After Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers started to come under a little bit of criticism from some national media and Packer fans alike.
This criticism comes from those that believe he has been sub par when it matters most: in the playoffs. The fact of the matter is that Aaron Rodgers has not been the dominating quarterback in the playoffs recently that he is in the regular season.
When you talk about numbers in the playoffs, you need to realize that you’re talking about the playoffs, not the regular season. The two don’t really compare. In the playoffs you typically have to play the best of the best, or the Panthers. Monster games don’t come along consistently like they can in the regular season.
The easy thing for Packer fans to do is compare Rodgers to the greats of the game and in particular, Brett Favre. One thing is evident about Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs, he is not Brett Favre, and that’s a good thing. In this piece I am going to take a look at Rodgers versus Favre in the playoffs statistically.
Take a look at the numbers for Rodgers and Favre in the playoffs while playing for the Packers.
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Looking at the overall numbers, the record stands out. Brett Favre played exactly twice as many playoff games for the Packers as Aaron Rodgers has and they have the exact same winning percentage. Pretty crazy.
Looking beyond that, Rodgers completes 3.1 more passes per game on 2.4 more attempts than Favre did in the playoffs for the Packers, good for a roughly 5 percent higher completion percentage (65 percent to 60 percent). Rodgers averages more passing yards, more touchdowns, and half as many interceptions as Favre in the playoffs for the Packers.
When it comes to running the ball… there’s no comparison. Rodgers averages a healthy 18 yards per game rushing with three rushing touchdowns in 11 games with a 5.2 yards per carry average. Meanwhile Favre averages a sickly 3.3 yards per game and a 1.4 yards per carry average with only one rushing touchdown in his Packers playoff career. Favre however is not known for his running ability, this more so highlights the importance of Rodgers’ legs to go with his throwing ability.
There isn’t a single stat in any of those tables that Favre is better than Rodgers at. Not one.
Below are the numbers for Favre and Rodgers in Lambeau and on the road.
Home Playoff Stats:
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Road Playoff Stats:
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Favre’s 73 percent winning percentage at Lambeau is a much better winning percentage than Rodgers’ 50 percent. Since the two have the same winning percentage in the playoffs overall, obviously that equals itself out on the road. With Rodgers being a game over .500 on the road and Favre being three games under.
Half of Favre’s playoff games with the Packers came at home, with 219 completions he has the exact same number of completions on the road as he does at home. That’s good for 19.9 completions per game. Favre’s 64 percent home completion percentage is right inline (but just below) with with Rodgers’ home completion percentage. On the road however, Favre saw his completion percentage fall from 64 percent to 58 percent. Rodgers, like Favre, saw his completions stay roughly the same at home versus on the road at 23 completions per game the same can be said for his attempts per game staying at 35.
Oddly enough both Favre and Rodgers saw an uptick in their yards per game as well as touchdowns per game on the road. To no surprise, their interceptions per game also went up on the road versus at home.
Favre won more games at home than Rodgers, but of all the stats in the above tables, that is the one the quarterback has least control over. Other than winning percentage at home, there isn’t a single stat at home or on the road that Favre is better than Rodgers at in the playoffs.
Looking at the numbers in wins versus losses tells a similar story.
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It is no surprise that the stats for both players improve across the board in wins versus in losses.
In playoff losses Favre and Rodgers both are close in yards per game (256 vs. 260) and yards per attempt (6.8 vs. 6.9). Touchdowns do not change much with Rodgers seeing a drop of 0.2 touchdowns per game in losses whereas Favre stays the same at 1.8 touchdowns per game no matter whether in wins or losses.
Just like in the overall numbers as well as the home/road splits, there isn’t a single stat that Favre is better than Rodgers when it comes to wins and losses.
In home or road playoff games, in wins or in losses in the playoffs or just overall playoff numbers, Aaron Rodgers has better numbers than Brett Favre in every single major passing and rushing statistic.
The key difference between Favre and Rodgers in wins and losses comes in accuracy. Favre saw his completion percentage drop 8.7 percent in wins versus losses. Rodgers saw his drop 6.5 percent. The difference being Favre’s dropped to a poor 56.6 percent, meanwhile Rodgers was still at a decent 62.0 percent.
Tied into accuracy is interceptions. In wins Favre averaged a very good 0.4 interceptions per game, in losses that number jumped up to a sky-high 2.3 interceptions per game. While Rodgers saw a jump in his interception numbers as well, they go from a wonderful 0.3 interceptions per game to a mediocre 1.0 interceptions per game. Not nearly as bad as Favre’s jump.
The accuracy and amount of interceptions are only part of the story. The timing and severity of those interceptions play a key role.
Only two of Aaron Rodgers’ seven interceptions came in the second half of the game. One was on the first drive of the second half against San Francisco. The other was the final offensive play for the Packers in the 17 point loss to the Giants. The other five interceptions came in the first two quarters of the game.
Only two of Rodgers’ interceptions have resulted in the Packers giving up the lead and only one, the San Francisco one, really costed the Packers. Even then, when Rodgers threw that pick against the 49ers the game was still tied with the majority of the second half of the game to go. Even though the two in Seattle are still on Rodgers because he threw them, one was on a play where he thought he had a free play (because he should have) and the other was on a miscommunication with his receiver. He’s not just chucking the ball up aimlessly, he’s been very careful with the ball.
Favre on the other hand had numerous playoff interceptions that were costly. Four of the last five playoff runs for the Packers with Favre ended directly because of his interceptions.
In 2001 Favre threw six (SIX!) interceptions in a game versus the St. Louis Rams. Three of those six interceptions were pick sixes. That’s ridiculous. In a 45-17 loss, if you simply take away the three pick sixes the game is 24-17 with the Packers having three possessions to score seven or more points and that includes Favre throwing three other interceptions.
In 2003 this happened in overtime:
In 2004 Favre threw four interceptions in a home playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The game ended up being only a 14 point loss despite the four picks. Somehow in the middle of the fourth quarter of that game the Packers were only down by seven. That was a very winnable game for the Packers despite the four interceptions.
In the 2007 NFC Championship Game, this happened in overtime:
It gets thrown around that Rodgers has not been the same player in the playoffs since the Super Bowl. While that is true, it is not the stretch that people make it out to be, Rodgers has still been very good.
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The numbers Rodgers put up during the Super Bowl run and the season before that in the playoffs were ridiculous. He averaged over 300 yards per game while completing 67.8 percent of his passes and 2.6 touchdowns per game with a ridiculous 4.3:1 touchdown to interception ratio.
The 2.5 TD/INT ratio that Rodgers has had in the playoffs since the Super Bowl is not up to par for him because he has a career TD/INT ratio at 3.96. Remember the second highest career TD/INT ratio is Tom Brady at 2.74. If Rodgers averaged the 2.5 TD/INT ratio for his career, it would be the second highest ratio in the history of the NFL.
The reason people think Rodgers has been struggling is because those numbers up until the Super Bowl run are absurd.
Since the Super Bowl he has put up more modest numbers, but you also have to consider who he played. He has a record of 2-4 in those six games, with both wins essentially only being a half of football. In the win over the Vikings the Packers called off the dogs after the first drive of the third quarter. Rodgers had only 14 passing yards after that but still managed to put up 260 passing yards in just over 2 quarters of work. In the first half against the Cowboys, Rodgers was playing injured and appeared to be playing extra cautious to make sure he did not injure himself worse. In the second half he opened it up and tore up the Cowboys, looking like the Rodgers everyone expects.
In the four losses Rodgers had to play four of the toughest defenses he could have played over those four years. Both the Seahawks and 49ers were top 3 in defensive scoring and top 5 in total defense, a combination of those two made for the Packers previous three playoff losses. The loss four years ago was to a Giants team that, per usual, decided to turn it on in the playoffs after a middling regular season.
Compare Rodgers’ last four playoff losses, against very tough defenses, to what the average playoff game looked like for Favre.
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Cherry picking Rodgers’ last four playoff losses show very similar numbers to what Favre put up in his career in the playoffs for the Packers. They have the exact same completion percentage, 22 yards difference in passing yards per game, and Favre average 0.3 touchdowns per game more and 0.3 interceptions per game more than Rodgers.
While Rodgers may have looked a little off over the last four playoff losses for what is expected of him, he still was not bad.
Just for fun, I want to show Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs against arguably the three best quarterbacks to play while he has been in the league: Brett Favre, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning.
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Comparing Rodgers’ playoff averages to Favre, Brady, and Manning just goes to show how great Rodgers has been. Only Brady has a better career winning percentage than Rodgers between those four and only Manning averages more yards per game. Otherwise Rodgers has a higher completion percentage, yards per attempt, and touchdowns per game as well as less interceptions per game than all three of them.
In fact if you take Brett Favre’s career playoff TD/INT ratio for the Packers and add every single touchdown Tom Brady has ever thrown in the playoffs, Rodgers would still have a better TD/INT ratio than them.
Fun fact: in only 11 playoff games Aaron Rodgers has 193 rushing yards. In 74 combined playoff games Brady, Manning, and Favre have a combined 200 rushing yards.
Before you go on clamoring that Rodgers is not up to getting the job done or is not as good as Favre, just take a moment and realize that even at his very worst against the very best defenses, Rodgers has been at minimum a decent quarterback and comparable to Favre’s career playoff numbers as a Packer. In all other situations Aaron Rodgers has been fantastic.
There are other areas of the game and other players on the team. In my eyes, Aaron Rodgers cannot be blamed for any of the playoff losses. If you want to criticize Rodgers in the playoffs at all for what he has accomplished, you need to take a step back, get your perspective straight, and realize there probably isn’t a quarterback worthy of being your quarterback.
Mike Reuter lives in the Twin Cities and is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas. He is a mobile tech enthusiast, a 19 year Gopher Football season ticket holder and a huge Packers fan. Mike is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @uofmike.