Rodgers at the half
Aaron Rodgers’ statistics from the first eight games in 2009 and 2010:
Year Cmp Att Yds Pct TD INT Rating
2009 164 260 2255 63.1 16 5 103.3
2010 165 269 2011 61.3 12 9 85.3
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the first to admit he isn’t playing as well as last season, when he earned a Pro Bowl berth and was among the league leaders in several passing categories.
But no one on the coaching staff or in the locker room is blaming Rodgers alone for the recent struggles of the offense.
“It’s the receivers, it’s the quarterback, it’s the O-line, it’s the running backs, it’s the tight ends,” said wide receiver Greg Jennings about the offensive sluggishness. “It’s every position has had their share in this situation. It’s up to us to fix it.”
The Packers’ best chance for success is to keep putting the football in Rodgers’ hands and let him lead the offense out of its funk.
No, his numbers aren’t Pro Bowl caliber at the halfway point of this season, but Rodgers hasn’t been all that bad. He still ranks fifth in the NFL in passing yards, sixth in touchdown passes and fourth in completions of 20 yards or more. His interceptions are up and his passer rating down compared to 2009, but it would be foolish to suggest there is anything wrong with Rodgers. It would even be a stretch to say he’s in a slump.
Rodgers is going to be fine. His spectacular season a year ago shouldn’t be held against him now.
“We all have high expectations around here,” said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. “Our standards are pretty high.
“The reason our standards are high is because of some of the things they’ve accomplished in the past and what we feel like they’re capable of accomplishing in the future, so I hope we’re not pressing too much to reach a certain level. We’ve got to kind of take each game as it comes, see if we can improve, see if we can get a little bit better every week.”
At the halfway point of last season, there were some pointed questions directed at Rodgers and the offense. The big problem then was sacks, and Rodgers was blamed in part for holding the ball too long. Things worked themselves out quite nicely. After the Packers allowed 37 sacks in the first eight games of 2009, they gave up only 14 the rest of the year and the offense became a finely tuned machine.
Remember, too, the knock on Rodgers for not being a winner. Halfway through last season, his record as a starting quarterback was 10-14, and there were whispers that while he posted nice-looking statistics, it didn’t lead to enough victories. Rodgers answered those skeptics as well. His 12-4 regular-season record since the middle of last season is the best among NFL starting quarterbacks.
Here’s why no one should worry about Rodgers: He is his own worst critic and has been proving doubters wrong since his high school playing days.
When I asked him to assess his performance this season, Rodgers offered a brutally honest answer on Wednesday.
“It’s below the standards that I set for myself,” he said. “Obviously I think I’m capable of playing better. But I point to my preparation that’s been the same. I prepare hard every week. Just (my) performance hasn’t been as good as the kind of standards I set for my 40 games starting. So obviously I need to play better.”
With that kind of attitude, how can he fail?
Even better for the Packers, he doesn’t start pressing when things get tough. In the Packers’ workmanlike 9-0 victory against the New York Jets and their rugged defense on Sunday, Rodgers completed a career-low 44 percent of his passes and posted an ugly 59.7 passer rating. But he didn’t throw any interceptions and gave the Packers a chance to win.
“It was a tough day at the office for everybody,” said Philbin. “It was a struggle, let’s be honest, and he’s part of that. I don’t think he played poorly. I thought he did a good job protecting the football. I don’t think he forced the ball down the field, which certainly can happen in a game like that when you’re not as effective and when you’re not in the rhythm, you can maybe try to force something.”
The offense remains a work in progress as the Packers have adjusted to the loss of starters Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley for the season. Things won’t get easier on Sunday against Dallas with receiver Donald Driver declared out with a quad injury.
But Rodgers will keep working, studying and preparing like he always does to make things right.
“We’re making enough plays to win games but there’s been a standard that’s been set here with the kind of points we scored last season, the kind of production we put up,” Rodgers said. “And if you compare this year to last year obviously we’re below our standards that we set last year.”
Despite their offensive shortcomings, the Packers (5-3) are one game better than last year in the standings.
“We’re not where we want to be yet,” said Rodgers.
But don’t be surprised if they get there with Rodgers leading the way.
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette.