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. %|
My key takeaways from this information are:
- 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.
- The lowest accuracy percentage of Rodger’s career was in their Super Bowl Championship year.
- The drop rate of Packers receivers has been the highest of all years so far.
- Rodgers is still in the Top 10 across the league in regard to accuracy percentage.
- 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.——————Follow @ChadToporski