GREEN BAY, Wis. – What would happen if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t return to the Green Bay Packers and Jordan Love would be elevated into the starting lineup?
Everyone knows the big-picture analysis. Rodgers is the reigning MVP, a 13-year starter and a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Fame. Love, last year’s first-round pick, has zero snaps of professional experience.
Digging deeper, the Packers would be swapping out one of the best under-pressure quarterbacks in the NFL for a player who struggled while under pressure during his final season at Utah State.
Rodgers ranked third in a Next Get Stats analysis of the best under-pressure quarterbacks in 2020.
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“Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception when under pressure since Week 15 of the 2017 season, making it a streak of 243 under-pressure attempts without a pick, the longest such run in the NFL,” wrote NFL.com’s Nick Shook in part of his analysis. “All five of Rodgers’ interceptions came when he wasn't under pressure in 2020. He’s proven his ability to float among an unconventional pocket and flick a pass across the field is matched by few, if any, in both style and productivity.”
How About Jordan Love Under Pressure?
Love was a hot mess when pressured at Utah State in 2019. According to Sports Info Solutions, Love’s passer rating when under pressure was a hideous 43.6 in 2019 and 53.7 for his career. An excellent athlete for the position, Love would bring additional running ability but he completed only 39.4 percent of his passes while on the move in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.
As noted by PFF’s Anthony Treash late in the 2019 season: “Love has been superior in having pressure not turn into a sack, as just 15.5 percent of his pressured dropbacks have resulted in one – 3 percent lower than the FBS average. What Love does after avoiding the sack, though, is where the concern lies. When under pressure, Love has recorded a below-average PFF grade, ranking 73rd in the FBS. Love under pressure has produced the seventh-most big-time throws at eight and the 13th most turnover-worthy plays at 11. Six of those eight big-time throws came when the receiver had a step or more of separation while eight of the 11 turnover-worthy plays went to a tight window.”
During that final season, he threw an FBS-worst 17 interceptions and fumbled five times. That’s 22 turnovers – almost two per game. To be sure, some of that was out of his control – there was a coaching change and the Aggies lost most of their personnel to graduation.
“He’s not a bad decision-maker,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said after last year’s draft. “That was one of my biggest pet peeves in the draft process was people calling that kid a bad decision-maker. He’s not. He’s a kid that’s played with nobody around him and he was competitive and he was trying to win football games. Did he force throws? Absolutely. Did he have to force throws? Absolutely. You didn’t see bad decision-making on ’18 tape, when he threw 32 touchdowns and six picks. You never heard those numbers brought up the whole process. All you heard was 20 touchdowns, 17 picks. Like, nobody ever went back and talked about ’18.”
No quarterback in NFL history has been better at avoiding game-killing mistakes than Rodgers, who is No. 1 all-time in interception percentage. There’s something to be said for throwing the ball to the bench and getting ready for the next play.
That means if Love does replace Rodgers, the key to Green Bay’s success won’t be so much about the big-time throws as the big-time mistakes.