A look at what’s happening with Aaron Rodgers, a few rookie quarterbacks making news not named Carson Wentz and an NFL player who made a kid smile.
1. What’s Happened to Aaron Rodgers?
First, let’s get something straight. Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing poorly. Andy Dalton against the Steelers? That’s playing poorly. Russell Wilson on one leg? That wasn’t pretty. Blaine Gabbert was downright putrid.
No, Rodgers isn’t playing poorly, but he is playing poorly for Aaron Rodgers. There’s a difference.
For much of Rodgers’ career, there were few like him in the history of football. He has the accuracy of Joe Montana, the football acumen of John Unitas, the mobility of Russell Wilson and the arm strength of Dan Marino.
He has long been, to me and others, the most complete quarterback ever to play the game.
But not lately. And we’ve seen this version of Rodgers for a large chunk of last season and through the first two games of this year. Against the Vikings on Sunday night, where he was 20-of-36 for 213 yards with one passing touchdown, one rushing score, one interception and one fumble. And despite carrying a 103.8 career passer rating, Rodgers hasn’t reached the 100-point mark in any of his last 12 regular-season games.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. With Jordy Nelson back from injury, Green Bay’s offense this season was supposed to be different. Rodgers was supposed to be different.
And maybe he will be. It’s only two games. He might go on that familiar Rodgers tear and then we’ll all shut up. But for now, something is clearly wrong.
What that is, however, has become one of the NFL’s most compelling parlor games, focusing on a handful of possibilities:
• Rodgers is hurt. I don’t buy this one. He doesn’t seem significantly injured, but I cannot stress how much this theory is making its way around some of the personnel men with whom I speak.
Two scouts who watched both of Rodgers’ games this season told B/R something seems seriously off with him. Not so much with the offense, but him.
They, and others, think Rodgers is suffering from some sort of long-term issue, like a chronic shoulder problem. I heard similar speculation last season.
This is conspiracy theory stuff. Like UFOs. Well, wait, UFOs are real. Like the Loch Ness Monster. Not buying it yet.
• The offense isn’t playing to his strengths. Said one AFC scout: “He’s one of the greatest downfield throwers this league has ever seen but they run a dink-and-dunk offense.”
I’m not certain how accurate this is, but I would say, with one exception, Rodgers doesn’t have the high-quality receivers to run an explosive, downfield offense.
• The offensive talent around him just isn’t that good. This is the theory I believe.
Look at the roster. Nelson is good, but he’s a 31-year-old receiver whose game is built on speed coming off a serious knee injury. The offensive line is OK. The running game is OK. The other receivers are OK. The defense is OK. That’s a lot of OK.
Yes, Rodgers could play better, a lot better, for sure. Yet when I watch the Packers, so much is still on Rodgers’ shoulders.
There’s no Stefon Diggs. Or DeAndre Hopkins. When Le’Veon Bell was suspended, the Steelers turned to DeAngelo Williams, and he responded.
Which player (not named Rodgers) on this Packers team can you turn look at and say, “That guy will bail them out?”
• The problem with Aaron Rodgers is all of us. That is what one general manager told me. The expectations for Rodgers are so stratospheric they’re unrealistic. There is some truth to this.
“No other quarterback is held to the standard he is,” the general manager said. “Not even Tom Brady.”
It’s only two games into the season. The Packers are my Super Bowl pick. That hasn’t changed. Too early to change that, or my belief that Rodgers will one day be viewed as the best ever to play the position, a spot, to me, that Brady holds currently.
Now, though, something is not right. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Even after just two weeks.
It will get better, but in the meantime, the “decline” of Rodgers will remain one of the biggest growing questions hovering over this season.
2. Meanwhile, in Dallas…
Rookie Dak Prescott has thrown 75 passes in his first two games without an interception. That’s an …