Comparing Aaron Rodgers in 2011 to Other Great QB Seasons in History
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
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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