Aaron Rodgers draws criticism for playing it too safe

NFC Divisional Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Green Bay Packers
Getty Images

For two straight years, the Packers have secured the No. 1 seed in the NFC. For two straight years, the Packers have failed to parlay the top seed into a Super Bowl appearance.

Yes, a stunning failure of special teams fueled the latest collapse. But quarterback Aaron Rodgers also hasn’t performed at Aaron Rodgers levels in those losses. This year, for example, Rodgers completed a modest 20 of 29 passes for 225 yards, with no interceptions but also no touchdown passes.

The latest edition of Peter King’s Football Morning in America includes a quote from longtime Packers writer Bob McGinn, who made an observation at the Go Long website regarding the possibility that the supersensitive Rodgers is hypersensitive to the impact of interceptions on his passer rating.

“Rodgers . . . for years has played a careful, calculating game understanding that number of interceptions plays a disproportionate, nonsensical role in the passer-rating formula,” McGinn said. “Bad interceptions are, well, bad. Then there are interceptions that are the cost of doing business for unselfish, competitive, stats-immune quarterbacks battling to make plays and lead comebacks until the bitter end. When a quarterback, especially one with a powerful, usually accurate arm like Rodgers, deliberately minimizes chances to deliver a big play for fear of an interception . . . that’s just hurting his team. In the playoff game, a modest talent like Jimmy Garoppolo was under every bit as much pass-rush pressure as Rodgers but drilled more tight-window completions down the field largely because he wasn’t afraid of a pick and the moment.”

For all the harsh assessments of Rodgers’s off-field behavior and comments in 2021, this is the most stinging critique of his on-field performance that we’ve seen. The dichotomy nevertheless has become jarring. Rodgers has won the regular-season MVP award four times. Not once in any of those four seasons has Rodgers led his team to the Super Bowl. (Then again, no regular-season MVP has won the Super Bowl since Kurt Warner in 1999.) Three of the four playoff runs ended at home, with the Giants stunning the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2011, the Buccaneers beating Green Bay in Green Bay in 2020, and the 49ers upending the Packers on their own home turf in 2021.

This question emerges at a time when Rodgers is trying to decide whether to stick around with the Packers for another season. And here’s where the decision gets trickier for Rodgers, who would hope to follow Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford as winning a Super Bowl to cap the first year with a new team. The Patriots were fading when Brady left. The Lions were, well, the Lions. But Green Bay has a team that hovers on the fringes of the title game. If Rodgers doesn’t fare as well elsewhere, his move will be viewed as a failure.

And if he takes a new team to the top seed in the conference (whether AFC or NFC) and doesn’t get to the Super Bowl for a third straight year, he’ll be viewed as the primary reason for his team soaring during the regular-season — and flying into a window in the postseason. He’s smart enough to consider that possibility. Given McGinn’s theory regarding Rodgers’s unreasonable fear of failure one throw at a time, would Rodgers ultimately shy away from making the jump to another team due to concerns of another one-seed-one-and-done while wearing a new helmet?

As Rodgers closes in on making a decision, it’s a factor that can’t be ignored. If he shies away from making a misstep on a micro level, will he do the same thing on a macro level, too?

24 responses to “Aaron Rodgers draws criticism for playing it too safe

  1. I just think it’s funny the guy who threw 20 interceptions, regular and postseason combined won the Super Bowl while the guy who threw only four didn’t win a playoff game.

  2. The Washington Football team and the Vikings have squandered every season of Kirk Cousins career.

  3. Contrast with Brett Favre. Favre didn’t care if he threw an interception. He just came back and threw another TD pass. Both Favre and Rodgers have one Super Bowl title but Favre was at the game twice in his career with Green Bay.

    Both quarterbacks were hamstrung by weaker sections of the team. Rodgers has had mediocre defenses and bad special teams.

    The special teams this year were so bad that it would have been a joke if they made it to the Super Bowl.

    Rodgers performance in the playoff this year was enough to win the game if the other parts of the team played better.

  4. Not really a Rodgers fan here. Throwing interceptions in games hurts the chances of winning as we all know from seeing stats comparing differential to winning percentage. Avoiding interceptions in a excellent game strategy. This looks like what we often see from local writers in bed with the team to begin the process up turning the fan base against a guy they plan to move on from.

  5. Look at any game he’s in and it’s 90% quick slants or quick passes to the flat. The defenses that implement CBs that can bump a receiver at the line are the most effective.

  6. That interception thing puts Rodgers at the opposite end from Favre, who threw it around like crazy and still leads the career INT list by a country mile.

  7. Rodgers is a fantastic QB, and no one can argue that. But not all fantastic QBs (there aren’t many) know how to turn it on when the stage lights are brightest. I think what Bob says in his assessment is pretty accurate. He hasn’t had meltdowns and lost games for the #1 seeded Packers in his tenure which is important to him, but he hasn’t done enough to win the games either.

    I get it, tough to critique a guy who has a passer rating like he does but he needs to understand that a playoff game where he throws for 300 yds, 2 TDs and 2 picks likely gets his team a win. The ST unit definitely took the egg on the face this past year for the loss but as the stats state, dude didn’t even throw a TD, you can’t have the front running MVP and #1 seed at home not throw a TD and expect to win many games. He runs the offense and it hasn’t been good enough come playoff time the last two years.

  8. Favre wasn’t afraid of throwing picks, yet he only won 1 Super Bowl as well… If not for Bounty Gate though, he prob would’ve had his Brady moment with another team.

  9. Totally agree with McGinn but I don’t think Rodgers aversion to INT’s has hurt us. Favre was the exact opposite yet got the same results. One SB win. Not really sure Aaron taking more chances is the answer. This year our defense did it’s job and Rodgers just had to not give the game away…which he did. Had the special teams unit not given up a blocked FG and punt we wouldn’t even be talking about this. Last year Rodgers was the best QB in the field by a wide margin and they lost due to defense. We still blame him but there are 21 other players on that team

  10. The greatest quarterback of the Super Bowl era was Montana, who threw no interceptions in the Super Bowl and had a passer rating of 128.

  11. When the defense plays like champions and special teams is pathetic, a true MVP should be the difference-maker. If an MVP quarterback can’t be the difference in a game like that, who needs him? The Packers can lose similarly with any number of low-priced quarterback options. Rodgers has been losing winnable games in the postseason for ten years. Send this lying loser packing.

  12. FORMER Packers writer Bob McGinn,.. still has a burr in his saddle regarding the Packers. McGinn was banned from Lambeau Field locker rooms, pressers, and interviews by then GM Ted Thompson. McGinn posted some unsavory stuff about the Packers management that was unfounded.

  13. It took this guy 20 years to figure this out? Give me a break. Winning the MVP (individual award) four times and the SB (team award) is the perfect illustration for his career. He’s built a career on not taking risks to winning big games so his personal stats are protected. If he took more risks he’d have more interceptions, but also more playoff wins and possibly another SB. it’s 100% selfishness.

  14. Oh, please, the special teams collapse would have meant nothing had Ewwin Wawgers made plays in the game at the end of his season. It is like Ewwin Donald would have done nothing in the Snoopy Bowl (his standard of playoff performance) had the Cincy OL been healthy and competent. This clown made two plays and they were set up by a botched offensive play call just before.

  15. pkrlvr says:

    Not really sure Aaron taking more chances is the answer. This year our defense did it’s job and Rodgers just had to not give the game away…which he did.

    He did give the game away – by not producing in the 4th quarter. The Packers had 3 possessions in the 4th quarter.

    Drive 1: The Pack had 1st and goal at the 49er 7 yard line (run for 2yards, incomplete pass and a sack for -7 yards) and settling for a FG.

    Drive 2: 3 and out (run for 2yards, incomplete pass and a sack for -11 yards) led to a blocked punt.

    Drive 3: 3 and out (incomplete pass, pass completion for 4 yards, incomplete pass).

    So at a critical junction of the game, AR led the team to 4 rushing yards, 1 pass completion for 4 yards, 3 incompletions and 2 sacks for -18 yards, so a negative 10 yards of offense at the most critical juncture of the game. Completing 1 pass on 6 drop backs is not good.

    On drive 1 in the 4th quarter, if Rodgers can get 7 yards in 3 plays from the SF 7 yard line, the Packer win the game in regulation.

    A few first downs on the 2nd drive 4th quarter drive and there most likely wouldn’t have been a blocked punt run in for a TD and the Packers win in regulation.

    A few first downs on the last drive in the 4th quarter and maybe it’s the Packers kicking a game winning FG as time runs out, despite the blocked punt run back for a TD.

    I’m sorry, but the 2021 MVP not being able to produce in the 4th quarter of a home playoff game is the problem,

  16. I can’t think of a single team or fan base who would want this guy except for green Bay and Packer fans

  17. Before losing this last playoff game nobody ever complained that A.R. was too conservative. Last playoff game A.R. questioned the coaches play calling after the defense for 3 turnovers from Brady and A.R. and the offense did nothing with them. Year before the Miners ran it down their throat and A.R. indirectly blamed the defense. I think A.R. needs to quit with the excuses and start playing like the announcers make him out to be in the playoffs.

  18. cheeseisfattening says:
    February 21, 2022 at 4:09 pm
    I can’t think of a single team or fan base who would want this guy except for green Bay and Packer fans

    Don’t be a fool. Viking Fan would take Rodgers for Cousins today, right now, no questions asked.

  19. stellarperformance says:

    Don’t be a fool. Viking Fan would take Rodgers for Cousins today, right now, no questions asked.

    You phrased that right. There may be a Viking “fan” or two that would do it. But intelligent Viking fans wouldn’t.

    I’d have to know how much the Packers were going to give the Vikings to decide if it was worth the smell and the mess that goes with having Rodgers on the team.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.