Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Varsity Numbers: Honing in

Bill Connelly again looks at which college football teams the F/+ ratings are sure about, and which teams remain a mystery (led by Appalachian State).

27 Jun 2008

Every Play Counts: Aaron Rodgers

by Doug Farrar

Through the first quarter, the Packers-Cowboys game on the NFL Network last November 29 played to type. Brett Favre alternated between ruthless efficiency and over-reaching heroism, the Dallas front seven was opening up a can of something evil, and it appeared that Rush Lim -- Dennis Mil -- whoops ... Bryant Gumbel may have possibly had some problems, perhaps, in the announcer-booth (or whatever it may perchance have been called).

Then, with 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Cowboys cornerback Nathan Jones came free on a blitz and hit Favre just as he was throwing to Receiver Greg Jennings over the middle. Terence Newman intercepted the ball, and Favre was out of the game with elbow and shoulder injuries. Third-year quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the team's first-round pick in 2005, had never performed more than mop-up duty to that point in his pro career because of Favre's incredible durability. Rodgers had played the part of Tony Romo in practice that week, but his job was now to bring the Pack back from a 27-10 deficit. Dallas was ripping Green Bay's depleted defense to shreds, and Favre competed only five of 14 passes, with two interceptions, before his injury.

When Rodgers came into the game with 9:47 remaining in the first half, he didn't look much better. On his first drive, he threw three incompletions and had more rushing yards (eight) than passing yards (three). Rodgers' second drive began with a one-yard loss as he and running back Ryan Grant went in different directions on a handoff that never happened.

The second play of the drive turned a lot of heads, regained momentum for Green Bay, and was the first clue to Rodgers' future success. On second-and 11 from their own 25 with 4:50 left in the half, the Packers ran a shotgun formation with four wide receivers as Dallas had four defenders on the line. Jennings juked Jones right out of his socks at the line and took the ball on a little out route three yards downfield. He then turned back inside on a dime, abusing Jones yet again, and ran 40 yards downfield, benefiting from blocks by his fellow receivers (a hallmark of the new Packers offense -- all these receivers willingly block downfield). This 43-yarder was the foothold the Packers desperately needed.

On the next play, from the Dallas 32, Rodgers tried another quick out to Jennings, but this one went only nine yards, as Roy Williams was right there to stop it. After Favre had tried to force throws downfield with disastrous results, Rodgers' insertion got the offense back to quick, short passes that sustained drives and forced the Cowboys to think less about blitzing, and more about using their linebackers and defensive backs to cover.

The Cowboys didn't need to blitz to get pressure, and Rodgers found this out after a two-yard Ryan Grant run put the ball at the Dallas 21. Rodgers took a five-step drop from a single-back formation and was set upon by DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis before he could set his feet. Time after time, the Cowboys' edge rushers were beating Packers tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. Behind a patchwork line and with an amazing array of yards-after-catch monsters on his roster, Rodgers settled more and more for quick drops and outlet throws. That's less a bailout and more the smart thing to do, because the Green Bay offense under head coach Mike McCarthy has been set up for the short pass.

Still, not every short pass worked, and the next two were ugly. On second-and-9 from the Dallas 20, a little screen to Grant behind the line of scrimmage looked like a mistake from the start and resulted in a loss of one. The first-and-goal shotgun set from the 9 with 1:16 left in the half was the worst play of the day for Rodgers. Dallas had an extra defender blitzing, and the edge rushers once again won their battles. Rodgers threw a dink pass upfield ... right between the "6" and the "3" on the back of center Scott Wells' jersey. Green Bay received an ineligible downfield pass penalty on this play, but the penalty was erroneously called on right guard Junius Coston. Coston wasn't downfield -- he was busy getting pushed back by the Dallas front five.

On the next play, a first-and-goal from the Dallas 14, Rodgers had a bit more time; the Cowboys showed blitz with five but brought only three at the snap. Rodgers completed a crossing pattern to Donald Driver for three yards. On the next play, a second-and-goal from the 11, Rodgers threw his first NFL touchdown. Jones blitzed from the right side, leaving a hole that Jennings exploited. From the five-yard line, Jennings got past safeties Ken Hamlin and Pat Watkins for the score.

That was the last of Rodgers' touchdown passes, but the Packers' first drive of the second half was basically a passing drive with a running play at the end. After Dallas running back Julius Jones failed to convert a fourth-down attempt at the Green Bay 31, the Packers took the ball 69 yards in 12 plays and put themselves right back in the game. Most impressive was how Rodgers performed after the drive started with an eight-yard sack courtesy of Ellis and linebacker Bradie James. Rodgers tried play-action, and the extended timing of that move was not going to work. After that play, it was more quick outs Driver, Jennings and James Jones, as well as tight end Donald Lee.

The Packers found two more counters for Dallas pressure on this drive. On second-and-8 from the Green Bay 49 with 9:56 left in the third quarter, Rodgers looked to throw to the right, but pulled the ball down and scrambled for the first down. Rodgers' scouting reports coming out of Cal said that he would occasionally break a play too soon to rely on the run, but this was the kind of move you'd expect from a quarterback with more experience. While Favre had forced throws, Rodgers was more about getting yardage on the ground as opposed to flailing away at the defense if the coverage or pressure dictated.

The next play featured a rollout right by Rodgers, with additional blocking to the right by Grant and fullback Korey Hall, and Rodgers was able to hit Lee across the middle for a gain of 22 yards. After a Grant 1-yard run, Rodgers went back to Lee on the next pass play for a 5-yard gain that took the Packers down to the Dallas 25. Those watching the game knew that the Packers had something going on.

Ellis sacked Rodgers on the next play, but a 15-yard facemask penalty put the ball on the Dallas 11. Short passes to Driver (from a five-wide shotgun set) and running back John Kuhn (from an I-formation) took the ball down to the 1-yard line. Grant scored from there. On the drive, Rodgers completed all six of his attempts for 61 yards despite two sacks -- one due to pressure, and one to coverage. Cowboys 27, Packers 24.

The Cowboys scored a touchdown and a field goal in the fourth quarter, while Green Bay couldn't keep up the pressure. Rodgers had the ball for three fourth-quarter drives, and the Packers got another field goal, but too much damage had been done early in the game. Rodgers finished the game with 18 completions on 26 attempts for 201 yards and a touchdown.

While the Cowboys won the battle (and a playoff berth) with this win, it could be said that the Packers won the war -- or, at the very least, they knew that when their oldest and most established player finally hung 'em up (as he now seems to have done), the replacement quarterback would not be the cause of a tremendous downturn.

The eye-test confirms this. Rodgers is known to throw a wonderful deep ball, but I didn't see much of that in this game, nor do I think the Packers would have been competitive had he tried to resort to the long pass. Green Bay's line was far too vulnerable to the Dallas edge rush for those types of plays to develop, and when you have a group of receivers who show no fear with patterns over the middle and the physical nature of blocking, you'd be a fool not to use the advantages. Rodgers is no fool. He has a nice touch with shorter throws, and I was impressed with his footwork.

Most of all, I liked his ability to maintain the offensive tempo, and his refusal to let pressure dictate what he was going to do in a negative fashion. Of all the 2005 quarterbacks (yeouch -- that's an ugly draft class), he seems the most "finished" by far, along with Cleveland's Derek Anderson, in that he could win games as the featured component. He's very careful with the ball, a trend that goes back to his college days (43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in three seasons at Cal).

What we won't know until he's the quarterback that opponents scheme for is how he does with different blitz pickups -- after the 40-yard Jennings run after catch, Dallas went pretty vanilla, and when they did bring a cornerback, Rodgers made them pay for it.

Rodgers' primary attribute is his ability to fit into the offense around him. He can read progressions well and quickly, which is crucial when a quarterback is making all those short throws. In 2007, Cleveland's Anderson was the beneficiary of an improved pass-blocking line as a first-time starter, but he was also adept at getting rid of the ball quickly and productively. That's a skill in and of itself -- the guys who really can move the ball with short throws are an evolutionary step up from the "chuck-and-duckers" who wash out in the NFL after exploiting college defenses. Rodgers' success could be very much like Anderson's, because the system is in place.

The Packers are in good hands with their new starting quarterback. Rodgers will have his struggles, and there will be much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments when that happens and No. 4 isn't there to bail the Pack out. Still, it's important to remember that in the Cowboys game, the offense played better with Rodgers than they did with Favre, because Favre was having one of his "Hero Days," when you never knew what you were going to get. Rodgers was able to implement a game plan, and do it well, under a lot of pressure. Add his sample-size DVOA to the equation (the best for passers with 10 to 99 attempts in 2007), and the (spoiler alert!) positive projections given to him by KUBIAK and Pro Football Prospectus 2008, and it's pretty clear that fans of the team that has belonged to Brett Favre since the early 1990s will still have reason to cheer in 2008 and beyond.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 27 Jun 2008

52 comments, Last at 17 Jul 2008, 4:05am by Chris C

Comments

1
by Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 8:19am

Let's wait and see how consistent he is before sending him to the Pro Bowl. Playing well for half a game is nice, doing it for a whole season is something else. Especially when the other team will quickly adjust their defensive game plan for a mobile quarterback when they will play the Packers.

2
by Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabbadu (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 8:51am

". . . this one went only nine yards, as Roy Williams was right there to stop it."

I don't know if that was meant to be funny, but I found it hilarious.

3
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 8:58am

I look forward to Rodgers being successful. Good article. Its fun to watch a young player with his head on straight grow and progress.

When I saw the GB-Dallas game the thing I was most impressed with was Rodger's poise. He looked pretty polished. I think part of it is testament to the practice of developing QBs for at least a couple seasons before "throwing them to the wolves."

4
by Doug Farrar :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 8:59am

#2 -- Hey, that Roy Williams is always on the case!

5
by Or (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 9:21am

Yes, always... after the completion is made.

6
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 9:37am

Credit McCarthy and Co. for coaching Rodgers into looking like a viable successor. At his first training camp long-time observers thought the Packers had the second coming of Rich Campbell as AR showed a mediocre arm and poor everything else. But two seasons with McCarthy have helped a LOT.

Aaron was also more quiet in his early days with GB. But he was always competitive. He has stated that it was Favre who taught him that a quarterback has to visibly take charge of the situation. I don't know if we will see any helmet butts but Rodgers is definitely more demonstrative now than he was early on in his career.

If Clifton and Tauscher can hold up for another season Rodgers will get a fair shot at making a name for himself. The elements are there for him to succeed.

7
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 9:45am

I think a greater emphasis on the success of the Packers passing game following Favre's exit should be placed on Dallas' poor coverage from their linebackers (especially the inside guys), RCB, nickelback and SS. Those guys can't cover all that well, and will definitely struggle when up against a team that can put a good spread package out. McCarthy was correct to make this the emphasis of his gameplan, and Favre looked foolish when he was trying to throw the glorious deep passes instead of trusting his receivers to be productive after the catch.

Rodgers performance in this game should also be looked at in the light of the lack of preperation that the defense would have put into playing agaainst him. Afterall, the guy he was backing up owns the NFL record for consecutive starts by a QB, why bother preparing for the backup.

Rodgers may turn out to be a good QB, but he lacks the freakish physcal skills that made Favre great. It is my opinion that those skills allowed Favre to elevate the level of play of everybody who played with him, and I consequently expect a drop off in the production of the offensive players around him. It is an ideal opportunity to see whether the QB makes the offense or the offense makes the QB. When playing with Favre OL would be bailed out by his lightning release and excellent pocket prescence, WRs and TEs needed only a tiny window of seperation and he could get them the ball. Safeties had to play deeper as he could throw incredibly hard off his back foot, and defenders didn't have much time to break on the ball thrown over the middle as it was travelling too fast.

8
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 9:46am

Roders was the consensus #1 pick in the draft until he fell so far that Green Bay who hadn't even scouted him properly drafted him. He was previously injured in his limited play, and there were rumors in preseasons that he was the 3rd quarterback on the depth chart.

I wasn't overly impressed with the HALF of football he played in mop up duty. I find articles like this with traditional scouting getting away from the sabermetrics type stuff the outsiders pride themselves on.

So with the Pumping Roders article, are you going to write an article Bashing Jemarcus after throwing an interception a Screen pass... the first pass of the game... on his first game he ever started?

I think if anything people were suprised with how much BETTER than expectations Rodgers played because the expectations were horribly low for a guy that was once the cinderella #1 pick of the draft.

9
by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 10:28am

I think the conclusion of this piece is "Rodgers handled the pressure well for a couple plays and otherwise had success throwing against a vanilla defense by featuring a short passing attack that allowed his all star receivers to beat such notable cover guys as 4th CB Nathan Jones (since cut) and Roy Williams."

10
by phill (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 10:38am

re 2: [quote]I don’t know if that was meant to be funny, but I found it hilarious[/quote] Made me laugh - shame it wasn't in an article talking about a Cowboys-Lions game....

11
by jimm (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 11:01am

Rogers has been sacked 9 times in 59 attempts passing. A sack rate of 13.2%. Favre during the same period was sacked about 3% of the time.

59 attempts aren't much of a sample but that strikes me as a very worrisome figure.

12
by jimm (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 11:27am

Rogers has averaged 3.8 yds/att - again a small sample but Favre was around 6.5.

Good QB's avoid sacks while still completing passes and avoiding interceptions. Bad QB's tend to do one of two things:

i) Avoid sacks but fail to complete passes at an above average percentage and throw higher than avg pct of interceptions,
ii) complete decent pct and avoid interceptions but hold onto the ball too long and take tons of sacks.

I suspect Rogers suffers from the second symptom.

Anyone know how to find sack rates for college QB's? They seem to lump that in with rushing yardage.

One last thought - can anyone think of a young QB that couldn't avoid sacks who got over that problem to become successful later on?

13
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 11:37am

The problem I see when weighing the merits of the Packers QBs isn't that they will never be any good, but tat their top two QBs on their depth chart both seem to be made out of tin-foil(also Rodgers has a bad knee).

14
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 11:57am

12. Wasn't Peyton Manning getting sacked much more often his first year? It probably isn't the example you were looking for because all it really says to me is that they didn't have any synergy yet.

15
by Thug Lightning (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 12:25pm

I thik Rodgers should have a killer year. i mean who thinks GB is going to miss all those late game interceptions all that much, plus all he needs ot do iscomplete short passes to keep the chains moving (he's not being asked to do too much). I do agree that he will take a lot of sacks though.

16
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 12:40pm

I already had Rodgers pegged as a fantasy sleeper, a late round QB who will end up being a top 12 performer. This GB team is gonna be a textbook example of Simmon's "Ewing Rule" in '08. And I'm a Bears fan.

17
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 1:00pm

Good grief, nobody outside the Packers' coaching staff has seen enough of this guy to either be pessimistic OR optimistic, other than to note that good qbs are rare, Rodgers has not shown any physical limitations which would prevent him from being a good qb, and McCarthy to date appears to be a good coach. You may as well speculate about next week's weather.

18
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 1:07pm

Thug, one should not discount what it means to take a lot of sacks. Many deficiencies in the Packer's offense through the years have been masked by Favre's phenomenal pocket presence, even as he lost a lot of mobility. When a lot of sacks are yielded, things have a tendency to cascade in a lot of negative ways, from turnovers, to injuries, to playing from behind, etc..

I don't know if Rodgers will take a lot of sacks, but if he does, it will be tough for the Packers' to overcome that.

19
by Aaron N (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 1:50pm

jimm,

Rodgers has taken so many sacks because he has never entered a game where the Packers haven't trailed by at least three scores. Kinda makes it easy for the defense to figure out what the QB will be doing and where he'll be, no?

20
by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 1:55pm

Not to be "that guy", Will Allen, but with current technology we will probably always know more about next week's weather than we do about the actions of any human being.

21
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 2:34pm

Will Aaron Rodgers be allowed to call audibles ( like Favre) or will he be stuck witht he play he was given like Jason Campbell. Even the record breaking TD pass vs Minnesota was an audible where Favre High/lowed the corner if my memory serves me correct.

If Rodgers is going to be brought along slow, maybe it can work, but if he is tossed into doing the same things Favre did last year the chances of success decrease sharply.

22
by Dan (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 2:37pm

Setting aside mop-up duty in games where he had less than 4 passing attempts, Rodgers has appeared in 3 games: against the Ravens his rookie year, against the Patriots his second year, and against the Cowboys last year. All three games, Favre was having a bad game and the Packers were down big when Rodgers came in. The first two games Rodgers was pretty bad, and against the Cowboys he was pretty good. His total stats for those 3 games are:

30 of 53 for 298 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 9 sacks, 3 fumbles, 3 lost. 8 rushes for 49 yards.

Favre's stats for those same 3 games: 24 of 58 for 273 yards, 0 TDs, 4 INTs. 3 sacks, 0 fumbles. 0 rushes.

Not very informative, overall. The sacks & fumbles could be a sign of trouble. His scrambling looks promising (if he can stay healthy), especially for fantasy football.

23
by jimm (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 2:55pm

18. Aaron N - in those situations one could also argue teams are playing more of a prevent defence and not blitzing much.

Either way the sample size is so small everyone is guessing at this point.

The odds are he's mediocre because most QB's are. There isn't much evidence to suggest otherwise.

24
by Aaron N (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 3:03pm

jimm,

Unless those teams are the Ravens and the Patriots, two teams that aren't exactly known for their 'prevent' tendencies. See, this is where it helps to have watched the games rather than citing stats - both those teams came after Rodgers with a vengeance - unlike the Cowboys, whom I agree went vanilla...after Rodgers burned them on it for the Jennings TD.

25
by jimm (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 3:21pm

Aaron N - 20+ GM's watched him for two years and decided to pass on him. I doubt watching him for 3 games in catch up mode is of any real value.

But the sample size of stats isn't much use either. If his college stats showed he had difficulty avoiding the sack then you could put some credence in that stat.

26
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 4:10pm

14 Chris, I was about to say the same thing. Manning's first handful of starts resulted in a lot of sacks, about 12 INTs and maybe 5 TDs. He turned things around a lot in that season alone, and then, improved moderately over the intervening 9 seasons.

AR's first "real game time" was against one of the top DLs in the league, and in mop-up duty it's hard to count stats. I'd give AR at least a season before worrying excessively or electing him to Canton.

27
by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 4:30pm

24. By "burned" you mean where he threw a 5 yard pass to Jennings, who then did most of the work by beating career backup (and now unemployed?) CB Nathan Jones?

28
by Tom D (not verified) :: Fri, 06/27/2008 - 5:19pm

Re 27:

Finding the correct hot read on a blitz is what burning is. Unless you think Montana's whole career was throwing 6 yard slants had letting Rice do all the work.

29
by Temo (not verified) :: Sat, 06/28/2008 - 2:19am

I don't remember a blitz on that play, although I can dig up the game tomorrow to find out for sure.

30
by t.d. (not verified) :: Sat, 06/28/2008 - 3:18am

On one hand, it seems like drafting two qbs behind Rodgers indicates the team isn't all that confident in what they've seen from him. On the other hand, it also seems like that was done to close the door firmly on Favre. McCarthy seems like he really knows what he's doing, in the big picture.

31
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Sat, 06/28/2008 - 11:08am

Rodgers not likely to be good qb. He just average one. good chance Vikings going to win north division.

32
by Aaron N (not verified) :: Sat, 06/28/2008 - 11:53am

#27 - (Temo) Watch the play again. The Cowboys blitz from Rodgers' right, defensive left. Jennings reads it and finds the vacated spot, Rodgers' reads the same thing, hits him, touchdown.

And as for Jimm - you're right, 23 teams passed on Rodgers. How many teams passed on Brady multiple times? No, I'm not saying Rodgers is Brady. Just pointing out that GMs have been known to make mistakes from time to time. Plus - your original point was about how many sacks he's taken in the NFL. Convenient of you to now switch to include his body of work in college to try to support your argument.

33
by Dice (not verified) :: Sat, 06/28/2008 - 9:12pm

How many teams passed on Marino and Montana? Teams draft for need and BPA; I'd be leery of a QB too, given Couch, Carr, and Leaf, not to mention others. I tend to fall in the middle, but slightly optimistic about Rodgers; the Packers are a young team that don't have to 'win it all' right away, except for their old starting CBs. They have several very good to excellent wideouts, an above average line, a better than average D. After a season or two, we'll know if Rodgers is any good or not.

34
by Temo (not verified) :: Sat, 06/28/2008 - 11:41pm

32. My fault, I thought we were talking about the 43 yarder. The TD went as you described.

35
by UTvikefan (not verified) :: Sun, 06/29/2008 - 4:21am

Is there something wrong if I agree with Raiderjoe?

AR is STILL all but a rookie. I can not think of ONE..oh Big Ben..make that two that did not struggle a lot in thier first year starting. And roll the dice if he pulls outta it. Gonna be fun to watch.

36
by jimm (not verified) :: Sun, 06/29/2008 - 10:40am

Aaron - I think you missed something here. I didn't "switch" anything - I simply noted that his sack rate in 59 attempts was extremely high but acknowledged that the sample size was very small. I asked if anyone knew if there was a way to find sack rates in college to see if there is further evidence that Rogers has trouble avoiding a sack.

Your comment about Brady is pointless. I suggested that Rogers falling past so many GMs in the draft was probably more useful from an observational standpoint than watching him for a half a game against Dallas.

By the way - The Lewin forecasting system would rate him low based on his limited starts in college.

37
by jimm (not verified) :: Sun, 06/29/2008 - 11:35am

Looks like Rogers didn't have any major sack issues in college.

After much searching I found sack stats on the California Bears site and Rogers did not show any great proclivity for taking a sack. He was sacked 45 times in 665 attempts.

38
by jstreet (not verified) :: Sun, 06/29/2008 - 1:16pm

Just wondering if some of you even read the bookends of the article. Mr. Farrar did a fantastic job of noting a) the not very good start that rogers had when favre went down, b) the soft coverage that he faced in the game, c) that the true test is when he's facing teams that are scheming for him , rather than brett, and d) that essentially what he did was play a game plan, but the fact that he did it well and with poise for more than a half of a game against a good opponent bodes well for his long-term career.

Good article, I'm not a Packer fan, but if they can be good enough to at least hold the Vikings out of the playoffs, I'd be thrilled.

39
by DoubleB (not verified) :: Sun, 06/29/2008 - 4:14pm

36:

Aaron Rodgers was a 2-year starter at a Butte, a junior college in California. I have no idea how that situation would rate in the Lewin system, but it's not the same as riding pine at Cal for two years.

40
by Scott C. (not verified) :: Sun, 06/29/2008 - 7:57pm

#35 :
There's a long list of first year starters that were successful. In 2007 Anderson went to the pro-bowl as a first year starter. His stats may not have been quite worthy of that, but success it was.
In 2006, Phillip Rivers won 14 games and went to the pro bowl.

There are plenty of first year starters with success. Typically, a young guy with a couple years on the bench on a good team will succeed in his first year. What is more rare is success as a true rookie. Of course, most of those get thrown into the fire on a bad team so there definitely is some selection bias. The only guy I can think of that had truly amazing success as a rookie was Dan Marino.

As for Rogers: I watched nearly every game of his in college. I watch tons of Pac-10 games. Since 2002, the top 2 Pac-10 qb's in terms of nfl-like ability are Leinart and Rogers.

As a Cal fan, I'm biased, but I always thought Rogers looked better than Leinart when the play was busted. Then again, that didn't happen very often to USC during his tenure.

Rogers had one particular game away @ USC (national champs that year), in a close game that at the time was to determine who goes to the rose bowl. USC was ranked #1 and only had one loss in 26 games at the time -- to Rogers and Cal in triple overtime the year before. Cal would have won this game as well if not for special teams mistakes early in the game, bad punt coverage, and missed easy field goals. Rogers threw 23 straight completions to start the game and tied the NCAA record. Quick passes, long passes, outs, over the middle, screens, more outs... it was very impressive and against top notch competition.

He had some poor games for sure, but when he was on, he was ruthlessly efficient in his reads, adjustments, and short to medium pass accuracy. He executed game plans very well and the coaching staff did not shy away from a wide variety of game plans. Cal during that time was not a one-trick pony offense, it was very versatile and productive.

I'm not going to say that he's the next Montana. But I am going to say he is definitely not the next Boller, Harrington, Carr, or Frye.

41
by Lovie Smith (not verified) :: Sun, 06/29/2008 - 10:37pm

RE 40: What makes his 23 straight completions more impressive is that he did this against the 2004 National Champion USC team.

1st rounders:
-Mike Patterson
-Keneche Udeze
-Lawrence Jackson
-Sedrick Ellis
-Keith Rivers

2nd Rounders
-Lofa Tatupu
-Terrell Thomas

42
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 06/30/2008 - 12:27am

#40: Derek Anderson was not a first year starter in 2007. He started several games in 2006 as well.

43
by Jim Speigel (not verified) :: Mon, 06/30/2008 - 9:16am

Living in Dallas the write up on the game w/ Rodgers was somewhat insightful. According to their D coordinator they never changed their defense. They kept blitzing and using the same personnel as when Favre was in the game. The results were Roders took what the defense gave him, Favre wanted the big shot downfield.

44
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 06/30/2008 - 12:42pm

I'm late to the party (was in Wyoming, far from computers), so sorry if this has been said already...

It seems fairly common that, when an expected starter gets knocked out and his backup comes in: (1) The offense goes to a more quick-out and short passing game, and (2) the defense often looks worse against the new guy, especially if the QB that got knocked out was known as a deep-ball gunslinger like Favre. The first happens because the offensive coordinator usually wants to protect his backup. The second happens because defenses spend the whole week scheming and practicing for one style of play, and all of a sudden they are faced with something different.

The same thing happend with Bledsoe-Brady in 2001. Bledsoe, a gunslinger, got knocked out, and Brady came in. Weis gave him a diet of short passes, to the point where Pete Prisco began to rail about how much he hated the "bastardized form of the West Coast offense" that the Pats were using, and it worked wonderfully. Right up until the second half of Game 4 of the 2002 season (vs San Diego) when all of a sudden teams figured out how to stop it. Brady is slow, not a rushing threat, and at the time didn't have the same deep ball (or deep ball recievers) he has now, and it took till mid-2003 for the Pats offense to really get back to greatness.

I forsee similar things happening with Rodgers. The Pack will do well for a little while, and then teams will adapt to him once they have some film on him (remember how Kordell Stewart went from dynamic sensation to joke at QB once teams got some film on him playing QB?) and he will struggle. Then the test will be if he can take the other parts of his game--his mobility, his decision making, his deep ball, his ability to throw on the run--and step them up to counter the defenses counters. Rodgers certainly seems to have the physical tools--more so to the eye than Brady did in 2002--but it remains to be seen if he can pull it off. I'm optimistic for him, though...

It also might say something about the effectiveness of the short passing game and blocking recievers and YAC as opposed to gunslinging bombs. With Favre in there, the Pack's OC probably feels like he needs to call a lot of deep passes (we call this Al-Davis-itis). Or maybe he doesn't and Favre just throws them anyway and knows that no-one will yell at him because he's Brett Favre. But the short game is probably more effective for a lot of teams (as this article implies is the case for GB), so maybe getting a stubborn Favre bent on the deep ball out will be good for the Pack.

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by Flounder (not verified) :: Mon, 06/30/2008 - 3:14pm

Re MJK: I think a flaw in your post is that Favre was never considered (nor was he) a great deep-ball passer. Some fairly long, really hard throws 20 yards down-field in a tight window, yes. The truly deep, rainbow over the shoulder type throw was never more than maybe a little above average.
Interestingly, his final year may have been his best for the deep throw. Certainly the best for them since his MVP seasons at any rate.

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by Spenserhawk (not verified) :: Mon, 06/30/2008 - 5:42pm

RE: MJK

I think you are right on target with your comments regarding the Bledsoe/Brady comparison and can see the same thing happening to Rodgers as well. It is how he will adjust that will determine his future as a viable NFL QB.

You used the Bledsoe/Brady comparison but as a Packer fan I saw Favre go through the same process himself. Favre's first year was pretty good once he took over from Majik as he had some really good games and the potential was obviously there. During his 2nd season teams began adjusting to him and while he had some great games he had some real stinkers as well. It wasn't until about halfway through his third season as the Packer's starter that he finally adjusted to the adjustments that defenses were throwing at him and began to really look like he had figured it out. 4th season, MVP, nuff said.

Although we haven't seen Rodgers nearly enough to make an assessment I forsee him playing very well through the first half of the season before teams figure out what they need to do to stop him. I can definitely see him struggling for the rest of the season as he tries to figure out what defenses are doing him. If he can adjust to the adjustments the Packers will be in great shape for years to come otherwise he will be just another career backup.

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by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 06/30/2008 - 11:17pm

So with the Pumping Roders article, are you going to write an article Bashing Jemarcus...

If there are any Pumping Roders articles on this site, can someone point me to them? I've been trying to find out more about Pumping Roders for some time but have been unsuccessful.

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by Zac (not verified) :: Tue, 07/01/2008 - 9:36pm

Re: 9. I may be late to the party, but I had to point out that in no way are the Packers WRs all-stars. Donald Driver was a 7th round draft pick who is a 3-time pro bowler in 9 seasons. A good player, but hardly an all star. By Football Outsider stats, he only ranked in the top WRs in one season. He was in the mid teens 3 others, and that's probably about the highest you can put him.

Greg Jennings has played two seasons. He ranked high on FO's ratings, but that was with 12 TDs on 84 pass attempts, a ratio he is unlikely to duplicate this year.

James Jones was a rookie last season. He finished with a negative DVOA. He also is personally responsible for the first loss to the Bears, with two fumbles in that game.

The receiving core is improving, but they're hardly all-stars.

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by bollea (not verified) :: Tue, 07/08/2008 - 12:02pm

I see Rodgers having a rough time the first 3 or 4 weeks. If it lasts longer than that and they find themselves down with a 1-5 record or a 2-6 record I wouldn't surprised if the fans called upon "Vroom" to replace Rodgers... and some others

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by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Sat, 07/12/2008 - 12:13am

Should be noted that in the past 2 seasons Dallas' defense has struggled at Texas Stadium for whatever reason. The Cowboys defense in 2006 and 2007 has allowed a QB Rating of 71 on the road. But they've allowed a QB rating of 86 in those past two years at Texas Stadium. So Rodgers' success may have been due to the Cowboys defensive struggles at Texas Stadium.

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by Nicholas Higgins (not verified) :: Mon, 07/14/2008 - 11:14pm

The best thing that Rodgers has going for him is the high quality squad surrounding him. He won't be asked to be the superhero. Instead, he'll be asked to complete a high percentage of short and medium passes, and let receivers like Driver and Jennings rack up YAC. I don't know about Rodgers' fantasy numbers, but if Rodgers stays healthy, there's little reason to think that he can't fulfill this role.

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by Chris C (not verified) :: Thu, 07/17/2008 - 4:05am

"I wasn’t overly impressed with the HALF of football he played in mop up duty"

Do you always consider the "mop up" phase of the game as beginning in quarter number two?