Interesting conversation I observed today. Two buddies were going back and forth regarding yesterday's game, and naturally, one was very Pro-Favre and the other was very Not-Pro-Favre. One of the guys was trying to make the point that Rodgers actually outplayed Favre yesterday.
The reason? "If you put Favre behind our offensive line, and Rodgers behind Minnesota's line, Rodgers would have had a better game than Favre did. Look at it: he was getting hit and chased left and right, and still had over a 100 efficiency rating. Favre would have thrown 5 interceptions if he'd been playing behind our line."
Interesting. And to be sure, there is some merit. Nearly any quarterback in history who had a great season was playing behind at least an adequate offensive line, if not a great one. Look at the differences in Troy Aikman's and Steve Young's careers once they had some powerful lines in front of them.
But to extrapolate to say that Rodgers "woulda" had a better game if he had Minnesota's offensive line is like saying Errict Rhett was a better running back than Emmitt Smith because of the lines they ran behind.
Aaron Rodgers is, in many ways, the Anti-Favre, particularly in how they handle themselves with pressure. They are very different from each other.
Favre is still better at managing the rush simply by maneuvering the pocket around and putting his linemen in the position to keep that block held for another half-second. Rodgers tends to either push up or back with his speed, and while sometimes it works, it doesn't give the linemen a chance to reset their blocks.
Rodgers is better at using his feet to generate positive yardage. Once again, he outstripped all of the Packer running backs yesterday...our only true rushing threat. For as much as Favre was once hyped as a mobile quarterback, he really never was...he was just good at moving around and buying time.
Rodgers is also better at not forcing the ball. Favre would avoid the sack by getting the ball off, even if it was early or forced into coverage. Rodgers was once pretty good at throwing it away, but is now content apparently to eat the ball as so not to turn the ball over.
And therein lies the real interesting comparison: where Favre would throw into coverage, Rodgers preserves the possession at the cost of a sack. Two very different approaches as to how you deal with pressure. And that has a stark impact on Rodgers' passing efficiency rating.
By not throwing an interception yesterday, Rodgers had a rating of 108.5, incredibly high for any quarterback, especially one in a loss. The avoidance of throwing those interceptions keeps that number quite high, though. If he had thrown one interception instead of an incompletion (or a sack), his rating drops to 98.3. Two interceptions brings it down to an 88.1, and three would be a 78.0.
Instead, he took six more sacks for a loss of 29 yards...almost as many yards as Ryan Grant had rushing. He also took ten more hits besides that, which explains why he's still limping today.
So sure, Rodgers might look even better behind a solid offensive line like Minnesota's, and would be greatly helped by having a home-run threat in the backfield like Adrian Peterson. I'm sure his stats would have been just as good as Favre's if he would have time in the backfield to pass and had a running back to take some pressure off of him.
However, if you put Favre behind our offensive line, and gave him a running back that only rushed ten times for thirty yards, what would you have?
Right...the same situation he was in his last three years as a Packer. Is what the Packers are doing on offense any more effective than our line with Wil Whittaker and Adrian Klemm? Is Grant doing any better than Samkon Gado did at the end of 2005?
Favre's already been in this scenario...we don't have to try and extrapolate it at all. And Favre dealt with playing behind a terrible offensive line and having no running game by throwing 29 interceptions. This may come as a surprise, but this was not anywhere near the NFL record of 42 in a single season.
Rodgers is dealing with the same scenario in his own way...piling on sacks instead of turnovers. And he is back on track for 74 sacks this season, just two short of the NFL record set by David Carr.
And it makes you understand, to a degree, why Favre had pressed Thompson so hard for some veteran leadership and talent to surround him on offense. No, I'm not condoning his actions, thinking he could dictate a direction to Ted Thompson, but the fact is that Rodgers is now the one dealing with not having an adequate offensive line in front of him, or a true rushing threat behind him.
In the end, Favre got where he wanted to go, and is reaping the benefits of a team built in an Anti-Ted fashion. But, for no good reason, Aaron Rodgers is still working behind a line that features only one second round draft pick and the rest second-day picks. He's handing off to an overpaid average running back that has no vision or burst unless the holes are ten feet wide.
And there is no excuse for this. Thompson has had five years to build the team to surround Aaron Rodgers. There is not one offensive lineman who you can look at that is even remotely worth of Pro Bowl status. The plan to develop flexible, interchangeable linemen has backfired: it is clear that the Packers have a bunch of interchangeable linemen who are simply ineffective wherever you put them.
And, in the backfield, the Packers invested one second-round pick on an injury red-flag running back that hasn't done much since. The rest of the candidates have been late-round picks, street free agents, and other preseason darlings-turned-disappointments.
Rodgers is a bona fide franchise quarterback, but the Packers are going to do to him what Houston did to Carr and the 49ers did to Alex Smith, but it will be far worse. Those teams drafted a young kid and started him as a rookie with the horrible team around him. But, the Packers wisely were able to groom Rodgers on the bench for three years before thrusting him into the spotlight, with a 13-3 team surrounding him. But that level of execution quickly vanished, and Rodgers has been asked to win games purely on his arm.
Just like someone else we remember. But, this isn't how it was supposed to be with Rodgers.
So, don't think too hard about imagining Rodgers playing with Minnesota's offensive line and running game. I'm sure Favre imagined that for quite some time, too, and it ended up coming true.