2

November

Cory’s Corner: Adversity makes Rodgers MVP worthy

Aaron Rodgers has been playing without his top weapons for two weeks and hasn't missed a beat.

Aaron Rodgers has been playing without his top weapons for two weeks and hasn’t missed a beat.

We all know that Aaron Rodgers is good.

But in the last two weeks he’s actually given us a value of how good.

With Randall Cobb and James Jones out with injury, he effortlessly beat Cleveland at home with only nine incompletions as he spread the wealth to eight different receivers.

And then last week, with Jermichael Finley out, he carved up the Vikings. He spread it around to six different receivers and of those, four were still getting used to being thrust into an increased role thanks to a rash of injuries.

Now I know the Browns and Vikings aren’t exactly the cream of any crop whatsoever, but Rodgers proved that he is the Packers’ puppet master.

In a year in which Peyton Manning is taking a machete to the passing record book, Rodgers just put himself in the NFL MVP discussion.

Everyone, including myself, didn’t think it was possible for Rodgers to jell with guys like Jarrett Boykin, a Jacksonville castoff, Myles White, a practice squad promotion, and Andrew Quarless, whose career has been truncated due to injury. The last time Quarless caught five passes in a game was Dec. 2010.

There’s a reason why these guys are backups. Obviously Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley are exponentially more talented than this trio. There’s a reason why Rodgers gets all the reps with the No. 1’s in preseason camp so they can quickly get on the same page and develop that needed nonverbal communication that’s so important for success.

Rodgers hasn’t been given that much time with White and Boykin. It’s only been a couple weeks. Usually quarterbacks begin their critical timing at mini-camp and follow that up with more reps at training camp, which lasts five weeks.

And the nice thing about Rodgers is that he hasn’t made any excuses. He keeps plugging along — and winning games for Brett Favre’s fantasy football team.

It looks like it’s going to be the same script again for Rodgers when the Bears come to Lambeau on Monday night. Cobb and Finley are out and Jones isn’t close to making a return. Rodgers’ numbers aren’t going to be as glossy as Manning’s. With a superior running game, Eddie Lacy has been cutting into some of Rodgers’ production, but that shouldn’t detract from Rodgers playing with the Misfit Toys (plus Jordy Nelson) going on three weeks.

23

July

Packers have had the Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair of Quarterbacks in Last 17 Seasons

Aaron Rodgers has held the championship belt as the NFL’s best QB since 2010. Brett Favre held it from 1995-98.

Next time you complain about Aaron Rodgers holding the ball too long or grimace at the memory of a Brett Favre interception, remember this: The Packers have had the best quarterback in the NFL for seven of the past 17 seasons.

That’s the conclusion Grantland’s Bill Barnwell reached, anyway, after a comprehensive study breaking down the NFL QB championship belt holder since 1959.

Yes, Barnwell’s findings are subjective, but even if his logic is a little flawed, it’s still damn impressive just how good the quarterback play has been in Green Bay over the last 17 seasons.

Barnwell goes on to highlight how a quarterback’s reign at the top typically doesn’t last very long. No QB has spent more than four seasons with the QB championship belt. Rodgers has been the best since 2010. He’ll turn 30 this season and the next crop of young quarterbacks are rapidly advancing as top contenders to take his title.

Of course, if Rodgers’ reign does end, it doesn’t mean he’ll turn into a jobber. There’s nothing wrong with being the Intercontinental Champ or even a tag team title holder. Rodgers would still be more than capable of winning the cage match known as the Super Bowl and bringing another team championship belt back to Green Bay.

Kurt Warner ended Favre’s four-season reign from 1995-98. Favre, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Petyon Manning were the only QBs to wear the belt for four straight seasons.

Yes, I’m still going to holler at my TV when Rodgers ignores a wide open receiver underneath and heaves a pass 50 yards downfield that falls incomplete. I’ll still curse some of Favre’s silly interceptions and his divorce from the Packers.

But deep down, I’ll know that the Packers have been lucky enough to have both the Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair of quarterbacks over the last 17 seasons. Two all-time greats. Two memorable characters. Two world champions.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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5

June

Fun With Round Numbers: Can Packers WR Randall Cobb Catch 100 Passes?

Can Packers WR Randall Cobb catch 100 passes in 2013?

Can Packers WR Randall Cobb catch 100 passes in 2013?

For a franchise that has had an all-pro caliber quarterback for the last 20 years, the list of Packers wide receivers with 100 catches in a season is short.

Very short.

No Packers receiver has caught 100 passes in a season since Robert Brooks in 1995. Sterling Sharpe is the only other Packers receiver to catch at least 100 passes, doing it in 1992 and ’93.

Compare that with Peyton Manning, who connected with Marvin Harrison (4), Reggie Wayne (4) and Dallas Clark (1) on at least 100 passes nine times. Or Tom Brady, who has helped Wes Welker go over 100 catches five times and Troy Brown once. Or Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, who have five 100-catch seasons under Joe Montana and Steve Young.

The Packers have shown that you can still win Super Bowls and enjoy sustained success without a 100-catch receiver. Nonetheless, Aaron Rodgers has said that he thinks Randall Cobb is capable of catching 100 passes, if he stays healthy.

When the topic was brought up on Monday’s Green and Gold Today, co-host Bill Johnson said Rodgers’ comments were “troubling” and worried about Rodgers changing his spread-the-ball around approach and forcing the ball to Cobb.

I don’t think Cobb catching 100 passes would be “troubling,” but the Packers’ offense seems to function just fine with several receivers getting opportunities to make plays. But if Cobb happens to enter triple figures, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other receivers have underperformed or Rodgers is locked in on Cobb and only Cobb.

Rodgers is adamant that he throws to whomever is open. If Cobb is open 140 times, and Rodgers throws to him successfully at least 100 times, so be it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s locking on Cobb to the detriment of other receivers who are open somewhere else.

We like having nice round numbers like “100″ to lock in on and establish some sort of benchmark. But those round numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Sure, Cobb is capable of catching 100 passes. He’s a great receiver with a knack for adjusting his routes and finding open space after Rodgers scrambles. He also might get some more opportunities after the departure of Greg Jennings

19

October

Getting In Rhythm With The Packers Offense

In this week’s edition of “Tuesday’s with Aaron” with Jason Wilde (a must listen if you are a Packers fan), Aaron Rodgers tried to describe what is a “rhythm offense”:

“I don’t know… I think a rhythm offense is an offense that operates best in favorable down and distances and making consistent plays and not having negative yardage plays, whether its a negative run, sack, penalty…and making the plays that keep you on the field”

Rodgers is always insightful during his interviews so his response took me a little by surprise; I’m not entirely sure Aaron Rodgers knows what really is a rhythm offense because no one really knows what a rhythm offense is.  Teams either are in a rhythm or they aren’t; some teams (typically with great quarterbacks) tend to be in rhythm more often than teams that don’t have great quarterbacks, but conversely having a great quarterback doesn’t necessarily mean the offense will be in rhythm.  As far as I can tell, it just happens.

If you’ve watched any Packers games at all this year, it should be pretty apparent that the Packers weren’t in a rhythm in beginning of the season and maybe have “righted the ship” with a 6 touchdown demolition of the Houston Texans last week.  To me this seemed a little odd since the Packers managed to start off hot during the 2011 season, and that was without the benefit of having an offseason due to the CBA lockout; so if anything the 2012 Packers should have been even more ready than the 2011 Packers.

Perhaps even more interesting is that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, two other great quarterbacks known for their use of up-tempo, no-huddle, “rhythm offenses” had very similar results as Aaron Rodgers in terms of struggling early in the season and playing much better down the stretch (if you can even be “down the stretch” in week 6).  Below is a table looking at the individual passing statistics of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees during the 2012 season.  I’ve split the averages for games 1 to 3 and then games 4 to 6 (the Saints have only played 5 games since they had a bye last week):

 

Aaron Rodgers     COMP ATT % COMP YARDS TD INT QBR Y/A AY/A
1 SFO L 22-30 30.00 44.00 68.20% 303.00 2.00 1.00 93.30 6.89 6.77
6

July

The Year After: Aaron Rodgers and How Other NFL QBs Have Fared After Winning the MVP

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers was the 2011 NFL MVP

Aaron Rodgers was the 2011 NFL MVP after leading the Packers to a 15-1 record and throwing for 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

At 28 years old, Rodgers has already established himself as the best player in the NFL. Now his challenge will be to hold onto that title, and bring more Super Bowls back to to Titletown.

Recent history shows that it’s no sure thing for a QB to hold the title of best in the world the year after winning an MVP. Factors like age and injury have caught up with some recent MVP QBs and their post-MVP career have been less than spectacular.

Let’s take a look at how MVP-winning QBs since 2000 have performed in the season following their MVP win. I’ll have a few thoughts on how all of this relates to Rodgers and the Packers at the end.

Kurt Warner (2002)
After throwing for nearly 5,000 yards and 36 TDs in his 2001 MVP season, Warner dropped off. Big time.

Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate Sk Yds NY/A ANY/A Sk% 4QC GWD AV
2002 31 STL qb 13 7 6 0-6-0 144 220 65.5 1431 3 1.4 11 5.0 43 6.5 4.5 9.9 204.4 67.4 21 130 5.4 3.6 8.7 2
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/3/2012.

Post-MVP Warner didn’t win another game until 2004 and went 13-29 from 2002-07. He threw 27 TDs and 31 interceptions from 2002-06 and only started 31 games.

Warner stayed healthy and became a dangerous QB again the final two years of his carerr, but the years immediately following his 2001 MVP run were frightening.

Rich Gannon (2002)
After playing out of his mind and winning the MVP in 2002, it didn’t take long for Gannon to resume playing like, well, Rich Gannon.

Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate Sk Yds NY/A ANY/A Sk% 4QC GWD AV
2003 38 OAK qb 12 7 7 2-5-0 125 225 55.6 1274 6 2.7 4 1.8 46 5.7 5.4 10.2 182.0 73.5 17 90 4.9 4.6 7.0 1 2 3
21

May

Donald Driver: Is It Packer Nation Vs Ted Thompson Part Two?

Packers WR Donald Driver

Have Packer fans seen the last of Driver's trademark smile?

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver learned a brutal lesson last week on the power of social media.

Driver, whose place on the Packers’ 2012 roster is most certainly up in the air, sent out the following message on Twitter this past Thursday:

“Hello everyone: I’m a packer for life. It will never change. Go Pack Go!!!!”

With that comment, Packer Nation immediately awoke from its post-draft slumber. Had the Packers decided to hang onto one of the most beloved players in franchise history or was this a way for Driver to cryptically inform Cheeseheads all over the world that his time in green and gold was indeed up?

Even after clarifications issued by Driver and his agent, Jordon Woy, it’s currently the hot topic around the water cooler for Packer fans everywhere. Some see things through the eyes of GM Ted Thompson and say that while they will always love Driver, the Packers are so deep at the wide receiver position that Driver has to be a casualty to keep players like Tori Gurley on the roster.

Others feel that Driver, whom is often cited as the only offensive player to actually “show up and play” during the playoff debacle this past season against the New York Giants, is still better than any of the other options on the roster.

I would fall more into the first group than the second, thought I totally understand where people who insist Driver must stay are coming from. Although I have to say that Packer fans have to realize they have seen this script play out before and it is not a good idea to be going down this road again.

Remember the Summer of Favre in 2008? Well, 2012 is appearing to be the sequel: the Summer of Driver. I’m not accusing Driver of being a prima donna like Favre. Far from it. Driver has handled this situation perfectly, no doubt taking cues from the PR disaster that was Favre’s divorce from the Packers. Not to mention Driver has always been one of the most decent guys in the NFL.

Fans are obsessing over this pending decision to the point that it is going to consume discussion even more than it has already. Just wait until the cut down days during the preseason. It is reasonable to believe Driver could at least make it to training camp where he will actually be allowed to compete for a roster spot.

21

March

NFL Free Agency and Training my Dog

Nnamdi Asomugha

Remember how free agent Nnamdi Asomugha was going to deliver the Lombardi Trophy to Philly?

For some reason, my dog acts like a crazed maniac whenever she’s on a leash.

Matilda is a near-perfect dog in any other setting, but when we put on her leash and walk her around the neighborhood, she goes nuts. Lunging at other dogs. Eating leaves and rocks. Chasing cars. She’s completely out of control.

My wife is working with Matilda to correct this behavior, which makes my wife a much better person than I am. I don’t have the patience to deal with a dog that treats bikers and pedestrians like the fake bunny rabbit on a pole at a greyhound track.

My attitude toward Matilda is kind of like the attitude most NFL fans have toward free agency. I don’t want to put the time and effort into re-training my dog. Most NFL fans don’t want their teams to put the time and effort into building through the draft.

I want Matilda to magically get over her leash craziness. NFL fans want their teams to magically get better by signing a bunch of free agents.

Check out the reaction to Miami not signing Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn. They’re getting trashed. How about the Dream Team moniker and the euphoria over the Eagles after their spending spree last season? People thought Philly would roll to a championship.

Signing a bunch of free agents doesn’t lead to a Super Bowl. There’s a small, but loud, segment of NFL fans and analysts that repeat this fact every offseason, but few people listen. I see this segment getting louder, but not larger. Why?

Are people not listening? Do they not care? Are most NFL fans just plain stupid? Is it impossible to re-train fans to favor draft and development over spend and splash?

Sabermetrics became mainstream in baseball. Advanced analytics keeps getting more popular in basketball. Fanbases in other sports embrace new and innovative ways to build a team. But most NFL fans would rather see their teams go the same old route of stocking up on high-priced free agents and other “name” players.

They’re like Matilda on a leash. They want off that leash so they can chase after every shiny object, whether it’s good for them or not.