Rodgers' remedy: 'Throw it a little bit better'
GREEN BAY - Yes, Aaron Rodgers had that glass of scotch. He chilled out a little bit Sunday evening, watched the film. Just like he predicted, the Green Bay Packers' struggling quarterback searched for answers after another debacle.
Did he find any? Remains to be seen.
Rodgers was calmer Tuesday than three weeks ago, after the Packers’ first loss of the season in Minnesota. There was no high-pitched defensiveness. No combativeness with the media.
There also were no details. Footwork? Mechanics? Foggy vision? Whatever’s ailing him, Rodgers compacted what he needs to improve down to seven words.
“Just throw it a little bit better,” he said.
Throw it better. Like a car with a bad transmission has to run better. How do the Packers get their passing game — and their former MVP quarterback — up and running again? The necessary repair remains uncertain.
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If there were any new revelations from Rodgers’ scotch-fueled film session after the Packers' dismal loss to the Dallas Cowboys, they were undisclosed Tuesday. Two days before kickoff against the Chicago Bears, Rodgers sounded like a recording from Week 3 this season. Or maybe Week 12 of last.
Either way, it was déjà vu all over again. The Packers quarterback is in an extended slump, cold as the Arctic. Hearing him explain it, you’d think the past year has been something other than the worst football of his future Hall of Fame career.
“We’re close,” Rodgers reassured. “We’ve been making some plays at times, but not good enough consistently. We’ve got to clean some things up. I’ve got to make some better throws at times, and we’ve got to get on the same page a little bit more consistently.”
It’s unthinkable to consider the Bears might have a quarterback edge over the Packers, but that’s what the numbers suggest.
Over their past 12 games, Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer has a better completion percentage, passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio than Rodgers. He’s also passing for more yards.
Hoyer, replacing Jay Cutler, hasn’t thrown an interception this season. Rodgers has three in his past two games, both played at Lambeau Field.
“It’s football,” Rodgers shrugged. “There’s going to be stretches where you’re playing really great, and stretches where you’re just a little bit off, and we’ve just been a little bit off, I think, collectively. I’m confident. We’re five games into it. We’re going to get it fixed pretty soon.”
Rodgers was careful with his words Tuesday. He said he hasn’t lost confidence in McCarthy’s scheme. He’s still comfortable in the offense.
He also was cautious not to assign too much blame, even to himself. While Rodgers said his passes need to be thrown a little better, he was quick to correct a reporter who referenced “inaccuracy” in a question.
“I didn’t say that,” Rodgers said. “I definitely didn’t say that.”
So Rodgers’ throws aren’t inaccurate, but they’re also not accurate. The difference? Perhaps a little word play. Maybe more.
There has been no shortage of blame spread around for the Packers' passing woes. Rodgers has received most of it, but not all. Coach Mike McCarthy has been scrutinized. So have the Packers' receivers.
If the quarterback is not inaccurate, is he really the problem?
“I think it’s multi-faceted,” Rodgers said. “We all have a part in it, and we’ve all got to improve individually, so collectively we can get back on the right track and start playing a little bit more consistently.”
Getting back on track is atop McCarthy’s list of priorities.
Before walking away from the podium Monday, the coach ended his chat with the media simply pledging his offense would improve. It was another soundbite that could be replayed either earlier this season, or almost any time during 2015.
The evaluation process is certainly thorough. Since he became the Packers coach in 2006, McCarthy said, every throw has been cataloged. Each pass receives a specific grade for footwork, decision and accuracy.
“A number of different categories,” McCarthy said.
They help identify individual weaknesses within the greater whole. Whether a receiver isn’t running the route properly, or the quarterback isn’t throwing to the correct target, everything is assessed.
McCarthy said his quarterback is receptive in their meetings. Almost a decade into his career as a starter, Rodgers accepts coaching. He wants to improve.
“We spend a lot of time in the meeting room,” McCarthy said. “We spend a lot of time in the video study. We think our analytics — without getting into detail — is second to none. We’ve put a huge emphasis on that, particularly in the last two years. Frankly, being in an offense for 10 years, you’re able to collect data and do certain things with it and really learn from it — and that’s at every position.
“We take a lot of pride, and we’re pretty damn good at it, as far as the way the quarterback position is coached. That’s the way it’s always been, and that’s the way it always will be.”
Yet the Packers haven’t fixed their passing game. Rodgers’ slump has extended a full calendar year, and counting. His conclusions after Sunday’s loss sounded familiar, if not stale.
Just throw it a little bit better. Until Rodgers does, the Packers' offense will go nowhere.