The Green Bay Packers crumble and the state of the franchise, both financially and on the pitch, is held hostage by Aaron Rodgers.
After three straight losses that would have previously been inconceivable to the Giants, Jets and Commanders, the Packers are stuck in limbo. With general manager Brian Gutekunst under pressure from fans and the media to make a splash, the team’s Super Bowl window may already be closed. With a 3-4 record and an upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills, the Packers could face a 3-5 record that would put them well behind the Minnesota Vikings 5-1 in the NFC North title chase.
The problem with this situation is that even if the Packers wanted to be sellers at expiration and try to reload for the future, the team is not in a financial position to rebuild with the Aaron Rodgers contract. currently in the books.
Despite his back to story at the time, Rodgers signed a massive contract extension this offseason that gave him more than $150 million in guaranteed money over three years.
While the contract helped keep Rodgers in Green Bay for the 2022 season, it weighs heavily on the team’s cap situation in 2023 and beyond. Rodgers was openly considering retiring before the extension and that same move could have massive salary cap implications, potentially costing the Packers $40 million in dead cap next season.
That kind of death blow would crush the Packers financially and hamper the chances of an immediate rebuild for the post-Rodgers era. It would also make contract negotiations extremely difficult for future free agents, including Allen Lazard, Elgton Jenkins and Adrian Amos.
With Rodgers’ contract threatening the team, the front office has no choice but to try to appease the future Hall of Famer, conceding demands to keep him while trying to fight for relevance with a quarterback who just isn’t playing at a high level. level.
The signs of Rodgers’ regression are there, and they are alarming. As a quarterback who thrived on extending plays with his legs, whether escaping the pocket for an off-script pitch or running down the field, his rushing numbers have completely dropped in 2022.
In seven games, Rodgers has just nine rushing attempts for just nine yards, which puts him on pace for just under 22 carries for the season. Of those nine attempts, only three of them weren’t aborted knees or snaps.
As a starter outside of injured seasons, Rodgers never had less than 33 runs in a year.
Not only is Rodgers struggling to extend plays, but he’s also struggling to push the ball down without superstar receiver Davante Adams opening up the offense. Rodgers is currently tied with Kyler Murray among full-time starters this year with just 3.4 passing yards per pass attempt.
Rodgers still wants to throw deep, but the timing with his new receivers and generally perfect ball placement is no longer there. His numbers on throws from 20+ yards from the field aren’t great, completing just 30.3% of his passes for a passer rating of just 81.1 with three touchdowns and one interception.
However, the numbers are even worse with context. Lazard’s 25-yard touchdown is the longest fielding play Rodgers has produced this season, and those three “explosive” touchdowns have been between 20 and 25 yards, meaning there has been no really explosive deep touchdowns like in the past. Thanks to the help of APC’s Paul Noonan, we can see even more worrying numbers when looking at Rodgers’ attempted passes from over 25 yards on the field.
According to Noonan, Rodgers has completed 40.7% of his passes 25 yards or more on the field in 2021. This season, that number has dropped to 22.2%.
Part of that has to do with the new receiver cast, and the offensive line struggles deserve some blame as well. However, the film showed week after week that Rodgers was missing his deep shots, even when not under duress.
Even how the Packers run the ball is dictated by the 38-year-old quarterback. For a weapon as dynamic as Aaron Jones has been, the star running back only ranks 21st in the NFL in rushing attempts despite leading the NFL in the percentage of his runs exceeding expected yardage. (ROE%).
Rodgers’ decision-making on RPOs, or plays with “running solutions” as the Packers like to call them, limits the opportunities for Green Bay’s most dynamic point guard to play with the ball in his hands. According to Next Gen Stats, Jones is only running against a box with more than eight defensemen on 3.85% of his attempts, easily the lowest rate in the NFL.
That number is a shining example of one of Rodgers’ greatest strengths turning into a major liability for the offense. As much as the Packers quarterback prides himself on doing the “right” pre-snap read, the pace at which he runs or passes is entirely dictated by the defense and the defensive coordinators realize that. Defenses give Rodgers those pre-snap looks to dictate whether or not they want him to throw the ball.
Green Bay’s fourth failed attempt against the New York Giants is a perfect example. Facing an eight-man pressure look on 4th-and-2nd, Rodgers cut off a potential transfer to AJ Dillon, opting instead to throw at a covered Allen Lazard. The pass was angled at the line of scrimmage, ending the game, but a solid block from Josh Myers would have given Dillon the space to move the sticks and keep the Green Bay drive alive.
Even Jones, who is normally one of the Packers’ more reserved players, expressed frustration with the decision-making on this play after the game. Unfortunately, with Rodgers able to alter any play call or abort a transfer at almost any time, there is little Jones can do to stop him.
More could be said about Rodgers and the conversations about him “trusting” some players over others. There are times in the film where Rodgers seemingly ignores open players who have recently struggled, as seen in this clip from Sunday’s game against Washington with an open AJ Dillon available for verification.
Unfortunately, that’s how the Packers’ offense is handled right now. Their back-to-back MVP makes all of his decisions before the shot, limiting the touches ball carriers receive on the field and potentially ignoring players in favor of feeding established veterans he trusts. All while his level of play decreases with age.
As Packers fans who watched Rodgers bring the team a Super Bowl title, lead some of the most thrilling offenses of the past two decades, and win four MVP trophies, conversations about his decline can be (understandably) charged with ’emotion.
However, with the situation unfolding in Green Bay, it’s clear that Rodgers is holding the offense and front office hostage with the way he’s playing and the looming threat of his retirement.
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