Every positive hyperbole you could possibly think of has been used on Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and his performance level through seven games in 2011. While there is no doubt that he’s playing at a level above any quarterback in the NFL this season, where does Rodgers’ 2011 season rank historically?
We’ll start by showing you Rodgers’ current and projected 16-game stats, followed by breakdowns of other historically great quarterbacking seasons. You can make the call from there.
One last thing: You’ll notice that no season from earlier than 1994 is included. If we go back too far, say to Otto Graham or Sid Luckman, we lose the ability to compare and contrast stats on a worthwhile basis. So while there are other great seasons by quarterbacks not mentioned here, I picked the ones that can statistically stack up with this era of passing football.
AARON RODGERS 2011
Quick notes: If Rodgers stays on his current pace, he would set new NFL records in yards (5,421), completion percentage (71.5) and passer rating (125.7). Rodgers would rank fourth in TDs (45), fifth in average yards per attempt (9.92).
The rest of the schedule is something to look at, too. The remaining teams and their pass defense on the Packers schedule: Chargers (3rd), Vikings (29th), Buccaneers (26th), Lions (9th), Giants (18th), Raiders (25th), Chiefs (17th), Bears (27th) and Lions (9th).
TOM BRADY 2007
Notes: Brady’s 2007 season is still the standard-bearer for quarterbacks. Rodgers is behind Brady’s year in TDs, completion percentage, interceptions and passer rating through seven games. Over the course of 16 games, however, Rodgers will beat Brady in every category but completions and TDs.
BRETT FAVRE 1996
Notes: Favre’s 1996 season was the middle MVP-winning year and arguably his best in a Packers uniform. Favre had one more touchdown through seven games, but the other numbers aren’t even close. Rodgers is on pace to beat Favre’s season handily.
PEYTON MANNING 2004
Notes: I’m sure you remember Manning’s assault on the Packers in Week 3 of the 2004 season. That was just one of many dominant performances from Manning during that year. He has some catching up to do to catch Manning in touchdowns, but at his current pace, Rodgers will break Manning’s passer rating record from ’04.
KURT WARNER 1999
Notes: Warner’s 7-game stretch in ’99 probably resembles Rodgers’ start to 2011 the closest of any on this list. The Rams surprise quarterback cooled down later on in the season. At Rodgers’ current pace, he’ll beat Warner in every category.
DAUNTE CULPEPPER 2004
Notes: Surprised to see Culpepper on this list? Don’t be. Three 5-touchdown games from Culpepper helped propel him to what could have been an MVP-caliber season had Manning saved his 49-touchdown season for a different year. Still, Rodgers is on pace to beat Culpepper in every category.
STEVE YOUNG 1994
Notes: Young started slow in ’94 but heated up in a hurry. His 70.3 completion percentage is the third highest in NFL history, and he held the passer rating record at 112.8 for 10 years. Rodgers is on pace to beat Young in every category.
DREW BREES 2009
|END||TOTALS||13-2 (15 G)||363||514||70.6||4388||8.54||34||11||109.6|
Notes: Only playing 15 games hurts Brees overall numbers, and he started slower than Rodgers with three below-average games. In both the 7-game and overall totals, Rodgers beats Brees, who should have been 2009 NFL MVP.
One of the more striking things about Rodgers’ start is how consistent he’s been. In every historical QB season listed here besides Tom Brady in ’07, we see a few hiccups during the first seven games. Not Rodgers. He’s been over 110.0 in passer rating in all seven games, an NFL record. Only once did he dip below 300 yards, and even in that game (at Chicago) he threw for 297. At his current pace, Rodgers would set the NFL record for passing yards per game at 339.
We see his lowest yards per attempt also come against the Bears, but a 7.82 average isn’t anything to sneeze about. Rodgers would rank No. 11 in the NFL right now if 7.82 was his overall average per attempt.
Rodgers has also been deadly accurate. Not once has he completed less than 60% of his passes in a game. As Kevin Seifert (@espn_nfcnblog) of ESPN has pointed out on several occasions, Rodgers’ combination of willingness to throw down the field—as evidenced by his NFL-leading 9.92 yards per attempt—and 71.5% accuracy is unheard of. Completing dink and dunk passes at a high rate is one thing; setting an NFL-record pace for completion percentage while attacking down the field is a whole different ball game.
There’s more mind-numbing numbers and observations.
Two of three interceptions have been on passes that hit his receiver’s hands. James Jones had one go off his hands in Denver on a short throw, and Greg Jennings saw a deep pass down the seam clank off his hands and into the waiting arms of Craig Dahl. The only pick you can put squarely on Rodgers was Brian Urlacher’s athletic catch when Rodgers missed on a hot read. Even with the two flukey interceptions, Rodgers is on pace for the fifth best interception percentage (passes intercepted divided by total attempts) in NFL history at 1.3%. That’s only 0.5 behind Brady’s 0.8% from last season.
If Rodgers continues on his current 7-game pace, there will be a strong argument that Rodgers’ 2011 season is the greatest quarterback season of all-time, regardless of era. But will he continue to put up mind-boggling numbers? Can he stay on a pace that knocks Brady’s 2007 season off the peak?
Let us know what you think.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2
31 thoughts on “Comparing Aaron Rodgers in 2011 to Other Great QB Seasons in History”
This is really good. A side by side analysis of just how good Rodgers has been the first 7 games of the season, and thinking about where he might wind up at the end of the season.
Even if his stats aren’t considered an all time great season at the end of the year, he has to be considered the front runner for MVP at this point of the season, based solely on what he brings to the Packers on a weekly basis.
Thanks John. I think everyone would agree he’s the clear-cut MVP through 7 games.
Snow is comin’. The Packers have one warm weather game (@KC) and one dome game (@Det) left. I would be surprised if this pace is sustainable.
Deeper analysis than I am willing to put forth for this comment is required to determien the Rodgers career history for adverse weather conditions.
your thoughts that the Packers won’t keep up their current passing rate as bad weather arrives is on par with conventional wisdom.
However, if you look at the Packer’s under Mike McCarthy’s direction, they have proven to make gameplan decisions almost without regard to the elements.
Packers under MM have launched full-scale aerial bombardments in severe cold reaching into single digits, heavy rain, snow, and even with sustained winds in the twenty MPH range.
I think MM is a firm believer in the fact you attack the opponents weakness with your strengths, gameplan for match-ups NOT for weather conditions. Weather can change in an instant, your opponent does not.
It certainly doesn’t hurt any that MM has at his disposal a QB with the arm strength to power the ball through the elements and the ability to make the mental adjustments needed to make the throws, and a WR corps chock full of guys with the focus and hands to reel in the ball in those same elements.
I think the only thing (outside of opponents’ strengths and weaknesses) that pulls MM out of pass-heavy offense late in the season would be the Packers’ clinching early and trying to play smart with Rodgers- keeping him out of harm’s way as much as possible by more frequent hand offs.
That’s how I see it, at any rate
Don’t forget that NE isn’t exactly a tropical paradise either. Brady continued his dominance throughout 07 (although it slowed down juuust a little in Nov/Dec).
I wouldn’t expect AR to eclipse Brady in 07 and Manning in 04. But he’ll be up there.
One note – neither of those teams won the SB. Hope we change that trend…
MCS, Oppy and Bearmeat all make good points here on the weather factor. I hadn’t really factored that in, but it’s worth noting. I still think the Packers offense is built to do well in any conditions.
I agree that MM has proven to throw (heh) caution to the wind and continue to pass with great frequency in adverse weather conditions. I am more concerned with AR’s ability to maintain the precision and accuracy he has started the season off with. As the weather gets worse, his league leading 9.92YPA is bound to decrease. His interception rate may increase. And so on.
Will he maintain the blistering pace he has set? Only time will tell.
Comparisons with other QB’s are subjective, but fun. Your hard work to gather all the other QB’s record years is a first for me. Outstanding analysis Zack. Still we will not know until AR plays another 10 years or so to proclaim he is the best. He sure has a chance to reach the annual goal and your analysis makes that very clear.
MCS has a point about the weather. Although it’s not the cold or snow that will impact. It’s the wind. The Bear game this year was on a very windy day at Soldiers Field. His lowest completion % of the year.
Thanks to you and all the others guys at Al’s site, we, the Packer fans, are the most informed in the NFL.
Thanks Ron. Site wouldn’t be possible without loyal readers and commentators like you.
RE: the wind. It’s definitely a factor, but if you recall, the Rams game was also a windy one. He has the arm strength to play in those kind of conditions.
I disagree, I can compare Rodgers to Favre right now. If Rodgers wins 1 more Super Bowl he will have done more as a Packer than Favre did in his career. Other than durability Rodger’s is better than Favre in every way and Favre will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Rodgers will be in the Hall of Fame when he is done, no doubt about it. Aaron Rodgers has 1 Super Bowl win, 1 Super Bowl MVP and is having by far the best single season any quarterback has ever had in the history of the game. You are watching a legend, don’t forget it and don’t let some smarmy old timer tell you any different. Rodgers is one of the all time greats on his way to Greatest Of All Time!!!!!!
Sustaining his present pace will be next to impossible, but here’s to hoping that he tops Manning’s season mark and in the process the Pack continues its march to, oddly enough, Indianapolis.
The season stats really are for naught if the Packers don’t get back to the Super Bowl.
Last night, my son, a first year at Purdue asked me if we were going to the Super Bowl in Indy. I told him if he covered the tickets, I would cover everything else.
He was very excited… until he priced tickets.
Fun stuff to read. Still amazed what Brady did in ’07. MM said that the biggest obstacle may be dealing with success. So far, we seem to be handling it well. I just hope the Packers aren’t reading all the press and they stay focused. I don’t care if we stumble a bit on the road to a repeat, as long as we repeat. We may need a little more adversity to help this team stay hungry. As good as AR has been, all the adoration in October makes me a little nervous.
I don’t think the adoration is ever going to be a negative for Rodgers. He’s like Jordan in that way. Doesn’t focus on the positive press, but if someone says something bad about him, he uses that as motivation. It’s amazing the little things he says that give him motivation from week-to-week.
Minor error, Zach. Brees was the 2009 SB MVP, not the 2009 MVP. The 2009 MVP was the journalists’ favorite and innexplicably still mention in this years’ MVP race, Peyton Manning.
Thanks. Fixed now. I obviously just figured by those numbers that Brees won it. Should have, anyway.
See, this sort of article, as well-researched as it is, is a good example of how non-professional sports journalists can actually write something of value.
Places like Bleacher Report and “Opposing Views” and that garbage leave a bad taste in my mouth, but even when I disagree with articles on here, they’re at least decently researched and add something of value to the Packer blogosphere/news feed.
Thanks for the article, it was an enjoyable read. I have to add that a number of the Pats’ games in their first half of their season they were going for touchdowns on 4th down while up by 2-3 scores already. The fact that Rodgers even nears Brady’s numbers with a head coach like McCarthy amazes me.
The 07 season that is.
Thank you Elle. That was a very nice comment and I appreciate it.
That’s also a good point about NE throwing when up, on fourth down, whenever. Packers probably won’t be that aggressive, which hurts Rodgers’ chances of matching Brady.
Yes, He is good, even “Great” BUT PROJECTIONS of 16-0 and 125.7 are a reach. The 125.7 is likely reachable, but let’s not start sounding like Lion’s fans and talk about 16 – 0. The defense needs major improvement! Think more like 13 – 3 or even 12 – 4. Anything more will be great. Just get the Lambeau Advantage baby!
RETRACTION!!!!!!!!!!! What am I saying? No way is 125.7 “Likely” reachable, MAYBE reachable, but not LIKELY!
The projected stats I have listed in Rodgers 2011 season are based solely on the 16-game pace that he’s set through 7 games. There was no opinion from me at all in putting those numbers down, just a projection from his pace. Maybe I should have made that clearer before
You made it very clear, Zach. Your PROJECTED stats are based on the entire season, as per how Aaron has done in the first 7 games. A lot of people just don’t pay very close attention.
Who knows, maybe he’ll get better down the stretch…
I don’t see how you can watch the Packers and think they’re a 12-4 team. You think we’re going to go almost .500 after the bye? Come on now. More like 14-2 with 13-3 being the low end. Barring significant injuries of course.
Just want to add this, Zack: I’ve been a Packers fan since the early 60’s. I’ve seen a lot of great ones come and go. Aaron Rodgers lived in the same town and went to the same high school as my wife’s cousins. Her mom and grandparents live just up in the mountains above Chico, CA. We are also Cal Berkeley fans, so when Rodgers went to Cal and then eventually on the the Packers, we were thrilled! We saw Rodgers complete 23 passes in a row against USC and Matt Leinart (who?)! We knew he was going to make some NFL fans VERY happy! We’re just thankful it’s US! I won’t mention any names, but there’s a well-known Packers beat writer who once told me Rodgers didn’t have what it takes and he and a large panel of “experts” were backing two or three other QBs coming out of college. They all felt Rodgers was a Packers mistake. Ho, boy, as I told him, there are experts and there are experts! Of course, I was then labeled as some kind of know-it-all. (You are much more open-minded and wiser than he will ever be.) I’m very thankful he was dead wrong! DEAD wrong!!! GO PACKERS!!!
It’s not like Rodgers is playing out of his mind. This is pretty normal for him. The only thing I could see getting in the way is a game of a mental lapse, where he is just a click late with throws or just can’t find the open receiver. But there’s no sign of that happening.
The question should be; Can Zach maintain his impressive analysis and hard work throughout the season? I’m betting he can.
Weather can be a factor but that is over blown.
I think that Dome QB’s have a slight advantage but when you are talking NFL QB’s playing at that level, inside, outside, cold, warm is just not as much of a factor as most think.
When you look at the stats over MM’s years as a the Packers coach there is not some sudden drop off in pass to rush ratio later in the season.
All of the QB’s mentioned are adn the years thye did it are playing at a level of an elite QB.
There just are not that many of them plain and simple.
The difference with those outlined and the rest of the starting QB’s is doing it game in game out.
The thing that right now makes Rodgers stand out is his numbers for QB rating, completion % and TD to INT ratio.
Zachs article just shows how good that is right now and how it compares to some of the best ever seasons by some of the best ever QB’s.
Rodgers IMO is not as good as he can be. And the offense is not as good as it can be.
I’ll wait to compare his career to others when he is done playing the game.
But right now we as Packer fans are just damn lucky.
We are seeing a NFL QB having a excellent start to the season and he is the QB for our team.
Enjoy the ride!!!!!!
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