Despite an 11-3 record, the Green Bay Packers clearly have glaring deficiencies that could hold them back in the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers is the biggest culprit.
The Packers fired Mike McCarthy. They fired Dom Capers. They found a great running game. They have a number one receiver. They have an elite offensive line. They’ve invested all kinds of resources in their defense. And yet, Aaron Rodgers remains the lone constant in a still-struggling offense.
The Packers currently rank 22nd in the league in passing. That’s good for seven spots behind the 1-13 Cincinnati Bengals. For seemingly the last five straight seasons, Rodgers has simply refused to throw the ball without holding onto it for at least three or four seconds. Rodgers has become the most conservative quarterback in the entire league and is no longer the best quarterback in the world.
This was all on full display against the Bears at home. Let’s not mince words; Rodgers was terrible against Chicago. His accuracy, decision-making, and mechanics were painful to watch throughout the day. In Week 1 in Chicago, Rodgers threw for just 203 yards and one touchdown. Against the Bears on Sunday at home, Rodgers threw for 203 yards and one touchdown. Only this time, it was twice as bad.
In the first half, Rodgers made several bewildering blunders. Just into the second quarter, Rodgers decided to make a low-percentage and off-target throw to Robert Tonyan instead of running for what would have been an easy first down. Later on in the half on a third-and-six, Rodgers under-threw Jimmy Graham by 10 yards and right into the arms of a Bears defender who coughed it up.
In between, Rodgers again could be seen just holding the ball until the end of time. When Rodgers first started doing this, McCarthy’s dinosaur scheme was rightly blamed. The receivers were and still remain poor at best. Davante Adams is the team’s only true pass catcher, and even he can be dealt with by the league’s best corners. Marquez Valdes-Scantling hasn’t caught a pass since October, and Geronimo Allison has regressed significantly.
But Rodgers is far from blameless. He foolishly committed an intentional grounding error on a third down with under 20 seconds left, and then completely mismanaged the clock a play later when he threw the ball over the middle of the field with no timeouts and under 10 seconds on the clock. He missed the throw low for good measure. Rodgers wasn’t much better in the second half either.
After Dean Lowry‘s game-changing interception, the Packers had the ball inside field goal range with a chance to go up by two scores without much time remaining for the Bears. On a third down, Rodgers was faced with an all-out blitz by the Bears. Rodgers inexplicably took a sack on the play instead of simply throwing it away, something he has set multiple records for in recent years.
Aaron Jones didn’t do his job in pass protection, but Rodgers made his worst decision yet by eating the ball and forcing his team into a punt. The Bears eventually came within one more lateral to a wide-open Allen Robinson for the tying points.
Rodgers is capable of basically anything. But this year, his decline has been incredibly noticeable and disappointing. Further contributing to the problem was Brian Gutekunst’s decision to not trade for a wide receiver at the trade deadline despite having three extra draft picks already in his stable in next year’s draft. But Rodgers is what is currently holding this team back from being truly a contender in the NFC.
Green Bay is 11-3, has clinched a playoff berth and is still in the driver’s seat to win the NFC North. But a playoff matchup against the 49ers, Saints, or the suddenly red-hot Dallas Cowboys does not bode well for a team still average on defense and declining at quarterback. Unless Aaron Rodgers turns his play around dramatically in the next few weeks, Green Bay will be going home after its first playoff game.