So many people have written about it this week, but there is something noticeably wrong with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. One game, I can write it off as a fluke. Everyone has bad games. But three games in a row where Rodgers looks more like a lost rookie than the reigning league MVP, and you have to wonder what is going on. And at the rate it’s going at 1265 Lombardi, the team is not going to say one way or another.
In the wake of the stinging loss to the lowly Detroit Lions, head coach Mike McCarthy blamed anyone but Rodgers. In fact he went as far to say that Rodgers was trying to put the entire team on his back when he said, “If Aaron’s really guilty of anything, he’s trying to do too much. And that’s something that I think you would expect from your leader and a great quarterback that’s done it at such a high level.”
Okay, Mike, if you say so. Maybe it’s me, but that sounds like a canned answer you trot out during a job interview to describe your greatest flaw so you don’t have to list all your downfalls on the spot.
He’s not leaving the pocket. He’s holding on to to the ball, spinning in a circle for what seems forever. Granted, the offensive line doesn’t seem to be holding up their end of the bargain and are collapsing far too soon. And then there are are the repeated passes to receivers’ feet or missing wide open receivers all together.
McCarthy added to the narrative this afternoon during his weekly press conference, hinting that the drop-off in performance may or may not be injury related. It’s something many have speculated, and McCarthy finally put to words, “He’s banged up. We have a lot of guys who are banged up.”
More vague than “He’s got a knee”, McCarthy isn’t giving out any more information than the wear and tear we have come to expect midway through the season. Could he have a foot injury? It’s a possibility. He definitely seemed to limp a bit after getting hit last Sunday. Then there were the few times he was holding his left hand like it hurt. People commented on that more than once. Is the healed calf causing him problems? Did he get his bell wrung?
Actually it was something no one saw coming. As I was proofing this article, the the team released its injury report.
Aaron Rodgers is listed as Limited Participation with a right shoulder injury.
But is that type of vague injury enough to impact his play? It could be tendonitis from overuse. It could be a rotator cuff (which is really bad by the way, but I somehow doubt that’s the case.) One thing’s for certain, attempting 61 passes in a game is certainly not helping prevent overuse.
Yet it is something he said after the loss to Carolina that is the most concerning. While he may not be 100% physically healthy, it sounds like the head space may be suffering more.
When explaining how he missed a wide open Randall Cobb in the end zone and inexplicably throwing a pick to end the game, Rodgers said, “I had the easy opportunity there for a pitch-and-catch touchdown but I got scared by something. I can’t explain it. It was a mistake by myself. I will definitely be thinking about that one on the ride home”
It really isn’t a good thing for the reigning MVP to start seeing ghosts, and it’s not all that comforting to have him verbalize that things on the field are starting to scare him. I’m not the first one to mention ghosts with Rodgers, and it is not the first time a quarterback has been accused of it. It’s not a good label to have. It signaled the beginning of the end for Matt Schaub and has been used to describe Cutler. It means a QB is trapped in his own head and either worried he’s going to get creamed or the play is going to fall apart long before he even attempts to even try. It means he’s paralyzed to act, and we are seeing that when Rodgers tries to elude a tackler, spins around and is dragged to the ground. There are times he isn’t even trying to get away or take off running.
Panicking is never a good look on the field, and it appears that he is starting to do that.
And then there is the nebulous “personal issues” that others have brought up. Sure, that can be a factor. It may or may not factor into the bad head space I mentioned above. But I’m not going to rehash it. It’s just speculation, and everyone has to find a work/life balance to survive in both worlds. Some of us can find that balance while some of us struggle with finding it on a daily basis.
Rodgers is no different than anyone else in that realm. It makes no sense to place blame directly or indirectly on any one individual be it a girlfriend, agent, teammate, coach, family member or friend. And honestly, it’s not fair to him (or anyone for that matter) to make that assumption without a public acknowledgement or true confirmation.
So how do you fix him?
It has to be a multifaceted approach. Everything needs to be addressed from play calling to wide receivers running routes cleanly and not dropping the ball to clearing his head to chase way the ghosts and any other demons that have taken up house.
First and foremost, the offensive line needs to step up both in pass protection and playing a pivotal role establishing the run. Clements is going to grind him to a pulp if they expect the entire offense hinges on an aerial attack. It won’t be good for that sore shoulder. Aaron Rodgers cannot be expected to throw over 60 passes in a game. The running game needs to find away to put down more than 49 yards in a game and find a way to bang into the end zone.
The line also needs to keep Rodgers upright and keep him from crashing into the turf. That will help his shoulder as much as preventing overuse injuries. Will likely also play a decent role chasing the ghosts away. Don’t tell me every time he crashes to the turf with a linebacker on top of him he doesn’t think about his clavicle snapping in two. I suspect getting knocked down or sacked too many times to count would make anyone a bit gun shy. He was hit 28 times in the last three games. That’s 6 more times that he had been knocked down in the first six games combined when they were still undefeated. Let that sink in for a little bit. I’d be scared to get hit, too.
And then there’s the head space issue. Rodgers keeps talking about how the young receivers need to earn his trust in practice to become game day targets. I’m sure that’s valid on some level. But honestly, it sounds like Aaron Rodgers needs to start trusting Aaron Rodgers more than anything. He needs to stop second guessing himself. And speculating on gossip and rumors isn’t going to make it any better or make him figure out what’s going on between the ears. Only he can do that. Sure, it would be convenient to blame someone. But the person that needs to address this is none other than Rodgers himself.
But ultimately, the way this problem is pointed in the right direction is to win a game. Seems simplistic, but a victory against a divisional rival may be the balm he and the rest of the team needs. They need to regain confidence and overcome the inertia setting in. Minnesota is a tough team, but going 7-3 may be the jump start the second half of the season.
Rodgers may be broken right now, hopefully he’s someone who can be repaired.--------------