Aaron Rodgers has been a star of the NFL for a long, long time but at the age of 35 there are question marks over how long he can continue to perform at the highest level. Such quandaries have interesting NFL fantasy football implications ahead of the 2019 season.
One one hand, the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback seems to be showing no signs of slowing up. Several stellar performances last season suggest that Rodgers is still at the top of his game. But is that really the case? Are there hidden signs to suggest that he is actually on the decline?
At his best Aaron Rodgers was one of the world’s most impressive athletes
2018 Season: It started so well…
Some people are afraid of the dark, others get chills when they’re within spitting distance of spiders and some people are simply terrified of Aaron Rodgers. Those people are usually clad in Chicago Bears jerseys.
If anyone is hoping that Aaron Rodgers is finally on the decline, it will be Bears head coach Matt Nagy who watched the quarterback dismantle his team on week 1 of the 2018 season. Khalil Mack was on fire for Chicago in that game, becoming only the second NFL player to record a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, interception and touchdown in the first half.
Despite all of that, the Bears still fell to the Pack at the hands of Aaron Rodgers. The aging quarterback pulled all the strings and inspired his team to an unexpected victory. At that point in the season, there were very few people questioning Rodgers longevity and ability to perform at the highest level.
Then it crumbled…
Kryptonite was the green crystalline material that had a supernatural weakening effect on the powers of Superman, but it wasn’t particularly good at much else. Being harsh, that’s a fair assessment of Aaron Rodgers in 2018, the man that proved the Kryptonite to the Chicago Bears’ usually watertight defense.
After his spectacular performance in the season opener, Rodgers performances soon began to tail off. His passing was inaccurate, he took far too many sacks and ultimately played a pivotal role in a dreadful season that finished with a 6-9-1 record.
Football is a team game, but is it generally agreed that the quarterback is the most important position on the field. The difference between winning and losing often comes down to the relative passing strength of a team’s quarterback, and unfortunately, Rodgers has not been stellar over the last two seasons.
The Green Bay Packers record over the past two campaigns stands at 13-18-1, which is a shocking indictment on Rodgers’ form. Head Coach Mike McCarthy paid the price for The Packers lackluster performance last season, losing his job midway through the campaign.
The man that replaced him, Matt LaFleur, is eager to make some changes to the defense and offense, but still recognizes the contribution needed from Rodgers. Early in the off-season, LaFleur said:
“At the end of the day, this game is about winning and I think quarterbacks are always going to be judged on the number of wins and losses. Certainly six wins is not the standard he (Aaron Rodgers) has set in previous years.”
The Green Bay Packers have been terrible by their own standards in the past two seasons. While some of the blame justifiably falls on Aaron Rodgers, he is not solely responsible. The defense has been leaky and unorganized while the offense has been stagnant and at times rudderless. However, Aaron Rodgers can be wholly blamed for his own poor stats.
While he still remains the NFL’s all-time leader in career passer rating (103.1) and touchdown to interception ratio (4.23/1), his 2018 stats make for troubling reading. The Green Bay Packers quarterback had a completed pass rating of 62.3% in 2018, making him the 27th best passer amongst starting quarterbacks in the league.
On top of that, he threw for just 25 touchdowns, which is his lowest tally ever in a season in which he has played over 10 games. Overall Rodgers’ quarterback rating of 97.6 was the fourth poorest of his career.
Often guilty of holding on to the ball for too long, he was sacked 49 times last season. That made him the fifth most sacked player in the league, possibly the most startling statistic of all.
Does it point to a severe decrease in ability, most likely brought on by the relentless enemy of all sports stars – time?
The sight of Aaron Rodgers being sacked last season became all too common for Packers fans
Rodgers biggest enemy – his mentality
Across the pond in the UK, one of the best “football” coaches to have ever lived was Alex Ferguson. The Scottish coach was at the helm of Manchester United for 26 years, transforming them from also-rans into a major European power, bringing in a staggering haul of 38 trophies during that time.
One of Ferguson’s guiding mantras as a coach was, ‘no one single player is bigger than the club.’ He enforced that philosophy resolutely, jettisoning David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Roy Keane, while they all appeared to be at the height of their powers.
Ferguson had recognized the damaging effect that their superstar status was having on the team and cut them off for the long-term success of Manchester United. Conversely, the Green Bay Packers have done the complete opposite with Aaron Rodgers.
Sir Alex Ferguson was ruthless in his pursuit of team success, axing David Beckham when he was one of the most recognisable faces in world sport
The quarterback has been cited as one of the main reasons behind the dismissal of Mike McCarthy, with the relationship between the two reaching an all-time low last season.
For the better part of a decade, Rodgers has had the stats and ability to back up his superstar status and his influence on the franchise. With his powers waning, that steadfast confidence and, at times, arrogance, might not negatively impact just his team, but his own performances as well.
This season could be the one where the Packers superstar quarterback finally meets his mortality. Or will a new coach and a new offensive system reinvigorate him and help him find that magic touch once again?
The Chicago Bears are the Packers’ first opponents of the 2019 season and a repeat good performance against “da Bears” could be the catalyst for the return of MVP-level Aaron Rodgers.
Fingers are crossed.