Packers Beer Mug Perspective: Are Rodgers’ Critics on Target?

Green Bay Packers Beer Mug

There was nothing more disheartening than watching the Green Bay Packers lose in such miserable fashion to the Detroit Lions. Perhaps if the Lions had blown out the Packers, then I’d feel even worse, but thankfully Dom Capers’ defense helped to keep victory within reach. Although, it might be easier to give in to pessimism had the chance for a comeback not been a realistic one.

Instead, we saw a once-prolific offense reduced to a seven-point outing. I would even put the offense in the red, because they gave up nine points to the Lions, which was more than they scored themselves. There should have been no reason that they couldn’t have won that game with the defense creating three turnovers and finally making some stops on third down.

We’ve had a lot of time to voice our concerns this week, and while I certainly came away from the game frustrated, I decided to let my emotions settle down before settling on any long-term conclusions about the team. One argument that I’ve heard consistently, though, is that Aaron Rodgers’ passing accuracy the past three weeks has been noticeably less than what we are used to.

My question this week, then, is this:

Are the struggles of the Packers offense a result of Aaron Rodgers’ throwing accuracy?

In this installment of the Packers Beer Mug Perspective, we’ll take a look at the issue from both angles, and then determine whether our mug is really “half empty” or “half full.”

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

One of the difficult things about this issue is the fact that we only have a limited idea of where Aaron Rodgers was targeting his passes as he was making them. Just because he misses a receiver doesn’t automatically mean that he wasn’t accurate, at least in the technical term.

A lot of trust is required between quarterback and receiver. There are many throws throughout the course of a game which are made without complete knowledge of the receiver’s exact location. Based on the play call, the look from the defense, and practice habits, Rodgers might throw a ball where he expects the receiver to be rather than where he actually sees him.

Hitches, comebacks, and back-shoulder throws are a great example of this, because the ball has to be thrown often before the turn is even made by the receiver. The quarterback and receiver have to be on the same page as far as the depth of the route, the position of the defender, and the timing. On the third offensive drive for the Packers, this was the type of throw to Jarrett Boykin on 2nd-and-10 that ended up in an incompletion. It’s useless to argue who was wrong on that play, because we simply don’t have that information. However, the probability is very high that Rodgers threw it where he wanted it to be.

We also have to account for dropped passes when looking at the quarterback’s completion percentage, because even if he makes a pinpoint throw, the drop will count against his basic statistics despite being the fault of the receiver. According to ProFootballFocus.com, 10 of Rodgers’ 102 pass attempts have been dropped by receivers, which calculates to a rate of 9.8%. So far this season, that ties for worst in the league with the Baltimore Ravens.

THE MUG IS HALF EMPTY

While we can accept some of those excuses, plays like the 4th-and-5 throw to Jordy Nelson on the offense’s last down against the Lions make us scratch our heads. We have come to expect more accuracy from Aaron Rodgers, and plays like that just throw more fuel on the fire. Even Rodgers rated his accuracy as a mere 7 out of 10 during his weekly radio show after the Week 2 win over the New York Jets.

In each of his past two games, Rodgers has had a 59.52% and 59.26% completion rate, respectively. These are both significantly lower than his 65.72% career average. He is earning a top paycheck in this league, and his performance should reflect that. Even if those numbers might be acceptable for good quarterbacks, they are subpar for great quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers. The team has invested a lot in him, and they need to see some more return on it.

In addition to all of this, we have seen some close calls (and blunders) with interceptions. On Rodgers’ only interception of the season, he missed Jordy Nelson on a slant route against the Seattle Seahawks, causing the ball to tip off of Nelson’s hands and fall into the arms of cornerback Byron Maxwell. We saw an interception nullified by a penalty against the Jets, and against the Lions, we saw a pass intended for Nelson along the sideline get tipped by a defender playing underneath.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the Green Bay offense’s struggles, and Aaron Rodgers shouldn’t be given a pass from the criticism. His accuracy simply isn’t in line with what we expect from him.

GETTING THROUGH THE FOAM

While I would love to go through all 102 passing plays made by Aaron Rodgers these past three weeks and present a truckload of video evidence to combat this argument, I simply don’t have the time nor desire to do so. The next best thing I can do is turn to some statistics that are useful in painting a clearer picture of the situation.

The following has been taken from ProFootballFocus.com:

Aaron Rodgers Passing Statistics, 2009-2014
Year Rank Drop backs Att. Comp Drops TA BP SP HAT Drop % Acc. %
2014 7 114 102 64 10 4 1 0 1 9.8 77.1
2013 1 328 290 193 14 22 6 1 0 4.8 79.3
2012 1 639 552 371 45 20 5 3 5 8.2 80.2
2011 1 581 502 343 40 17 5 2 3 8 80.6
2010 6 549 475 312 28 16 6 2 2 5.9 75.7
2009 4 625 541 350 45 14 9 3 6 8.3 77.6

 

My key takeaways from this information are:

  1. Aaron Rodgers’ accuracy percentage is the second lowest of this time frame, but it’s only three percentage points off from his highest. In other words, he’s pretty consistent.
  2. The lowest accuracy percentage of Rodger’s career was in their Super Bowl Championship year.
  3. The drop rate of Packers receivers has been the highest of all years so far.
  4. Rodgers is still in the Top 10 across the league in regard to accuracy percentage.
  5. We’re only three games into this season. There is a lot of time left for the numbers to “regress towards the mean.”

Our memories our fallible things. Studies have shown that the accuracy of our memories are not very reliable and are affected by other events and powers of suggestion. This is why I always like to revisit the statistics and game tape whenever I want to get to the bottom of a football argument. Even though I have certain memories of what happened, my overall impressions are affected by emotional swings throughout the game.

My theory is that the overall deficiencies of the offense, the drops by wide receivers, the unnecessary sacks taken by Aaron Rodgers, and critical (though few) instances of poor performance have all affected our perception of Rodgers’ accuracy. Even though he might not be as accurate as we are used to, it’s not by a significant margin, and it’s certainly not cause for great concern. In this light, our mug is still half full.

There are plenty of concerns to be voiced with regard to the Green Bay Packers and its offensive production, but I don’t think the quarterback’s accuracy should be anywhere near the top of that list. My personal opinion is that the running game should be number one with a bullet right now.

But that’s a topic for another post.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • Since ’61

    Chad – I agree with your conclusion about Rodgers, that our mug remains half full. To me the big issue on offense is the Packers OL. On many plays during the Lions game our OL got beat by the Lions DL, especially our TE, whoever was in to block, and TJ Lang was totally out played physically by the Lion D lineman against them. The Lions 4 DL were able to beat our OL and stuff the run. With the Lions winning with 4 DLs they were able to sit in coverage and blanket our receivers limiting the opportunities for Rodgers and the passing game. When you combine the failure of the running with game with the increase in dropped passes and Rodgers slight decrease in his accuracy you have a combination of problems resulting in a lack of success on offense. Bottom line, the OL, RBs, WRs and Rodgers all need to step up and play better. Also, we need to find an answer at TE. Thanks, Since ’61

    • Archie

      OL and play calling seem like the culprits to me. There are more passing plays than throwing deep and there are more running plays than running Lacy wide. But run blocking has been missing this year. Need to throw short to intermediate to get the run game going. That’s what teams do to us.

      • Since ’61

        Archie – clearly the OL is one of the culprits. As for the play calling I would agree that it has not been very innovative so far this season, but I don’t blame all of that on MM. The way the Packers up tempo offense should be running is for Rodgers to either change or make the play call from the LOS. How much of that is actually happening I don’t know. But if Rodgers is not changing the calls to short or intermediate passes then either he is not reading changes in the defense which dictate changing the play call or those opportunities are not there once the ball is snapped. In either case and regardless of the play call or who makes the call, if the OL doesn’t perform the offense will be ineffective as they were against the Lions. Thanks, Since ’61

  • Arthur Rosen

    Hey Chad. Good post, enjoyed this column as I enjoy all of your columns. Accuracy is one statistic for a QB, but I believe his yards per pass is also down. I’m not thrilled with his RELAX comment. With difficult, challenging games against New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and of course Chicago (twice) and Detroit, none of which are easy wins or even wins for GB, let alone upsets from the remaining games, every game is critical, whether it’s the first game or any other game, whether it’s for making the playoffs or playoff seeding. There is no reason for a team to get into a rhythm during the season. He is being paid to perform as the best QB on the planet.

    • WKUPackFan

      “There is no reason for a team to get into a rhythm during the season”. I’m guessing there’s a word or two missing there, hard to know what you meant.

      • Arthur Rosen

        I was referring to a remark Aaron Rodgers made to the press that (this is not verbatim) it takes us a few games to get into a rhythm before we play well. That’s why, except for 2011 we have been starting every season at 1 – 2.

        • WKUPackFan

          OK – I understand now, thanks! Excellent post

  • croatpackfan

    I agree with you that accuracy is not the problem, at least not yet! By my opinion real problem is that Aaron sees only Jordy, and if Jordy is blocked, then turning around to other receivers, but with no time to play, as DL starts to get him. We can’t expect from OL to keep DL on every play 15 or 30 sec away from QB!

    • Chad Toporski

      I do agree that there are aspects of Rodgers’ game and decision making that aren’t up to par so far, his accuracy just isn’t one of those.

      • Mojo

        I think Croak and Chad are on to what to me is the greater concern; Rodgers either not seeing or not throwing to receivers who are open.
        Silverstein mentioned in his article today, that Rodgers went to Nelson on a couple critical plays when other receivers were wide open. And it’s not just these three games. I’ve often wondered if the reason Rodgers takes so many sacks is that perhaps he doesn’t see open guys(or breaking open) as well as he should. For example during the eight second sack against the Jets, Adams was wide open over the middle.
        Unfortunately, I often can’t see the patterns the receivers are running because of the restraints of what is being broadcast. So when people say our receivers aren’t getting open I wonder how they know that. If someone has the All-22 package I would be interested if after they did a review, how many times they noticed Rodgers not spotting an open receiver.
        We take Rodgers at his word that he’ll throw to the open guy but I know with certainty, there are times even without a heavy pass-rush that teammates are wide open. Especially underneath.
        To me a great stat for someone to analyze, would be how many times a QB misses seeing an open receiver. Not just for Rodgers but for all the QB’s. I’ll bet those with a low rate are very successful.

  • Big T

    RELAX Frankie

  • WKUPackFan

    Great article as usual Chad. Beyond the observations and statistics, it seems some fans are concerned about AR’s calm demeanor on and off the field, e.g., comments like “he needs to play with that chip on his shoulder again”.

    AR is not the same guy he was in 2010. He’s more mature, and understands the game is played better when most of the emotion is taken out. Playing too high or too low leads to mental mistakes. The Packers as a team are best comparable in style to the NBA San Antonio Spurs, very steady, not too up or down. Personally I like this style, but some people miss the rah-rah stuff.

  • packett

    Yes…the real problem is, that either way, its only about half full.

  • Taryn Miller

    The issue is….can the half full become fuller before the half empty evaporates more.

    A solid win adds to the full cup thinking but a loss or even a very struggled win justifies move evaporation from the half empty cup. :)

  • funcrusher

    When Rodgers is your quarterback, it’s always half full.

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