Green Bay Packers: Will Clay Matthews III Come Back to Titletown?

Clay Jr and Clay III After Super Bowl XLV

Author Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Well, Clay Matthews III might just prove Wolfe wrong for the second year in a row.

In 2019, even though Matthews wanted to remain in Green Bay and finish his career as a Packer, the team never gave Matthews a chance to stay in Titletown. Matthews was an unrestricted free agent and was willing to take less money to stay with the Pack, but that opportunity never materialized, as general manager Brian Gutekunst and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine thought they were set at outside linebacker with the signings of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency.

Plus the team also had Kyler Fackrell, who had led the team in sacks in 2018 with 10.5.

So, Matthews went home to his old stomping grounds in southern California, as he signed with the Los Angeles Rams as a free agent. Matthews grew up in that region and played his college football at USC.

Matthews had a very nice year for the Rams, even though he missed three games due to a broken jaw. Still, No. 52 had 37 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles as a right outside linebacker.

And after the somewhat shocking release of Matthews by the Rams yesterday, there is a chance that Matthews could once again return to his first NFL home in Green Bay. But there will be other suitors as well, as Matthews was contacted by 14 NFL teams after his release by the Rams.

The situation has changed quite a bit for the Packers now at the linebacker position in terms of Matthews coming back to Titletown. The Packers have seen three linebackers leave the team in free agency, as Fackrell (New York Giants), Blake Martinez (New York Giants) and B.J. Goodson (Cleveland Browns) all moved on.

The Packers did sign free agent Christian Kirksey to handle one of the inside linebacker positions. But that still leaves a possible spot open for another ILB, although Oren Burks may be given an opportunity there, along with second-year ILB’s Tyler Summers and Curtis Bolton.

Matthews played very well at ILB in 2014 and 2015 when the Packers moved him there to shore up the run defense. Matthews was recognized for his efforts, as he went to the Pro Bowl in both of those seasons.

Matthews has the talent and versatility to move inside or outside depending on the situation. But it’s good to know that No. 52 has a great track record in either situation.

Matthews was originally drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft by then general manager Ted Thompson. Matthews was the second of two first round picks by Green Bay that year, as the team selected defensive tackle B.J. Raji with pick No. 9 and then Matthews with pick No. 26.

Clay and B.J. as rookies

The defense of the Packers became one of the best in the NFL in 2009 with the additions of Raji and Matthews, as Green Bay was ranked No. 2 in total defense that season after being ranked No. 20 in 2008. Matthews went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, as he had 10 sacks.

In 2010, the Packers once again had a great defense, as they were ranked No. 5 in total defense. Matthews was a big reason why. Once again, No. 52 went to the Pro Bowl and was also named AP first-team All-Pro.

In his 10-year career as a Packer, Matthews had 482 total tackles, a franchise record 83.5 sacks, 40 passes defended, six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 15 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries (one returned for a score).

That type of production led Matthews to be honored with six overall Pro Bowl berths, as well as being named AP first-team All-Pro once and AP second-team All-Pro once.

Matthews was also a terror in the postseason. In 15 games, No. 52 had 53 tackles, 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

No forced fumble was bigger than the one he helped to cause in Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 postseason. Matthews forced Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall to fumble on the first snap of the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLV, with help from defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

Pittsburgh was driving for a potential go-ahead score at the Packers’ 33-yard line until Matthews’ helmet dislodged the football, popping it into the air.

Clay forces fumble in Super Bowl XLV

The Packers took advantage of that turnover with a touchdown drive and went on to win 31-25 and the team’s fourth Super Bowl prize, aptly named the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Matthews has great lineage, as he is the son of Clay Matthews Jr., who I believe rightfully deserves a bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Much like Jerry Kramer, when he was finally recognized in 2018.

The Matthews family has cast a large net over the NFL throughout the years, starting with Clay Matthews Sr., who played with the San Francisco 49ers for four years. Clay Sr. started his career with the Niners in 1950, then served two years as a paratrooper during the Korean War for the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and then came back and played with the 49ers from 1953 through 1955.

After that, his son’s Bruce and Clay Jr. both had terrific careers in the NFL.

Bruce was inducted into the Hall of Fame after a great career with the Houston Oilers for 14 years and then with the Tennessee Titans for five years after the team moved to Nashville.

Clay Jr. certainly deserves the same honor after 19 great years with the Browns and Falcons.

Plus there are Clay Sr.’s grandsons. There is Clay III, plus there is his brother Casey, who played with the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. In addition, there are Bruce’s sons, one being Kevin, who played with the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers and also Jake, who still plays with the Atlanta Falcons.

Bottom line, time will tell, but it would be ideal if Matthews returned to Green Bay to finish his career, which is what he wanted to do all along. He fills a need, still plays fast, plus is very productive.

Let’s also not forget that the Packers were ranked just 18th in total defense least year and just 23rd in run defense, plus were embarrassed in the 2019 NFC title game trying to stop the run.

And just like he did in 2014 and 2015, Matthews can help shore up that issue at inside linebacker.

If Matthews did return, that would mean that there would be just four players on the Packers who were also on the Super Bowl XLV team. The other three are Aaron Rodgers, Mason Crosby and Tramon Williams.

Williams left the Packers for three years before he returned home. It’s only been one year for Matthews, but returning to his original NFL home in Green Bay would certainly be apropos.

Aaron Rodgers Will Be Joining Some Illustrious Company in 2017

Rodgers vs. the Boys

With just three more touchdown passes in 2017, quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers will have 300 career touchdown tosses. That would put Rodgers in a club that only 10 other quarterbacks in NFL history have ever achieved.

That would put Rodgers in illustrious company, but nobody will have achieved this honor in the same way Rodgers will have done.

As Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk notes, Rodgers will be the first quarterback ever to throw 300 touchdown passes before throwing 100 interceptions. Right now, Rodgers has thrown just 72 picks in his career.

Let’s compare that with the other QBs who have thrown 300 or more TD passes.

  • Peyton Manning (539 career TD passes)- Had thrown 152 interceptions when he threw his 300th TD pass.
  • Brett Favre (508 career TD passes)- Had thrown 175 interceptions when he threw his 300th TD pass.
  • Drew Brees (465 career TD passes)- Had thrown 154 interceptions when he threw his 300th TD pass.
  • Tom Brady (456 career TD passes)- Had thrown 115 interceptions when he threw his 300th TD pass.
  • Dan Marino (420 career TD passes)- Had thrown 169 interceptions when he threw his 300th TD pass.
  • Fran Tarkenton (342 career TD passes)- Had thrown 219 interceptions when he threw his 300th TD pass.
  • Eli Manning (320 career TD passes)- Had thrown 205 interceptions when he threw his 300th TD pass.
  • Philip Rivers (314 career TD passes)- Had thrown 146 interceptions when he threw his 300 the TD pass.
  • Ben Roethlisberger (301 career TD passes)- Had thrown 160 interceptions when he threw his 300th TD pass.
  • John Elway (300 career TD passes)- Had thrown 226 interceptions when he threw his 300th TD pass.

It figures that Rodgers would surpass the 10 quarterbacks who previously threw 300 touchdown passes in the ratio which compares TD passes versus picks. As I wrote last December, Rodgers has achieved a level of quarterback play which has never been done before.

Rodgers is the only QB in NFL history to have a 4/1 ratio in terms of career TD passes versus picks. When I wrote the article, Rodgers had thrown 289 passes, compared to 72 interceptions, which put him at a 4.01 mark.

Rodgers has since then thrown eight more TD passes without a pick, which now puts him at a 4.13 mark.

No one in NFL history even comes close to that level.

Even the great Tom Brady, who now is in second place with a 3.00 ratio mark with 456 career TD passes versus 152 picks.

No one else in NFL history has achieved the 3/1 mark and the 4/1 mark that Rodgers is currently at is certainly unfathomable compared to other great QBs in NFL history.

It’s also important to note that Rodgers is the only QB in NFL history to have a passer rating over 100. No. 12 currently sits at the top of the leader board with a 104.1 mark. Russell Wilson is second with a 99.6 mark, while Brady is third with a 97.2 mark.

Rodgers vs. G-Men at Lambeau

Rodgers also will join some elite company in a couple other categories this season, as long as he stays healthy.

No. 12 needs to throw for 3,173 yards to get into the career 40,000 passing yards club. That is more than achievable, as Rodgers has averaged 4,210 passing yards per year over the past three seasons.

Currently, only 18 quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown for over 40,000 yards. The all-time leader is Peyton Manning, who threw for 71,940 career passing yards, which narrowly eclipsed Brett Favre, who threw for 71,838 yards.

Rodgers will also join the top 20 in NFL history in terms of passes completed. No. 12 has 3,034 pass completions in his career thus far, and will break into the top 20 with just 136 completions this season.

Rodgers can move a few spots into the top 20 in that category this season, as he threw a career-best 410 completions in 2016. The all-time leader in pass completions in NFL history is Favre, who threw 6,300 completions in his career.

Now depending on how long Rodgers plays, Favre played until he was 41, and Brady will turn 40 on August 3, the former Cal Bear can put up some unbelievable numbers based on what he has done this far in his fabulous career in Green Bay.

Rodgers will turn 34 in December. Let’s say Rodgers plays until he is 40 and plays at the same type of level he has played at during his career. That isn’t unthinkable, especially when on looks at what Brady has done, plus Favre had the best year of his career at age 40 as a Minnesota Viking in 2009.

That would mean Rodgers would play seven more years. Based on his production thus far over his career (over a full season) , Rodgers would throw 245 more TD passes over that period, which would put him at the 542 career TD passes mark. That mark would top Peyton Manning’s all-time mark of 539 TD passes.

In addition, based on the same formula, Rodgers would throw for 30,005 passing yards over those seven years, which would put him at 66,832 career passing yards mark.

But as much as those individual achievements would mean to Rodgers, it would mean more to him if the Packers can bring a couple more Vince Lombardi Trophies back to Titletown.

Rodgers led the Packers to a 31-25 win in Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers, when No. 12 was named MVP of that game.

Rodgers and the Packers have averaged 10 wins per season since he became the starting QB in 2008. Over that time, the Packers have been to the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons dating back to 2009, plus have won five NFC North titles.

While that was going on, Rodgers was also named the NFL MVP in 2011 and 2014.

Currently, Rodgers sits with 99 career victories (regular season and playoffs). The leader in that category is Brady, who has a whopping 208 career wins. Following Brady are Peyton Manning with 200 career wins and Favre with 199 career wins.

Again, based on what Rodgers has done in his career thus far, he can add another 79 victories, which would put him at the 178 mark.

That number can increase quite a bit, if the Packers can get to a couple more Super Bowls.

That Packers have comes close in two out of the past three years, as the team has reached the NFC title game in the 2014 and 2016 postseason.

Rodgers is only 9-7 in the postseason, but that won-lost record is very deceiving. In his career in the postseason, Rodgers has a 99.4 passer rating in the postseason (fifth-best in NFL history), which includes throwing 36 touchdown passes versus just 10 picks.

The seven losses that Rodgers and the Packers have suffered in the postseason can largely be blamed on defensive and special teams miscues.

Time will tell what Rodgers and the Packers will do over the next several years, but one thing is for certain.

Rodgers is playing at an incredible level and if he gets some help from the defense and special teams of the Packers during the postseason, he can add even more luster to his already great legacy.