Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is widely considered to be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL.
But, there’s one aspect of Rodgers’ game that has been exposed recently: his inability to bring his team back from fourth quarter deficits in order to win games.
It’s been a talking point for a few years now, but the topic gained a ton of steam after the Packers’ disappointing loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round of the 2021-2022 playoffs.
And now, it was specifically mentioned by an anonymous NFL coach in a recent ESPN column written by Jeremy Fowler. Fowler interviewed anonymous NFL executives, coaches and players in order to assemble top-10 lists for each position.
While Rodgers ended up as the No. 1 quarterback on the list, it didn’t come without bringing his late-game follies to light.
“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?'”
It’s a rather damning comment. And it’s also hard to fathom when thinking of a player of Rodgers’ caliber. Typically, the great ones always find a way to win.
But when you look at the numbers, it’s hard to disagree.
Rodgers was drafted in 2005, but wasn’t a full-time starter until 2008. Regardless, there are multiple, way-worse quarterbacks that have outpaced him in both fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives since 2008.
Rodgers has 18 fourth quarter comebacks and 27 game-winning drives over the course of 14 seasons.
Below is the list of players with more Q4 comebacks, per Pro Football Reference:
- Matthew Stafford – 34
- Matt Ryan – 33
- Ben Roethlisberger – 32
- Drew Brees – 29
- Tom Brady – 25
- Ryan Tannehill – 25
- Derek Carr – 24
- Andy Dalton – 24
- Philip Rivers – 24
- Russell Wilson – 24
- Jay Cutler – 21
- Eli Manning – 20
- Peyton Manning – 20
- Tony Romo – 20
- Joe Flacco – 18
- Aaron Rodgers – 18
And below are the quarterbacks with more game-winning drives since 2008, per PFR:
- Matt Ryan – 42
- Matthew Stafford – 42
- Drew Brees – 41
- Ben Roethlisberger – 41
- Russell Wilson – 32
- Tom Brady – 31
- Derek Carr – 30
- Philip Rivers – 30
- Eli Manning – 29
- Andy Dalton – 28
- Aaron Rodgers – 27
With all due respect, when quarterbacks like Dalton, Cutler, and Flacco are outperforming Rodgers in this specific category, it’s hard to argue that Rodgers is a clutch quarterback.
It’s an even tougher pill to swallow when considering five of the listed quarterbacks (Carr, Dalton, Stafford Tannehill, Wilson,) were all drafted after Rodgers’ first full season as a starter in 2008.
Per Sports Info Solutions, Rodgers finished 2021 with an EPA of -0.09/attempt on 3rd and 6+. QBs named Jalen Hurts, Teddy Bridgewater, Daniel Jones, Tua Tagovailoa, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Kirk Cousins were all markedly better.
Rodgers was worse on 4th and 3+. He registered a -0.8 EPA/attempt in this context and QBs such as Mike Glennon, Dalton, Mike White, Tyler Huntley, Sam Darnold, and Carson Wentz were all better.
And at the end of the day, “clutch” is what the position is all about. You want to know that when the game is on the line, your guy can perform.
And based off both numbers and perception, Rodgers doesn’t do that as near as much/often as he should.
You can check out Fowler’s entire column, here.
Featured image via Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin