Going into the 2015 season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers had put together six consecutive years of having a passer rating of over 100.
In fact, if one looks at the production of Rodgers from 2009-2014, it was truly remarkable. Even in the 2013 season, when Rodgers missed seven games due to a fractured clavicle, he was on his way to another fabulous season, which would have averaged out to 30 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions for 4,508 yards over 16 games.
Based on that number and adding it together with the other years from 2009 through last season, No. 12 has averaged 35 touchdown passes versus eight picks for 4,364 over the past six seasons going into this year.
Rodgers averaged a 108.6 passer rating over that time as well.
At first glance, looking at the season Rodgers has put together for the Packers in 2015, it looks somewhat normal.
Why? Because Rodgers threw 31 touchdown passes compared to just eight picks this year. That is very comparable to what No. 12 did over the previous six seasons.
But when you peel back the onion, one can see a number of declining stats.
The yards passing for the season is one red flag. Rodgers threw for just 3,821 yards this season, which is the lowest of his career, based on a full season.
In addition to that, Rodgers also only threw for an average of 239 yards per game in 2015. That is a steep decline based on the previous six seasons which averaged 279 yards per game.
The passer rating also went way down. In 2015, Rodgers passer rating was just 92.8, which is the lowest of his career since he became a starter in 2008.
Just to compare, the career passer rating for Rodgers is 104.1.
Adding to that, Rodgers has now gone 10 consecutive games without posting a passer rating of over 100.
No. 12 also averaged just 6.7 yards gained per pass attempt in 2015. Once again, that was the lowest mark of his starting career by a wide margin. Rodgers had never been below the 7.5 mark before this season.
Rodgers also averaged just 11 yards per pass completion this season, which is also a career low.
The big plays were missing for Rodgers and the Packers on offense in 2015. No. 12 was tied for 25th in the NFL with just six completions of 40-plus yards.
Now, there are a number of reasons why the stats have declined for Rodgers in 2015.
It all started when Jordy Nelson went down with a torn ACL in the preseason. No. 87 was the deep threat for Rodgers in the offense of the Packers and also his most trusted receiver.
Because of the injury to Nelson, the Packers re-signed James Jones to help bolster the loss of Nelson. Although Jones had a decent season for the Packers in 2015 (50-890-8), the receiving corp as a whole had a very disappointing season.
Randall Cobb has struggled to make an impact as the lead receiver of the Packers most of the season, and especially at crunch time. No. 18 had 79 catches for just 829 yards and six touchdowns.
But as disappointing as those numbers are, no one has been more disappointing than second-year receiver Davante Adams. Yes, No. 17 struggled with ankle problems for a number of games. But that doesn’t excuse all the dropped passes and the lack of production.
Adams ended up with just 50 catches for 483 and one touchdown. Yes, you saw that correctly. ONE touchdown!
To be fair, the receiving corp as a whole have had injury issues. Cobb hurt his shoulder in the preseason. Adams had the ankle injury. Jones has had some hamstring issues.
Another key injury occurred when rookie wide receiver Ty Montgomery sprained his ankle versus the San Diego Chargers in Week 6.
Montgomery was never able to return from that injury and was placed on injured reserve late in the season.
That injury turned out to be a turning point, as the Packers were 6-0 at that juncture of the season. No. 88 was just starting to find his niche in the offense of the Packers too.
The Packers used the 6’0″, 216-pound Montgomery out wide, in the slot and in the backfield. He was a useful weapon for Rodgers to have, as he created a lot of his yardage after the catch because of his running back size dimensions. That is also why he was such a good return man as well.
The Packers went 4-6 after that injury to Montgomery. Plus, the offense has obviously taken a step back as well.
Part of the reason is that opposing defenses don’t see anyone on the Packers who can beat them deep, so they play press coverage. The receivers have struggled getting open off that type of coverage and that forces Rodgers to hold on to the ball longer, which in turn causes sacks.
And that is not a good thing to do when the offensive line has struggled so much this season.
Yes, part of the reason is that the line has been banged up with injuries. Still, the biggest reason for the decline in the production of Rodgers and the offense as a whole, is the sub-par play of the offensive line.
“When they’ve had some success, it’s when they are running the football,” Landry said. “It’s a perfect example of what we talked about in the first segment [of the show]. It’s balance. Balance is about being able to dictate to the defense. But now defenses are dictating to the Packers.
“When they can’t run the football successfully, good pass-rushing teams are getting to Aaron Rodgers, plus receivers are not getting open. Formulate this in your mind, although I know it’s radio. You’re dropping back and you can’t run the football. People are teeing off on their pass rush.
“You can’t protect, receivers aren’t getting open, the quarterback is having to hold the football and extend the play. Do that in your mind. There is no where to go with the football and you’re having a lot of mistakes and a lot of turnovers.
“You’ve got to be able to run the football, which slows down the pass rush. And it gives you some time to work the play-action, so that you can make plays in the passing game.
“That’s been the problem with Green Bay and it’s been their undoing and will probably be their undoing the rest of the way into the playoffs regarding of where they are seeded or regardless what happens Sunday night.”
We all know what happened Sunday night, when the Packers lost 20-13 to the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Almost everything which Landry talked about happened in that game.
It truly was the undoing of the Packers. It also cost the Packers the NFC North title and the right to host a Wild Card game back at Lambeau Field.
Now that the Packers are the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs, they have to travel to Washington to face the NFC East champion Redskins late on Sunday afternoon in a Wild Card game. More on that later.
But besides the issues of losing Nelson for the season, the receivers not getting open and the issues with the offensive line, there is still more to the problems with Rodgers.
In 2015, we have seen Rodgers miss receivers who are wide open. That never used to happen. In fact, the 60.7 completion average is by far the lowest of Rodgers’ career.
Could Rodgers be injured? Well, he was on the injury report one week this season due to a shoulder injury. But if you saw the winning 61-yard Hail Mary pass that Rodgers threw in the “Miracle in Motown” game, you certainly wouldn’t think there was an injury to his throwing arm.
Still, something doesn’t seem right. It could be that Rodgers is just getting flustered at times. But that doesn’t mesh with the usually unflappable way Rodgers has performed in the past.
Even with the change in calling plays for the Packers, when head coach Mike McCarthy took over those duties from Tom Clements about a month ago, the offense still is too inconsistent and unproductive.
The Packers are ranked just 23rd in the NFL in total offense.
The Packers were sixth in total offense in 2014 and were in the top 10 on seven other occasions with McCarthy calling plays since 2006.
Something is definitely amiss.
Maybe the Packers should go back to the true basics of the West Coast offense. That is, employ a short passing game for the most part. Settle for five-yard completions that put the pressure on the defense to make the tackle or risk giving a big play on a short pass pattern, whether it’s a slant, curl or hitch.
Something has to change, that’s for sure. The Redskins might be the elixir that the offense of the Packers needs right now.
Washington is ranked 28th in total defense. The Redskins are also ranked just 25th in passing defense and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw 30 touchdown passes versus just 11 picks and have a passer rating of 96.1.
Washington also struggles stopping the run. The Redskins are just 26th in rushing defense and have given up an average of over 122 yards per game on the ground.
The Redskins have also allowed opposing running backs to average 4.8 yards per carry.
Bottom line, even with all the issues that Rodgers and the offense of the Packers are currently undergoing, things could change to the positive this Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field.
We shall see if that will happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers put together one of their best offensive performances in quite some time, especially if left tackle David Bakhtiari is available to play.
Perhaps Rodgers and the Packers can indeed find that magic again on offense this Sunday.
Recent history says that they won’t, but the stars seem to be lining up correctly for Rodgers and the offense of the Packers to prosper again.
The first week of the postseason is also an apropos time to begin that success.