Packing the Stats: Is Aaron Rodgers’ Time Ticking Away?
In the shadow of the last two postseason losses, I’ve seen a number of Green Bay Packers fans itching for Ted Thompson to make some big roster moves. Their basic premise is that star quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have much time left to get to another Super Bowl. It’s either now or never if the team wants to make another serious run at it.
Rodgers is, after all, turning 30 this December. By the time the season is over and the playoffs are underway, he’ll have reached that magic age in the NFL when a player’s value suddenly drops like a brand new car being driven off the dealer’s lot. Sure, he hasn’t shown any physical or mental signs of decline in his performance, but time flies when you’re chasing the Lombardi Trophy.
To be perfectly clear, I have been a big skeptic of this line of thinking. This skepticism has actually led me to do a little data mining. How many quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl after they’ve turned 30? How many have even played in a Super Bowl? Is it a foregone conclusion that Rodgers will be battling the odds in the coming years?
So I went all the way back to Super Bowl XXX and compiled the ages of the starting quarterbacks since that year. Just to note, I only went back 18 years for the purposes of time management and the idea that modern rules are helping with durability. Quarterbacks are being protected from physically damaging hits, so they should theoretically have a better chance of playing into their later years.
Here is the raw data I uncovered (click to enlarge):
After compiling all the data, I went through and calculated some simple statistics to help us measure and understand what we’re seeing:
Looking at the numbers, Aaron Rodgers has clearly surpassed the average age for quarterbacks appearing in a Super Bowl. Losing quarterbacks tend to be about a year older than winning ones, while the median age seems to hover around 28. About 60% of all quarterbacks starting in a Super Bowl during the past 18 years were under the age of 30.
That said, the oldest winning quarterback was 38 (John Elway), while the oldest losing quarterback was 37 (Kurt Warner). The range for winning quarterbacks is actually slightly larger on both ends than for losing quarterbacks.
If we look at some individual case studies, we can find some large success for star quarterbacks later in life. Though Tom Brady won his last Super Bowl at the age of 27, he played in his final two at the ages of 30 and 34. Eli Manning and Drew Brees both won a Super Bowl at the age of 31, and Peyton Manning appeared in his latest one when he was 33.
On the extreme end of the spectrum, John Elway won both of his Super Bowl titles when he was 37 and 38. Even Brett Favre was a field goal away from making it to a Super Bowl at the age of 40 with the Minnesota Vikings.
(For a rather trivial stat, Super Bowls 33 and 37 saw the oldest two quarterbacks in combined age at 71. And only four of the past 18 Super Bowls saw both starting quarterbacks over the age of 30.)
What does this mean for Aaron Rodgers? Well, nothing really. Past statistics have no bearing on future outcome when it comes to this type of number crunching. However, Rodgers will clearly be in the minority if he reaches another Super Bowl after he hits the age of 30, so there is legitimate concern for those people expressing as much.
On the flip side, there has been some clear success for quarterbacks beyond the age of 30, especially when they are of the “elite” variety. I’m sure most of us would place Rodgers in the group of Brady, Manning(s), Elway, and Brees. With this in mind, there’s plenty of confidence to believe that Rodgers can achieve similar success in his later years.
Whatever happens, though, the Packers can’t reach another Super Bowl without a quality supporting cast to go with Aaron Rodgers. And that is up to Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and the rest of the front office and coaching staff.——————Follow @ChadToporski