GREEN BAY, Wis. -- These are the numbers on Aaron Rodgers through 10 games this season:
Touchdown passes: 19
Passing yards: 3,073
Passer rating: 102.2
These are the numbers on Rodgers’ word choices after that 10th game -- a 27-24 loss at Seattle that dropped the Green Bay Packers to 4-5-1:
That second set of numbers tells far more about the quarterback and his season than the first. What quarterback wouldn’t be happy with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 19-to-1 or an average of more than 300 yards per game and a passer rating in triple-digits?
Welcome to Rodgers’ 11th season as a starter.
He has thrown the most touchdowns with one or fewer interceptions of any quarterback with a losing record through 10 games during the Super Bowl era, and it’s not all that close. In 1991, the Browns were 4-6, and Bernie Kosar had 11 touchdowns and one interception. He and Rodgers are the only two quarterbacks in the past 53 seasons with double-digit touchdowns along with one or zero interceptions to have a losing record through 10 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
And don’t blame Rodgers’ Week 1 knee injury -- at least not anymore -- for any of the Packers’ struggles.
“I feel good; it’s not a problem,” Rodgers said after Thursday’s loss in Seattle.
Perhaps everyone should have seen this coming from the Packers, who have suffered because of poor drafts in Ted Thompson’s final three years as general manager. Even a more aggressive approach to free agency and the draft from new GM Brian Gutekunst did not immediately fix all the issues.
But with Rodgers back healthy after the broken collarbone ruined his 2017 season, there was talk of another MVP run. After all, he won his second MVP, for the 2014 season, the year after he broke his collarbone for the first time.
Rodgers played through the Week 1 left knee injury; he wore a brace until the Nov. 4 game at New England. But something wasn’t right with the offense -- a point he made public after the Week 4 win over the Buffalo Bills, when he threw coach Mike McCarthy and his game-planning staff under the bus.
And it’s still not right even if he now says he’s as involved as he needs to be in the game-planning process.
“I think there's an agreement with what we're doing; obviously, we meet multiple times a week on what we're trying to do,” Rodgers said in Seattle. “The frustration is in the execution. The execution hasn't been great, especially in situational offense. When you compare it to years past, we've always been really good on third down and really good in the red zone, and we're just not this year. I think that's a combination of a lot of things, but that's the biggest frustration.”
Rodgers said last week that he believes his decline in completion percentage (61.8 percent, 25th in the NFL) is due in part to an increased number of throwaways. He has already chucked the ball away more times this season than he has in any full season during his career as a starter.
To be sure, the narrative might read differently had Ty Montgomery not fumbled the kickoff after the Rams took a 29-27 lead in the final minutes in Week 8 or Aaron Jones not fumbled in the fourth quarter of a tie game at New England in Week 9 or McCarthy not punted on fourth-and-2 with 4:20 left against the Seahawks. Of course, Rodgers bounced the ball short of Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s feet on third-and-2 right before McCarthy punted and missed a wide-open Jones on an earlier checkdown, as well.
“I think you have to answer more of these questions when you’re 4-5-1,” McCarthy said when asked about Rodgers’ play. “There’s different things that go on during the game, even the pre-snap, but I have great confidence in Aaron’s judgment and, obviously, ability to play the position. We were not clean at certain spots in the pass game, whether it’s spacing or [something else], and I think that was apparent in the second half. Those are the things that we’ll continue to focus on and work through, and really, even during the best of times here with the offense -- and we’re still a very productive offense in the National Football League this year -- but even in the best of times, you do have some plays like that. That’s the part of the game you continue to stay focused on and continue to work on.”
And then there’s the in-season injuries, most notably to receivers Randall Cobb (who has missed five of the past seven games because of a hamstring injury) and Geronimo Allison (who went on injured reserve following groin surgery earlier this month). Their absence might be felt most on third down, where their experience with Rodgers has been difficult for rookies such as Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown to replicate.
“I was frustrated watching it, so I can add on to that,” said Cobb, who did not make the trip to Seattle. “Everybody senses that frustration. It’s not fun. When you come to work, you want to enjoy what you do. When you’re not winning games, it’s not nearly as fun.
“It comes down to communication and experience. Obviously, they’ve gained a little bit of experience but not the experience that me and G-Mo have. I’m sure that can be frustrating for him to not have his guys out there. He’s trying to groom guys in the middle of a grueling season.”