Earlier in the week, ESPN came out with a top-10 quarterback list based off the votes of 50 NFL executives, coaches, scouts, players, and other personnel and you would’ve thought they sacrificed a live goat based off a lot of the reactions.
A lot of talk centered around the fact Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was ranked as the No. 1 QB in the NFL. And, there was one really spicy comment highlighted in Jeremy Fowler’s column that caught the eyes of many.
Below is the featured quote:
“Late in the down, with pressure, he won’t always take risks,” the coach said. “On certain plays where he’s throwing the easy completion on a smoke route and it’s a critical moment, you’re thinking, ‘Is he really trying to win?’”
There are a lot of factors that go into this and for starters, the numbers don’t look good for Rodgers on the surface. He has fewer career 4th quarter comebacks than names like Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill, and Joe Flacco are ahead of Rodgers on at least one of those lists and some are ahead on both.
But when you look a bit deeper, it’s easy to see that Rodgers is actually one of the best late-game quarterbacks in the NFL.
According to Pro Football Reference‘s Stathead, which is a statistics encyclopedia, essentially, the Packers, for starters, aren’t down by seven points or fewer in the fourth quarter/overtime, to begin with. Since 2008, the Packers offense has only seen 158 drives within this context, which is tied for the 12th-fewest drives since 2008.
And when they are down, Rodgers has led them on touchdown drives 16.5% of the time , which is the third-best in the NFL.
The two teams ahead of the Packers? The New England Patriots (no surprise) and Dallas Cowboys (pretty surprising).
Said drives have ended in an interception just 1.3% of the time, as well. That ties the Seattle Seahawks for the lowest rate in the league. The 16.5% touchdown rate is also 3.5% higher than the NFL’s average rate of 13.0%.
When down six points or less in Q4/OT, the Packers score touchdowns 15.0% of the time, which is the sixth-highest rate since 2008. The 1.8% interception rate is tied for fourth-lowest and the Packers have seen even less of these scenarios. The sixth-fewest amount of drives, to be exact.
And when down 14-21 points, the Packers score touchdowns at the third-highest rate (24.5%) and are tied for the third-most total touchdowns scored (16).
Sure, those numbers don’t completely reflect Rodgers’ personal contributions.
But the following does:
Per Sports Info Solutions, Rodgers finished tied for the league’s highest ANY/A (8.6) in Q4/OT and had the lowest interception percentage (0%) in 2021, too. He had the fourth-highest quarterback rating and the sixth-best EPA/att (0.15) among quarterbacks with at least 76 passing attempts in the fourth quarter/overtime.
But, it is important to note that the postseason issues are certainly worth discussing. Since 2008, the Packers have been down seven points or less 20 times and have scored just two touchdowns. That 10% rate is 15th in the NFL and is second-to-last among the 16 teams that have actually scored touchdowns in that situation.
It doesn’t get any better when the Packers are down six points or less in Q4/OT during the postseason, either. The Packers have had the third-most drives to make up the margin (14), but have only done it once. The 7.1% rate is 15th in the NFL and dead last among the 15 teams who have scored touchdowns in that situation.
But, it’s still important to note Rodgers does have a ring. And, it’s fair to argue his past defenses and special teams units have been big reasons why the Packers are down in those postseason games, to begin with.
Regardless, it’s fair to say Rodgers is a good late-game quarterback, but the postseason stigma certainly exists.
You know what would fix that? Another Lombardi. The Packers have a great shot to get there this year, too.
And who knows? Perhaps this will all go away if the Packers do in fact win Super Bowl LVI.
Featured image via Mike De Sisti / USA TODAY NETWORK