A Key at Quarterback: An Accurate Prediction for Rodgers

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – There’s little doubt the Green Bay Packers’ championship aspirations will fall squarely on the right arm of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Yes, the defense finished in the top 10 in points allowed. Yes, Christian Kirksey’s arrival could be a major lift to the run defense. Yes, running back Aaron Jones was the most valuable Aaron on the roster last season.

Still, it’s a quarterback-driven league. Teams with great quarterbacks have a chance to win every Sunday, including into January and early February. Teams with mediocre quarterbacks will struggle to stay relevant. While Jones is a star and coach Matt LaFleur can lean heavily on a potential three-headed monster in the backfield, Rodgers’ production ultimately will dictate the fate of the 2020 season.

Rodgers doesn’t need to throw for 4,600 yards and 45 touchdowns, like he did when he won his first MVP in 2011. Rather, when he’s asked to throw, he must deliver.

Last season, Rodgers completed only 62.0 percent of his passes. After completing 65.7 percent during his sensational 2016, he’s slipped three consecutive seasons. To be sure, some of that is on the staggering number of intentional throwaways. He had 59 in 2018 (19 more than any quarterback) and 39 in 2019 (second to Tom Brady’s 45).

For a better indicator on accuracy, Pro Football Focus charts “adjusted completion percentage.” That stat pretends throwaways didn’t happen and counts drops as completions. Last season, 30 quarterbacks had at least 300 dropbacks. In that group, Rodgers ranked 18th with an adjusted completion percentage of 73.3.

How important is it to throw the ball accurately? Last season, eight of the top nine in adjusted completion percentage made the playoffs. On the other hand, only one of the bottom eight qualified for the postseason.

The hope for the Packers is that Rodgers improves in Year 2 in Matt LaFleur’s offensive scheme. While Rodgers wholeheartedly embraced the change in offensive direction, statistically speaking, he wasn’t any better. In 2018, in the final year running former coach Mike McCarthy’s scheme, Rodgers posted a passer rating of 97.6. Last year with LaFleur, Rodgers’ rating actually dipped to 95.4. He had three games of 100-plus passer ratings in the first half of the season but only one in the second half.

Quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy said Rodgers made the best of a unique offseason.

“He’s been great,” Getsy said recently. “He’s excited to get going in the fall. He grinded through this offseason with us. We got a lot accomplished in this unique style. I’m looking forward to applying it once we get together.”

From LaFleur’s perspective, the first year not only with Rodgers but with everyone else – remember, Allen Lazard didn’t even make the opening roster last year – should put the offense in a far better starting point. And while general manager Brian Gutekunst infamously didn’t draft any receivers, he did sign veteran Devin Funchess and there is hope that the return of Equanimeous St. Brown after spending last season on injured reserve will provide a lift. Obviously, it’s easier to complete passes when the receiver is open.

“This is a different offseason and not many of us – myself I have – but not many of us have gone through an offseason where you’re not together physically,” Rodgers said on May 15. “We managed it in 2011 and I think with these Zoom meetings and the installs we’ve been doing, I think we’re going to be ready to go whenever that time comes, but it will be an accelerated learning curve for especially those young guys who are expected to play.”

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

So at the end of the day PFF is great when it fits your existing notions of football and garbage when it challenges them?