This week, the Green Bay Packers made a splash releasing a photo featuring their three Super Bowl winning quarterbacks – Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
Bart Starr. Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) October 24, 2016
Yes, the history-rich Packers consider Rodgers a legend and they are happy to have him. The special photo was released, though, at a time when Rodgers is facing as much pressure as he has since he became the Packers quarterback in 2008, when they moved on from Brett Favre.
Rodgers’ production has dipped since last season and his struggles have been well documented, with many stories being written about what might be wrong with him.
In his last game, Thursday night against the woeful Chicago Bears, Rodgers threw 56 times (it was the second-most pass attempts in his 12-year career) and completed 39, a single-game Green Bay record, in an easy 26-10 Packers victory.
Rodgers threw for 326 yards. It was the first time he surpassed the 300-yard mark all season. While the performance gives Rodgers and the Packers hope that his relative troubles might be behind him, some scouts aren’t so sure.
“I wouldn’t say he’s back based on beating the Bears,” one high-placed AFC personnel man said. “I don’t think that solves it that easily. Something has not been right there in Green Bay for more than year. I don’t know exactly what it is but it hasn’t been right.”
Accuracy and drops have been a problem for Rodgers since last year. This year, he is getting better production from his receivers, but his touch hasn’t been the same.
He has completed 62.4 percent of his passes this season, compared to 60.7 percent last season. However, Rodgers’ lowest previous completion percentage was 63.8 percent in 2008, his first season as a starter.
Rodgers, who still has occasionally shown his laser touch this season, has also had a lack of big plays. He is on pace for 31 touchdown passes. He threw 31 touchdown passes last season. In his previous three full seasons, Rodgers threw 45, 39 and 38 touchdown passes.
Rodgers’ production this season and last haven’t been actually that of a bottom feeder. Most his numbers are in the average range. That’s is a problem for a player who is expected to go to the Hall of Fame.
Many scouts believe Rodgers has to go back to basics and rely on his feel for the game and his natural abilities. Many scouts think Rodgers needs to focus on setting his feet and working the quick-passing game to help get his groove back. Other scouts think Rodgers hasn’t been getting out of the pocket, an area has he excelled at, as much as in the past.
Of course, the Packers’ offensive slump isn’t all on Rodgers. His receivers don’t seem to get as open as quickly as they did in the past and the running back has been deficient, in part because of injuries.
Before the Chicago game, Rodgers indicated he thought his timing was just off, and that he was close to getting back into a winning rhythm.
“I just think it’s accuracy,” Rodgers told reporters last week. “I’ve missed a couple (throws) that I’m used to hitting. And you hit those and you take away the throwaways, being able to hit some things on some of those plays instead of extending and throwing the ball away, and we’re right where we need to be.”
To his credit, Rogers and his offense did look much better against the Bears than in the previous five games.
Of course, Rodgers, who’ll turn 33 in December, isn’t the only top-shelf quarterback to have a period of struggles. Stars such as Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning have all had recent slumps but have bounced back in their 30s.
Often times, it takes a change of coaching. It’s doubtful Rodgers’ issues will get deep enough that the Packers will be compelled to jettison head coach Mike McCarthy, a noted quarterback guru. But perhaps it will get to the point where the Packers will make an assistant coaching staff change to give Rodgers a new voice if his struggles continue.
Longtime NFL scout Matt Williamson said often even great quarterbacks need to change their approach and he said Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger have all experienced that and have improved late in their careers.
“Sometimes, it might need to be more about brains than brawn with a veteran quarterback,” Williamson said. “Sometimes, it needs to be dialed back. … Aaron may just need to adjust some. This is an all-time great quarterback. He has been off some, but, in no way, do I think he can’t get it back.”