Aaron Rodgers and the future in Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers needs to get out of Green Bay. Nothing against the cheese-heads but it is what’s best for Rodgers, both for his legacy and quarterback lifespan.
Rodgers is one of the most talented quarterbacks of all-time. Due to his status in the upper-echelon of quarterbacks, Rodgers is viewed very similarly to how Lebron James is viewed in the NBA, championships are the only thing that matters.
Rodgers only has one.
Without adding more championships to his resume, I don’t believe he will be remembered with Brady, Montana, and (insert your #3 quarterback of all-time here), on the figurative Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks.
Quarterback is the most important position on any football team and it is clear Rodgers has been the most important factor in the Packers success.
Rodgers has a 94-48-0 career record and the Packers have been abysmal without him, going 2-4-1 when Rodgers broke his collarbone in 2013, and 3-6 this past season after another collarbone injury.
That’s a full NFL season with a combined record of 5-10-1, a winning percentage of 31.25%.
The team that has been put around Rodgers has not made his job any easier, and for him to continue his rise amongst the best QBs of all-time, he needs to move on from the Packers to a better situation.
After giving a few reasons why the Packers are not worthy of the top-tier performances Rodgers routinely provides, I’ll tell you where he (hypothetically) could go, even if the NFL doesn’t have a trade machine to help out on that front.
The first reason he should leave: Green Bay's defence is trash.
Last season they ranked 20th in DVOA which drops to 24th if you go by weighted DVOA. *If you're unfamiliar with any of the advanced stats in this article, check out the glossary at the bottom* They were 26th against the pass including league-worst against #1 receivers to whom they allowed 79.6 yards per game, and were in the bottom ten teams in the league against tight ends and running backs as well.
They were especially terrible in several of the most important facets of the game including red zone defence and third and fourth down conversion rates.
The Packers’ defence gave up a league-worst 5.61 points per red zone appearance, and allowed touchdowns on 65.2% of red zone trips, second-worst in the league.
To put those numbers in context, the team they were battling with for the worst red zone defence in the league?
The 0-16 Cleveland Browns. I don’t think any further explanation is needed.
The Pack were 29th in third down conversion rate and 31st in fourth down conversion rate, they allowed opposing offences to be on the field for a league-high 3:00 per drive, and gave up a league-worst 2.22 points per drive.
Green Bay will look to improve their defence via the draft, but the inability to acquire any of the premier free agents available so far this offseason, including Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Haloti Ngata, should be worrisome to Rodgers.
The defence being on the field for a league-high amount of time should have left Aaron Rodgers’ offensive line plenty of time to rest in-between drives, but it appears as though that did not make a difference.
The Packers’ offensive line was almost as bad as their defence last year.
Watch this clip from the 2016 NFC Championship game, where left-tackle David Bakhitiari (#69), left-guard T.J Lang (#65), and center Corey Linsley (#63) allow Deion Jones to get a clear shot at Rodgers:
The 2017 o-line wasn’t any better than the 2016 version, if anything they missed Lang, who moved on to the Detroit Lions. The Packers’ finished 2017 ranked 28th in pass protection, they allowed 51 sacks over the course of the season, and had an adjusted sack rate of 8.7%. Both numbers are well above the league average 37 and 6.7%, respectively. Outside of Bakhtiari, the top-ranked player at his position according to Pro Football Focus, the line is absolutely terrible.
Bryan Bulaga and Jason Spriggs split time at right tackle and while neither played enough snaps to be ranked amongst other tackles, their overall ratings by PFF would have put them as the 41st and 62nd best tackles in the league. Last years primary guards Jahri Evans and Lane Taylor are ranked 30th and 34th, respectively, and center Corey Linsley wasn’t much better. Linsley was ranked 22nd amongst centers, but had a terrible 51.7 rating out of 100, including a 49.1 pass block rating. That pass block rating was ranked 28th in the league.
The importance of this issue is only magnified when you look at some of the top 10 and bottom 10 quarterbacks and in the league last year in terms of DYAR and DVOA. If you’re confused about these stats, check out the analytics glossary.
Four of the top five quarterbacks in the league (Tom Brady aside) have offensive lines that rank in the top six in adjusted sack rate -- and even Brady’s is in the top 15.
Again, Rodgers' was 28th.
This is an issue not just because Rodgers is getting older and will be less mobile as he ages, but also because of his history of collarbone injuries. He just had surgery on his throwing collarbone, something that could be re-injured later in his career, and already broke his left collarbone in 2013. Keeping Rodgers protected becomes all the more important with these injuries in mind.
He cannot keep taking huge hits like this if he wants to compete into his late 30s and beyond:
Despite all this the Packers don’t seem to have the offensive line as a very high priority. They drafted just one offensive lineman in the 2017 draft, with their last pick.
It is not only that he doesn’t have very good protection, Rodgers also is not surrounded by a strong group of receivers. Davante Adams is the only Packer receiver ranked in the top 50 by PFF and Football Outsiders. Even ex-Packer Jordy Nelson was ranked 50th by PFF, but 58th by Football Outsiders.
Tight end Jimmy Graham may be a big name but his best years are well behind him, and the buzz that his signing created should be short-lived once the season is underway. Graham is the 33rd ranked tight end by PFF, and had a -5.9% DVOA last season, meaning by the numbers he actually helped the defence when he was on the field, in part due to his shortcomings in the blocking..
Rodgers has the ability to raise the level of any receiving core, but the Packers need to put more around him if they expect him to keep putting his body on the line for the franchise.
If they do not take steps to rectify these three facets of their game, I think Rodgers should leave, either this year or next via trade, or following next season as a free agent.
While the NFL is much harder to predict trades in, there isn’t even an equivalent of the NBA trade machine, but in a dream world that can also make a little sense, here are two potential landing spots for Rodgers.
1. The Pittsburgh Steelers (the seemingly less possible but by far most fun)
The Steelers boast the ninth best defensive DVOA, have a much better time of possession per drive than the Packers, and were the eighth best passing defence. They were also the best passing defence in the league against tight ends.
Pittsburgh also would be a remedy for Rodgers offensive-line woes. The Steelers had the best pass protection in the league last year, the lowest adjusted sack rate, and were tied for third fewest sacks in the league.
Throw in Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell, and you have an unbelievable situation for a quarterback.
The best selling point for this situation is that if Rodgers wanted, it could be done in the least offensive to cheese-heads as possible. Rodgers and Ben Rothlesberger are both unrestricted free agents in 2020, making that the easiest time for him to go. If Ben were to finally follow through on one of his threats to retire, Rodgers could move there even sooner. The hardest part would be putting a functioning team around three players that command that much cap space, but that is part of why it is hypothetical.
2. The Jacksonville Jaguars
This is obviously not as fun as the Pittsburgh scenario, but can you just imagine if Aaron Rodgers had the play-action threat of Leonard Fournette in the backfield? It would be legendary.
Jacksonville has an elite defense. The Jags led the league with a -16.1% defensive DVOA, including a dominant -27.5% against the pass. They were best against the pass by over -12%, and had a ridiculous -58.5% DVOA against opposing number-one receivers as they allowed just 42 yards per game to first-options.
They were league-best in several categories: they allowed 22.91 yards per drive, 1.26 points per drive, and 5.12 plays per drive. Jacksonville also allowed a league-low 60% drive-success rate and were on the field for a league low 2:19 per drive.
The Jags also have the fifth best pass protection in the league according to adjusted sack rate and gave up the same 24 total sacks as the Steelers offensive line.
Jacksonville’s receiving core isn’t anything amazing, but with the play-action Fournette provides, Rodgers receivers would be open much more often than they are currently because of his lack of a complementary running attack
A Rodgers for Bortles + pieces trade might be the best option considering Bortles just signed an extension, and while it’ll likely never happen, it would be a great situation for Aaron to be in.
These two potential landing spots, unlikely as they may be, would be much better situations for Rodgers both in the present and going forward.
Although it would be difficult for Rodger to leave the team that drafted him, the team that he won MVP with, and the team that he led to a Super Bowl ring behind, it’s his best shot at getting on the Mount Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks.
DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.
Adjusted Sack Rate (ASR)/Sack Rate: Sack Rate represents sacks divided by pass plays, which include passes, sacks, and aborted snaps. It is a better measure of pass blocking than total sacks because it takes into account how often an offense passes the ball. Adjusted Sack Rate adds adjustments for opponent quality, as well as down and distance (sacks are more common on third down, especially third-and-long)
Teams are ranked according to Adjusted Line Yards. Based on regression analysis, the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:
Losses: 120% value
0-4 Yards: 100% value
5-10 Yards: 50% value
11+ Yards: 0% value
These numbers are then adjusted based on down, distance, situation, opponent, and the difference in rushing average between shotgun compared to standard formations. Finally, we normalize the numbers so that the league average for Adjusted Line Yards per carry is the same as the league average for RB yards per carry.
For more detail on any of these statistics, check out www.footballoutsiders.com.
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