edholm, Yahoo! Sports: Even on one leg, Aaron Rodgers drags Packers back into the playoff race
Rodgers turned in a mostly brilliant performance in the Packers’ 38-10 victory despite limping around against an Earl Thomas-less Seahawks defense.
RODGERS INDEX: Here we go. He didn’t even need both legs! Just one! Wow, this guy is amazing. It was mostly brilliant, though, and the Seattle defense was without one of its best players. He’s good, but let’s not push it.
Week 15 @ Chicago (W, 30–27)
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Aaron Rodgers will run away with MVP when Packers 'run the table'
Less than two weeks ago, seven players had better NFL MVP odds than Aaron Rodgers. Now it's hard to see him not finishing the season without winning it for the third time.
RODGERS INDEX: M-V-P! M-V-P!
Week 16 vs. Minnesota (W, 38–25)
Chris Chase, FOX Sports: Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the NFL, and there’s no doubt about it
Looking back, there were sign that the Rodgerssaiance was starting before the win streak. He was putting up good numbers and, while they were viewed as disappointments at the time, one-score losses to the Falcons and Colts are no great shame. But since it wasn’t translating into results, the numbers were viewed as superficial.
RODGERS INDEX: Who else can do the things that this man does?! There’s not a doubt in the world, he’s the best in the NFL.
Week 17 @ Detroit (W, 31–24)
Barry Petchesky, Deadspin: That Was Peak Aaron Rodgers
It’s hard to heap enough individual praise on Rodgers, who led the league in touchdown passes for the first time in his career. Over the 6-0 run to close the season, Rodgers threw 15 TDs, and not a single interception.
RODGERS INDEX: It is nearly impossible to give Aaron Rodgers too much credit.
Wild Card Game vs. New York Giants (W, 38–13)
Emily Kaplan, SI.com: Eight-Second Spectacular: Aaron Rodgers's poise during panic is why he's so dangerous
The Eight Second Spectacular serves as Rodgers’s “run the table moment” for Sunday’s game. His next score, a Hail Mary secured by Randall Cobb to end the half that felt surprisingly inevitable, represented how he wins in style. The Hail Mary was Rodgers’s third in 13 months.
RODGERS INDEX: He spent eight whole seconds in the pocket to create a touchdown. He threw a Hail Mary “that felt surprisingly inevitable.” He’s the freaking G.O.A.T.