In this week’s edition of “Tuesday’s with Aaron” with Jason Wilde (a must listen if you are a Packers fan), Aaron Rodgers tried to describe what is a “rhythm offense”:
“I don’t know… I think a rhythm offense is an offense that operates best in favorable down and distances and making consistent plays and not having negative yardage plays, whether its a negative run, sack, penalty…and making the plays that keep you on the field”
Rodgers is always insightful during his interviews so his response took me a little by surprise; I’m not entirely sure Aaron Rodgers knows what really is a rhythm offense because no one really knows what a rhythm offense is. Teams either are in a rhythm or they aren’t; some teams (typically with great quarterbacks) tend to be in rhythm more often than teams that don’t have great quarterbacks, but conversely having a great quarterback doesn’t necessarily mean the offense will be in rhythm. As far as I can tell, it just happens.
If you’ve watched any Packers games at all this year, it should be pretty apparent that the Packers weren’t in a rhythm in beginning of the season and maybe have “righted the ship” with a 6 touchdown demolition of the Houston Texans last week. To me this seemed a little odd since the Packers managed to start off hot during the 2011 season, and that was without the benefit of having an offseason due to the CBA lockout; so if anything the 2012 Packers should have been even more ready than the 2011 Packers.
Perhaps even more interesting is that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, two other great quarterbacks known for their use of up-tempo, no-huddle, “rhythm offenses” had very similar results as Aaron Rodgers in terms of struggling early in the season and playing much better down the stretch (if you can even be “down the stretch” in week 6). Below is a table looking at the individual passing statistics of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees during the 2012 season. I’ve split the averages for games 1 to 3 and then games 4 to 6 (the Saints have only played 5 games since they had a bye last week):
|Aaron Rodgers||COMP||ATT||% COMP||YARDS||TD||INT||QBR||Y/A||AY/A|
The results are quite surprising, All three quarterbacks scored more touchdowns and had either less or the same amount of interceptions. All three quarterbacks also saw significantly more passing yards, over a 30 point increase in their quarterback rating (all going from under a 100 to over 100, which is typically considered “good quarterback play”), and saw around an extra 1.5 yards per attempt and around 3 adjusted yards per attempt. In particular quarterback rating and adjusted yards per attempt are telling statistics in terms of a quarterback’s efficiency; quarterback rating differential is one of the statistically strongest indicators for winning games (i.e. the quarterback with the better quarterback rating usually wins the game) and adjusted yards per attempt measures how efficient a quarterback is with his passing attempts, as obviously quarterbacks who get more yards per attempt typically scores more points.
One interesting thing with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers is that Rodgers is actually throwing less passes between weeks 4 to 6 but is still seeing more passing yards, touchdowns and yards per attempt. This can probably be explained by the fact that with Aaron Rodgers’ ability to extend plays as well as his deep throw accuracy it allows the Packers to be more of a big play offense as opposed to a traditional west coast offense.
So this is all interesting, but I haven’t split weeks 1 to 3 and weeks 4 to 6 simply because it’s even (though I do admit I held back writing this article until after week 6 to prove my point). So let’s ask ourselves, what was different between weeks 1 to 3 and weeks 4 to 6?
Regardless of poor judgment and a complete lack of knowledge about the rules of the football, replacement referees hurt rhythm offenses more than ground control offenses of any other type of offense because replacement refs ruined the rhythm of the game (again who knows what that means, but you saw how long the games were with replacement referees). How many times can you remember where the Packers (or the Broncos or Saints) make a big play, only to see the replacement refs take forever to spot the ball, make sure the down and distance was correct, etc. In a regular situation, all three teams would likely be stepping on the defense’s throat by going no huddle or hurry up to not let the defense recover and/or fix the problem. But with replacement referees taking forever to get the next play going, not only does the defense have a chance to settle itself, but also the offense doesn’t have a chance to get in a groove because they’ve been waiting to snap the ball for the last minute. Simply put, you can’t get in a rhythm when you can’t get a string of plays together and replacement referees weren’t capable of keeping the flow of the game smooth. Considering the Packers alone, even in their win against the Bears in week 2, the Packers offense wasn’t clicking and even in their loss to the Colts in week 5, the Packers offense was pretty efficient (especially in the 1st half, and I think the defense and offensive line killed the Packers in the 2nd half and not much with Rodger’s passing efficiency) Another example is an offense with many offensive penalties; often times these offenses get worse and worse as the game goes on (see the Packers 3 million penalty game against the Bears in 2010), as penalties (like replacement referees), stops the rhythm of the game (as the referees sort out the penalty and announce the penalty to the crowd).
The good news is that the game again favors “rhythm offenses” as the replacement referees were mercifully sacked after week 3 (perhaps in part due to the fact that the Packers “took one for the team” in getting the lockout lifted) and regular officials, who are trained and experienced enough to keep the tempo of the game flowing, are now back to officiating games. So with that all being said with any luck the Packers can back to stepping on defenses throats in the upcoming weeks.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.