FTW: Aaron Rodgers has been mediocre for a year now
It didn't have the same impact as telling Packers fans to "R-E-L-A-X" back in 2014, but Aaron Rodgers' message was essentially the same after another uneven performance for Green Bay's offense in a 17-14 loss in Minnesota.
"I don't think this is anything to get super crazy about," Rodgers said after the game. "Well, we're not going to overreact. It's been two weeks. We've been not quite finding our rhythm yet, but we've got some guys working in that haven't worked together a whole lot. So we're going to trust the process and believe we can get this thing turned around."
The Packers may eventually figure things out, but we can't just write the offense's stagnation off as nothing more than a two-week dip. Green Bay's passing game, and offense as a whole, has been mediocre for almost a year now.
Here are Rodgers numbers from his last 15 regular season games:
Compare those to Blaine Gabbert's numbers over that same time:
Rodgers hasn't been himself these last 12 months, but he's not completely to blame for his Gabbertesque stat line.
The Packers' passing woes start with a receiving corps that simply can't get open against man coverage. Getting Jordy Nelson back from an ACL tear was supposed to solve that issue, but Nelson hasn't looked like the player he was before the injury. It's not a given that the 31-year-old ever will after major knee surgery. What was once a top-five receiving corps has become a bit of a liability against teams that can match-up man-to-man.
Davante Adams is a plodding route-runner who can't stretch the field and has had problems with drops. Randall Cobb has slowed down a step or two and is dealing with more bodies over the middle now that teams don't have to play a safety over the top of Nelson. Until Nelson returns to form, this group will underachieve.
The coaching staff hasn't made necessary adjustments to this new normal. We're not seeing any of the modern tactics that NFL offenses have turned to to beat man coverage: bunch formations, pre-snap motion and pick routes. Instead Packers receivers run routes that are isolated from one another, and the team is relying way too much on Rodgers to improvise and create big plays outside the structure of the offense.
This is too often the result:
Rodgers is so talented the Packers can get away with this strategy against weaker defenses, as it did against Jacksonville thanks to a pair of touchdowns created by Rodgers' magic. But those plays are tough to replicate and impossible to design an entire offense around.
Both of Green Bay's touchdown drives against the Vikings were sparked by Rodgers going off-script, as well. He set up the first score by scrambling to his right and launching a long throw that drew a pass interference call near the goal line. The second touchdown came on a 10-yard scramble after Rodgers couldn't find an open receiver.
The pressure to create is clearly getting to Rodgers. He's become too sensitive to what is going on around him and has gone into survival mode at the first hint of pressure, causing him to miss open receivers downfield.
Here he has two receivers coming open, but the left defensive end causes Rodgers to spin out of the pocket and he has to throw the ball away.
That panic has thrown off the once-impeccable timing of Green Bay's offense. All of a sudden, Rodgers is missing timing throws that he's always made with ease.
Green Bay will eventually figure things out. Even if the receiving corps isn't what it once was, there's still a lot of talent on the offense. And Rodgers remains the most talented quarterback in the league. He just hasn't played like it in a very long time.