Last week, the Jets announced that they had agreed a deal to trade for former Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Today, we break down Rodgers in detail.
The 39-year old Rodgers is listed at 6’2” and 223 pounds and was a first round pick out of Cal in 2005. Rodgers is a 10-time pro bowler who has won four MVP awards and a Super Bowl. He passed for just under 3,700 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, but did throw 12 interceptions as the Packers ended up 8-9 and missed the playoffs.
Rodgers had trouble earning a college scholarship out of high school, mainly because he was a late developer who wasn’t on many radars despite a growth spurt over the course of his college career. As a result, he spent a year at Butte Community College, where he won a starting role and led his team to a 10-1 record as he threw 28 touchdown passes with just four interceptions.
Cal Bears head coach Jeff Tedford discovered Rodgers’ film while scouting a tight end and offered him a scholarship. In two years with the Bears, Rodgers was a huge success story. He passed for 5,469 yards with 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, then declared for the 2005 NFL draft as the potential number one pick.
On draft day, however, Rodgers unexpectedly fell all the way to 24 where he was picked up by the Packers. The resulting green room humiliation no doubt provided fuel to make Rodgers the player he is today. Why did this happen though? Various theories have been floated.
Some analysts believe that because the last few quarterbacks coached by Tedford hadn’t panned out, there was a risk that Rodgers wouldn’t either because they were all made to look better than they were by his system. Others felt that not enough teams needed quarterbacks, were worried about his potential contract with no rookie wage scale or put off by his lack of prototypical height. Another theory goes that one he started to slide, all the quarterback-needy teams hadn’t bothered to have contact with him because they assumed he wouldn’t be available and now weren’t prepared to risk a high pick on someone they weren’t comfortable with.
Rodgers spent the first three seasons of his career sitting behind Brett Favre and only got to throw 59 passes in sporadic relief appearances. However, when Favre was traded to the Jets, Rodgers became the starter and soon set to work on making those teams that passed on him regret their decision.
His first season as a starter saw him pass for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. He began the season by posting modest numbers to lead the Packers to a win in his first career start, but then threw for over 300 yards in his second game. The Packers were competitive but ended up 6-10 having lost multiple close games. However, Rodgers had done enough to earn a contract extension.
2009 saw Rodgers take his game to another level as he was voted to his first pro bowl. After throwing a late 50-yard touchdown pass to lead the Packers to a win over the Bears in the opener, Rodgers went from strength to strength and ended the season with over 4,400 yards and 30 touchdown passes. He also rushed for a career-high five touchdowns and only had seven interceptions.
The 11-5 Packers made the playoffs and Rodgers threw for 423 yards in his postseason debut but the Packers were eliminated when his fumble was returned for a touchdown in overtime. However, they would bounce back from this in the following season, as Rodgers posted another quarterback rating of over 100 and led the Packers on a postseason run.
They would eventually go on to win Super Bowl XLV as Rodgers passed for 304 yards and three touchdowns to win the MVP in a 31-25 win over the Steelers.
In 2011, Rodgers won the NFL’s MVP award for the first time as he posted an NFL record 122.5 quarterback rating with career highs in many categories including yards (4,643). He went 14-1 as a starter but the Packers were unable to repeat as the Giants upset them in the postseason.
For the next several years, Rodgers continued to play at an outstanding level. He was a perennial pro bowler, won another MVP in 2014 and set another NFL record for interception percentage in 2018. However, the Packers never made it back to the Super Bowl.
In 2020, Rodgers won his third MVP as he passed for a career-high 48 touchdown passes and completed over 70 percent of his passes, then won it again in 2021. Although his numbers weren’t quite as good, he threw for 37 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. That’s the most touchdown passes for someone with less than five interceptions in NFL history.
He wasn’t an MVP contender in 2022, as the Packers endured a frustrating season and ended up 8-9. Even in a down year, Rodgers was still 7th in the NFL with 26 touchdown passes, but did throw 12 interceptions - his highest total since his first season as a starter.
In March, the Jets were given permission to talk to Rodgers, who at the time was contemplating retirement. They were able to convince him to agree to a trade which was finalized a few days before the draft.
It’s obviously a bit pointless to break down Rodgers’ strengths and weaknesses because we are all well aware of what a great player he’s been over the course of his career. However, we can evaluate him with an eye on last season to try and determine whether we can expect him to fall off or continue to play at a high level.
Now let’s take a look at what Rodgers brings to the table, divided into categories.
Rodgers entered the draft as an excellent athlete, although he’s obviously lost a few steps since his combine workout almost 20 years ago. At the combine, he ran a 4.71 in the 40-yard dash and posted decent numbers for agility and explosiveness. These days, he is still fast enough to get to the sticks if taking what the defense gives him and moves around well enough to extend plays.
As noted earlier, he doesn’t have prototypical size at 6’2” but this has never really limited him at the NFL level.
Rodgers’ arm strength is legendary, of course, and he’s still an effective deep passer at this stage of his career. He completed 29 passes beyond 20 yards down the field, including 12 for touchdowns. He did also throw six interceptions though, so he was not as consistent as he was on long throws between 2018 and 2020 where he threw 38 touchdowns but with just three interceptions.
Perhaps the most famous example of Rodgers’ arm strength is the Miracle in Motown, which saw him win a game with a 70-yard heave into the end zone on a Hail Mary pass.
However, it’s the zip he puts on the ball and his placement on downfield throws that make Rodgers so good. In terms of his status as an all-time great, that particular play is more like Michael Jordan dunking from the free throw line - a party trick that showcases his athletic gifts and the things he can do that others can’t. Like Jordan, it is his mastery of the fundamentals and ruthlessness in pressure situations that makes him truly great.
Over the course of his career, Rodgers has consistently completed passes at a rate of around 65 percent. He’s never had a season where his completion percentage was below 60 at the NFL or collegiate level.
Those high completion percentages are in spite of the fact he throws deep a lot. In 2021 and 2022 he was just outside the top 10 in downfield attempts and in 2020 he was sixth in that category and still completed over 70 percent.
Rodgers’ ability to deliver the ball on time and with perfect placement is at the core of why he’s such a successful quarterback. He routinely hits receivers in stride and puts the ball where only the receiver can make a play on it.
Here’s an example from last season of Rodgers making an incredible tight window throw on the move look easy.
The importance of protecting Rodgers was underlined back in 2018 as his offensive line struggled and he was sacked 49 times. The Packers ended the season 6-9-1 as Rodgers posted a losing record as a starter for the first time since his first season at the helm. However, he was much better protected over the next three years and the Packers went 13-3 in all three seasons.
Rodgers is a player who will get rid of the ball quickly and throw plenty of short passes if that’s what the defense is giving him. However, when pressure does come, he is adept at extending plays, standing in to take a hit or adjusting his arm angle to get throws out.
Despite not being tall, he’s good enough at moving around to create clean sightlines that he doesn’t have issues with passes being knocked down at the line. In fact, he’s never been in the top-10 in that category. Interestingly though, in a clutch situation with the game on the line against the Giants last season, he had two passes batted down in a row to preserve New York’s win.
Rodgers fumbled eight times in 2022, too, which was the most he’s had since 2016. His four lost fumbles tied a career high.
Rodgers has obviously mastered the fundamentals with solid footwork, a balanced base and a quick release. He credits Mike McCarthy with improving his release and making it smoother due to a lower release point that they worked on back in 2009.
Even when pressure prevents him from being able to set his feet properly, this is where he has the arm strength to over-compensate for this.
Rodgers also has the ability to do the unconventional. He can throw on the move, improvise and execute things like no-look passes or shovel passes effortlessly.
It would be a fool’s errand to critique the decision making of the player who literally has the lowest interception percentage in NFL history during his career. Clearly this is someone who can read a defense and doesn’t make stupid mistakes.
However, there is some concern about the fact that he had 12 interceptions in 2022. Hopefully this has more to do with Rodgers being on a team that was outmatched in many of their games and perhaps tried to do too much rather than being a sign of regression to be concerned about.
Here was an uncharacteristically bad decision in the red zone from the 2021 season opener. Of course, Rodgers would regroup after this game and throw 37 touchdown passes with only two interceptions the rest of the way.
As mentioned earlier, Rodgers had two passes batted down in the clutch against the Giants after the team had driven down to the five-yard line while trailing by five. The decision making was criticized there, as the Packers had been running the ball well but opted to try and pass for the win. Hopefully Rodgers’ good relationship with current Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will mean that there is less likely to be a disconnect in such situations.
If Rodgers has displayed a weakness in decision making over the years it’s that he might force the ball to his favorite targets over making a throw to a younger receiver he doesn’t trust yet.
In addition to being able to move around well within the pocket and roll out or escape pressure, Rodgers has also been a threat to move the sticks with his legs over the years.
Rodgers has rushed for almost 3,500 yards and 35 touchdowns in his career. He’s clearly doing less and less of this though, as his past two seasons were the least productive of his career in terms of rushing yards. He only has 11 runs of more than 10 yards in the past three years, but can still pick up a first down here and there. Here’s a first down run from 2021:
It was rare for the Packers to run quarterback sneaks with Rodgers, especially in the past few seasons.
While Rodgers will presumably never contribute on special teams, he still shows leadership by paying attention to this area, often praising specific teammates for their contributions or addressing their struggles. He had a close relationship with Packers special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.
Obviously Rodgers will be a great fit in Hackett’s system as he has a close relationship with Hackett and the two will collaborate to create the best offense to make use of his current skill-set and the talent around him.
Rodgers has been a teammate of current Jets Allen Lazard, Tim Boyle, Malik Taylor and Adam Pankey in recent years. It may not end there as the team has been linked with a number of former Rodgers teammates, some of whom are still available, including Randall Cobb and Marcedes Lewis.
Rodgers missed seven games in 2013 and nine in 2017, in each case as a result of a broken collarbone. He’s otherwise missed just one game due to injury in his pro career. That was due to a concussion, his second of the season, back in 2010.
He has also missed a few starts due to being rested and because he was placed on Covid-19 reserve. Rodgers also broke his foot in 2007, before he was a starter, and landed on injured reserve.
He played every game last season, although his performances were affected by an injury to his thumb on his throwing hand. This was reportedly an avulsion fracture.
Rodgers is a polarizing character but there’s no doubt about his ability to lead a team. Some former teammates seem keen to follow him to the Jets and his ex-teammates still speak about him with reverence in spite of his acrimonious departure from the Packers.
Any concern that some of Rodgers’ controversial comments in the past or the supposedly fearsome nature of the Jets beat would create a distraction has been dispelled already by how eloquent and professional he came across as during his introductory presser.
On this play, Rodgers displays the kind of toughness that makes his teammates respect him, although it was arguably ill-advised on his part.
One of the things that elevates Rodgers over other quarterbacks around the league is his ability in the clutch. He has 31 game winning drives in his career, including a career-high four last season.
The move to get Rodgers is obviously destined to define the Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh era and we head into the 2023 season with Rodgers seemingly reinvigorated and eager to prove that his drop-off in 2022 was a temporary blip.
The move will inevitably draw comparisons with the Favre trade in 2008 which obviously began well with the Jets starting off 8-3 but then ended badly as they dropped four of five to miss the playoffs.
In retrospect, there were some obvious reasons why that move was destined to fail despite the fact Favre was joining a team that had put together a talented roster. The good news for the Jets is that most of these issues don’t exist this time around.
First off, the 2022 Jets have much better cap flexibility to ensure all holes are filled and that they can act if they need to do something to stay in contention in an injury crisis. Acquiring Favre left the Jets capped out and with an obvious personnel issue in terms of their coverage from linebackers and safeties. Bad quarterbacks dinked and dunked to put up big numbers on the Jets all season long, so they’d have been toast in the playoffs when forced to face some good ones.
Secondly, Favre’s heart was never really in it, whereas Rodgers seems completely engaged rather than looking ahead to his next move.
Third, Favre was never a great fit with the coaching staff and did not get on the same page with Brian Schottenheimer all year. Rodgers and Hackett are, of course, attached at the hip.
Fourth, he’s coming in before the offseason program gets rolling rather than in August, so the team can be well-prepared rather than making it up on the fly.
Finally, Favre was showing serious signs of being banged up and washed up during the playoffs at the end of the 2007 season and didn’t practice during the offseason. Sure enough, despite his iron man streak, he wasn’t 100 percent for most of the season and it affected him badly, whereas Rodgers is coming in healthy.
All of that paints an optimistic picture and we know how good Rodgers can be when he’s at his best. However, there’s a potential downside which could see things unravel badly for this regime if the move doesn’t pay off. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, because if Rodgers can play like the stud he’s always been over the next year and beyond, this will be a fun ride for Jets fans.