It’s just never-ending, isn’t it? Lately, it seems like Green Bay Packers fans have to deal with some kind of Aaron Rodgers story to create speculation or rumors once every 3 weeks or so. Sometimes it’s an off-the-field subject and sometimes it’s on the field. When these stories come about, as a fan, you have to often think to yourself, “How much should I really care about this?” The latest one of the on-field variety has been dubbed “Signal Gate.”
Every Quarterback from NFL to High School likely has signals they use to let their Receivers know of a change in their route. Or perhaps just to let them know that they’re going to them right off the snap. In High School, these signals likely don’t change the whole year. In College, they probably change periodically, but then in the NFL they change week to week. Maybe even mid-game. Why? Because it’s easier to for other teams to catch on the more advanced you get in the game. And if the opposition knows your signals, your passing game might as well be a sitting duck.
When you have a Rookie Quarterback, the signals might be fairly simple, because the rookie is still adapting to the NFL and the last thing you want is to make it more complicated. But when you have a Hall of Fame Quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, it’s safe to assume things might be more complicated.
What’s it like?
On Friday, December 16th, an article dropped from The Athletic by Kalyn Kahler that dove into how difficult Rodgers’ signals can be for rookie receivers. There’s a chance this article may have been just another attempt at stirring drama until a missed signal-turned incomplete pass from Rodgers to Christian Watson that may have been a touchdown, was easily spotted during Monday night’s game vs the Rams. Rodgers was questioned on it after the game, and he commented with a smile “If you want to catch touchdown passes, run the right routes”
On Tuesday during his appearance on the Pat McAfee show, Pat asked Rodgers about the media coverage of this. Rodgers went on to mention a “specific article” that was in his words “the dumbest, nothingburger article that I have read the entire season.” This article happened to be the one written by Kalyn Kahler.
Now, I have to mention that this article in question, cites current, and former receivers, stating how much of a nightmare learning these signals can be. Even Randall Cobb and Jordan Love were cited on how difficult it can be to learn and perfect these signals. So, despite Rodgers’ downplay of it, it has to have at least a little merit right?
Should we care?
Okay, now that you have the background on the situation, back to my point.
Is “Signal Gate” really a cause for concern for Packers fans? In my humble opinion, I have to say I agree with Aaron Rodgers. There really isn’t much to see here. But that depends on your opinion. I can see being concerned if you think this hurts a young receiver’s ability to produce immediately, But I think this helps a receiver grow on the fly.
It’s been said that as a young player Reggie Wayne struggled with Peyton Manning‘s signals. That they were just so many for Wayne to learn. That’s a possible Hall of Fame Wide Receiver, and a Hall of Fame Quarterback. So, Aaron Rodgers isn’t alone in his signals maybe being a bit more complicated. But Reggie Wayne is a shining example of that learning those signals don’t damn the receiver to failure.
Looking back to week 8, I cited in an article a moment where I noticed Aaron Rodgers making a hand signal to his left. Rookie receiver Romeo Doubs then seemed to rub his elbow in response. I instantly thought to watch Doubs on the play. Sure enough, Doubs took off on a corner route, and Rodgers immediately found him for a great 26-yard gain. Obviously, Doubs knew what Rodgers’ signal was then and found success. Then on Sunday, after Doubs hadn’t played for the previous 4 games, he still caught 5 passes for 55 yards. Looks like Doubs has learned enough to be productive.
Let’s take a look at Christian Watson in the last 5 games. 19 catches, 359 yards, 7 touchdowns. I think for the most part, Watson and Rodgers are on the same page to be productive as well.
Looking back on the article
So, this isn’t to say exactly that Kahler’s article has no merit. I have no doubt that Rodgers holds his receivers to a higher standard than most. In fact, I’ve believed that for 5 years now since he was glaring down Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown in their rookie seasons. It can be a bit frustrating, there’s no doubt. You want those young players to produce, and you definitely want the Quarterback to go easy on them so they can. Sure, it can be shocking to know how high of a standard QB1 holds for his receivers, but is it that big of a surprise?
I kind of agree with Rodgers’ statement on that this article is a bit of a “nothingburger.” He wants his signals with his receivers to be a little more complex than most. He’s a Hall of Fame Quarterback, he knows if he disguises his communication well enough, he’ll get away with anything. And he’s demonstrated that year after year. Randall Cobb was cited in this article that he’s gone through the ringer of these signals. Cobb is a member of the fraternity of great Packers receivers during Rodgers’ time that includes Driver, Jennings, Nelson, James Jones, and Davante Adams. If all those receivers found success, Aaron Rodgers has to be doing something right with his signals.
Can it be daunting for a young receiver? Sure. But I bet you that the experience leaves that receiver better off once they get the hang of it.
One thing we’ve taken out of this season is that the future is looking bright at the Wide Receiver position with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Though the growing pains can be very tough to watch, these players may be better from the experience and become better assets to the team after the fact.
If learning complex signals gets our receivers to the success level Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson have achieved so far, so be it. Perhaps they’ll become members of the long list of great Packers receivers over the last 15 years.
Greg Meinholz is a 24/7/365 Packers fan. When he’s not spending time with his family, he can be found meditating in his Packers shrine with a good beer. You can follow him on twitter at @gmeinholz.