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).

17 Nov 2011

Walkthrough: Good, Bad, and Cromulent

by Mike Tanier

It has been a month since I have seen an incomplete Aaron Rodgers pass.

The Packers play a lot of night games, and I usually tape night games and skim them unless I learn something earth-shattering happened in them. When the score is 45-7, I don’t skim too closely. So it has been easy to miss all of Rodgers’ 18 incomplete passes in the last three weeks.

Eighteen incomplete passes in three weeks? That is simply ridiculous, particularly for a quarterback who throws 30 passes per game. Actually, Rodgers would probably throw far more than 30 passes per game if he did not complete so many of them.

I decided to look back at all 18 incompletions to see what they told me about Rodgers’ amazing season. They told me it was even more amazing than even the stats show. Here’s a rundown of every single Rodgers misfire in the last three games:

Second Quarter against Vikings: Randall Cobb drops an easy catch in a crossing pattern on third-and-long. Cobb is wide open with room to run.

Second Quarter against Vikings: Rodgers spikes the ball to stop the clock before halftime.

Second Quarter against Vikings: James Starks drops a pass in the flat. The announcers speculate that he may have dropped the ball on purpose, fearing that he would not get out of bounds to stop the clock before halftime. If so, it’s a dumb move, because the Packers have a timeout left, and Starks does not so much drop the ball as flick it into the air about five yards down the field. So our first three Rodgers incomplete passes are two drops and a spike.

Fourth Quarter against Vikings: Rodgers rolls left after a play fake, does not see what he likes, rolls the other way, and throws the ball away. Greg Jennings is the closest receiver, but this is a clear throwaway.

Fourth Quarter against Vikings: Rodgers rolls right to avoid the rush and throws out of bounds to Jennings. Another throwaway, more-or-less.

Fourth Quarter against Vikings: Rodgers throws behind Jennings on an in-route on third-and-long. This can be considered his only truly inaccurate pass of the game.

Second Quarter against Chargers: Rodgers leads Jennings too far on a short crossing route on fourth-and-2.

Second Quarter against Chargers: Rodgers throws off his back foot to Jermichael Finley on a corner route. Finley stumbles while making his cut, but it is not a great throw and the tight end is well-covered. It is second-and-short in the red zone just before halftime, so this pass is practically a bail out. Still, let’s call it a bad pass, for argument’s sake.

Third Quarter against Chargers: Quentin Jammer breaks up an out-route to Jordy Nelson on third-and-2. Nelson has the ball in his hands, but Jammer delivers a jarring hit and knocks it loose. The ball was probably a split-second late.

Fourth Quarter against Chargers: Finley catches a fade, but out-of-bounds.

Fourth Quarter against Chargers: Rodgers overthrows Jennings on a skinny post on third-and-7. Jennings is open, but the ball is a little high and fast, so it bounces off his outstretched fingertips.

First Quarter against Vikings: Pass for Finley batted straight into the air by Kevin Williams.

Second Quarter against Vikings: Short pass is thrown behind Jennings.

Second Quarter against Vikings: Rodgers scrambles out of the pocket (barely) in his own end zone and throws the ball away.

Third Quarter against Vikings: Rodgers puts too much on a throw to Jennings on a play-action in route.

Third Quarter against Vikings: Starks drops a short dump-off pass that lands right in his belly.

Fourth Quarter against Vikings: Donald Driver drops a catchable pass on an in route.

Fourth Quarter against Vikings: Under pressure, Rodgers rolls left and flicks the ball toward the sideline to get rid of it. Jared Allen screams for a grounding call, but Rodgers is out of the pocket and the throw crosses the line of scrimmage.

So let’s add this up. Four of Rodgers’ incomplete passes were clear drops, and one was a spike. Ignore the spike and have his receivers catch the drops, and Rodgers’ completion rate goes up to 84.7 percent in the last three games.

Three of Rodgers’ passes were clear throwaways to avoid sacks. That is not counting a third-down pass to Jennings in the first Vikings game or the corner route to Finley, which were near throwaways. Eight incomplete passes down, ten to go.

Two passes were within inches of being great plays: the fade that Finley caught out of bounds and the third down pass that Jammer broke up. You could put the skinny post to Jennings in this category, but let’s not err on the side of generosity.

So here are the plays that we can call "bad throws": the pass behind Jennings late in the first Vikings game, the fourth-down pass against the Chargers, the corner route where Finley slips, the skinny post late in the Chargers game, the ball Williams batted into the air, and two misfires to Jennings on Monday night. Three games, eight bad throws. Freakin’ incredible.

And now for the most incredible stat of all: there were six other incomplete Rodgers passes in the past three games that did not count in the statistics, because they were nullified by defensive penalties: four pass interference fouls, one defensive holding call, and encroachment. So when Rodgers does miss a receiver, it is almost as likely to be the result of a defensive foul as a bad pass.

This is all, quite frankly, unreal.

Rodgers has also been sacked 11 times in the last three games, and we can talk about the problems with his protection, his tendency to hold the ball too long now and then, and a station-to-station running game that is little help when protecting a lead. These are real problems for Green Bay. But then ... EIGHTEEN INCOMPLETE PASSES IN THREE WEEKS! MANY OF THEM DROPS, SPIKES, OR THROWAWAYS! With their quarterback playing like this, the Packers can overcome a few deficiencies.

We may be looking at the greatest quarterback season ever. I am going to make a point of not skimming it anymore.

Cromulent

THE MOOK: Hey, welcome back to the Pudgy and the Mook show, we’ll be with you from now until midnight on Thursday. We’ll be doing Whiner of the Week, Disappointment of the Decade and Miscue of the Millennium later, but right now we have to get to the latest controversy swirling around Hometown Quarterback.

PUDGY: You aren’t going to believe this one, folks. Let’s roll the tape from Monday’s press conference:

Telltale ambient crackle of live recording in crowded room

REPORTER: After yesterday’s win, do you think you have established yourself as one of the NFL’s cromulent quarterbacks?

HOMETOWN QUARTERBACK: Well, it was a good win for the whole team, and I have worked hard to become as good a quarterback as I can be. I always strive to be cromulent, and I always think of myself as a cromulent quarterback, and I hope to show the organization and the fans that I am one of the league’s cromulent quarterbacks, I guess.

Hermetic background silence of a stuffy radio studio

MOOK: So there you have it. Hometown thinks he’s cromulent.

PUDGY: Unbelievable. Where does this guy get off? He wins one game and suddenly he’s cromulent.

MOOK: We’re going to open it up to our callers in a minute. But Pudgy, maybe we should start with our list of cromulent quarterbacks, then callers can give us theirs.

PUDGY: Let’s do that. But let’s remind callers that we are looking for cromulent quarterbacks, not guys who happened to have one or two good years like Aaron Rodgers.

MOOK: That’s interesting. You don’t think Aaron Rodgers is cromulent?

PUDGY: He’s not there yet. I wouldn’t put him in that category.

MOOK: That’s a pretty high cromulence bar. So who, besides Manning and Brady, is cromulent?

PUDGY: Peyton Manning isn’t cromulent. He’s injured! How can you be cromulent when you’re injured?

MOOK: What about Tom Brady?

PUDGY: Sigh. I mean, he was probably cromulent a few years ago. But did you see the Steelers game?

MOOK: Let’s go to the phones. Irving on the cell phone, what do you think of Hometown’s comments?

IRVING: It’s ridiculous. He oughta be ashamed of himself. He ain’t cromulent on his best day! And you know what, we ain’t gonna win without a cromulent quarterback, and he’s not a cromulent quarterback, so you know what, we ain’t gonna win!

MOOK: Thanks Irving. You know, he raises a valid, interesting, well-articulated point, Pudgy: You cannot win in the NFL without a cromulent quarterback.

PUDGY: I agree. That’s the problem with the NFL right now. There aren’t enough cromulent quarterbacks. You look back at the 1970s or 1980s, every team had cromulence.

MOOK: Let’s go back and make our list. Is Cam Newton cromulent?

PUDGY: Oh c’mon, he’s a rookie. He has shown some cromulent tendencies, though.

MOOK: Drew Brees, then. He is probably the most cromulent quarterback right now.

PUDGY: Well, he’s like Brady. He used to be cromulent. I guess he is borderline cromulent. He puts up cromulent numbers, don’t get me wrong, but there is more to cromulence than just stats. I think a lot of people confuse cromulence with big numbers, which is one of the problems with the NFL right now. It’s all about fantasy stats, not cromulence.

MOOK: Great point. Let’s talk to Buck from Bala Cynwyd. Buck: you have a cromulence list?

BUCK: Yes I do. My list is Ben Roethlisberger, because he wins Super Bowls. Mark Sanchez, because he does what it takes. Andy Dalton, because we don’t know what he can do yet, so he must be cromulent. Michael Vick, because he can run, and you have to run to win as a quarterback in the NFL, and Andrew Luck, who is going to prove how cromulent he is as soon as the Colts draft him.

MOOK: Buck, thanks for the list. I take it you don’t agree with that list, Pudgy.

PUDGY: Well, he named some decent quarterbacks, but I think too many fans confuse a few good games or a good season or two with cromulence. Cromulence is so much more than that, and it is something everyday fans might not recognize. Those of us who were backup guards in the late 1980s can spot it because of our incredible insight, though.

MOOK: Well, maybe a stat geek might be able to see it. Our guest today is Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders. Mike, you heard Hometown’s comments about being a cromulent quarterback. What do you think?

ME: What the hell does "cromulent" mean?

MOOK: What do you mean?

ME: Well, people keep asking if Hometown is cromulent, but no one seems to know what it means. And I just heard Pudgy pretty much shoot down every quarterback in the league. So on the one hand, it sounds like a measure of career greatness, but then you shoot down guys like Brady and Brees. Then it sounds like a measure of current abilities, but you shoot down Rodgers. The callers sound like they think it has something to do with toughness, or just excitement factor, which frankly makes as much sense as any other definition.

MOOK: But getting past all of that: is Hometown cromulent? And if not, where does he get off suggesting that he is?

ME: Look, I know Jim Harbaugh drew snickers when he called Alex Smith "cromulent" last week. And Eli Manning made a week’s worth of headlines with some "cromulent" remarks in August. And we all get a lot of mileage about arguing whether some middle-tier quarterback, like Eli, or Sanchez, or Hometown, is cromulent, or bashing him for not being cromulent. But the word has no meaning! And what meaning it does have is just some sliding scale, based on the speaker’s perception of the player in the first place! It’s silly, and it misses major points about football as a team game, and about quarterbacks as players with real strengths and weaknesses that are always changing!

MOOK: Thanks a lot, Mike. Mike Tanier from Football Outsiders, ladies and gentleman. Boy Pudgy, he sounds like one of those Hometown Boosters.

PUDGY: Yeah, one of those guys, sheesh. If you wanna pretend Hometown is cromulent, just say so. Don’t try to twist our words around. I don’t need to get into some hair-splitting debate. Either you’re cromulent or you’re not, and if you aren’t, then you are worthless.

MOOK: I agree. Coming up: the NBA Lockout. Do you care? And more importantly, when will we realize that we are cutting off our own noses by fostering indifference about a sport which will give us something to talk about from February through June?

Colts Jag

On Monday afternoon, I realized that I had no idea what happened in Sunday’s Jaguars-Colts game. I did not know who won or what the score was. It was a gaping hole in my current NFL knowledge, and there was only one thing to do about it: watch the entire game, without peeking at the final outcome, and record my impressions. Like so:

First Half: The silence in the stadium is eerie. The play-by-play man sounds like he is on C-Span Book Review. His name is Spero Dedes. I thought that was Kirby video game villain. The color man is Steve Beuerlein. I know for sure he is a Kirby video game villain. Josh Scobee kicks off, the Colts return man downs it in the end zone, and there isn’t even that anticipatory whoop you get in high school games as the kicker approaches the tee. It’s like the game is being played at a cloistered convent.

Beuerlein says that Curtis Painter came out "like gangbusters" in his first two starts this season. Does anyone remember this? Ah, the stats do show that Painter played pretty well in two close losses. Gangbusters aren’t what they used to be.

Donald Brown ignores an obvious interior hole on a stretch run, bounces the play outside, and loses three yards. Drew Coleman then jumps a route and intercepts a pass. The gasp of the crowd is the first evidence that there is a crowd.

Jerraud Powers picks off a Blaine Gabbert pass to get the ball back. The crowd cheers. I had feared to this point that all of Indianapolis was in Suck For Luck mode and were now actively rooting against the Colts. Gabbert apparently saw a Cover-2 defense for the first time in his life on this play.

A Colts drive: two good Brown runs, then Brown fails to gain two yards for a first down on two straight running plays. The Colts punt from midfield, because they are in a position this year where it pays to be conservative.

The announcers pass along some gibberish from Jack Del Rio about how the Jaguars don’t look like a 2-6 team when you watch them practice. As a head coach, would you really want to admit to having a lot of experience watching a 2-6 team practice? And wouldn’t a 2-6 offense look like a 6-2 offense against a 2-6 defense? Because the Jaguars defense is not half bad, I bet it looks like a 4-4 defense against an 0-8 offense in practice.

Marcedes Lewis drops a pass. Jaguars punt. The announcers talk about Lewis as an All-Pro, a go-to guy, and a "marked man." Welcome to an insane universe where Marcedes Lewis is the most interesting person on the field. For the record, I forgot that Lewis had 10 touchdown catches last year, because my brain filed it away under "something that will never happen again."

First complete pass of the game, Painter to Brown, loses a yard. Painter is then sacked. The Jaguars have a defensive end named John Chick.

Jacob Lacey interferes with a fair catch by the Jaguars, and the referees spend ten minutes discussing it. It is the most interesting element of the game so far.

Maurice Jones-Drew has some fine runs to get the Jaguars down the field. Gabbert completes two passes on the drive for a total for three yards. Scobee kicks a field goal. The announcers keep talking about Scobee’s memorable performances against the Colts. Scobee and Lewis are talking points, somehow.

Painter waddles forward in the pocket to avoid pressure and shotputs a pass to a wide-open Jacob Tamme along the sideline. "Painter is a fairly athletic quarterback" Beuerlein says. Fairly. On this play, he runs like he just stood up from the toilet to answer an important phone call without pulling his pants up first. The catch is followed by a Pierre Garcon end-around with a facemask penalty. The Colts are driving, but a Jaguars defender plunges straight off the edge on the next play to force a fumble, which rolls 16 yards back before Painter pounces on it. Beuerlein says that Peyton Manning would have audibled into a different play. Painter has been in this system for three years, right? Adam Vinatieri field goal makes it 3-3, second quarter.

Jaguars go nowhere on a drive. Painter is sacked, Brown runs a draw, Painter is sacked again but roughed for a first down, and Rashean Mathis is hurt for the Jaguars. Three more Colts plays, one an overthrow of Reggie Wayne, punt. Mathis is on the cart. I don’t think there is a sideline reporter on the broadcast. You know where your game ranks when they don’t even bother hiring a sideline reporter.

After an MJD first down on a short pass, the Jaguars run on first, second, and third down, the last two carries by Deji Karim. Punt. After a commercial, there’s a Race for Luck graphic, with a smiling Andrew Luck next to the records of the Colts, Dolphins, and other contenders. Then, a shot of Peyton Manning talking on the sideline. I give the television director credit for not showing Manning too often so far; it is midway through the second quarter, and this is the first time he has been on screen. Beuerlein mouths obvious, uninformative statements about the possibility of the Colts drafting Luck. "It’s going to be an interesting development to watch this offseason." Oooh, can’t wait.

Backup tackle Quinn Ojinnaka lines up as an H-back for the Colts. And jumps offsides. You can’t make this crap up. A tunnel screen to Tamme yields no gain. A screen to Brown yields three yards. The punt rolls for several seconds. Colts special teamers watch it roll to a halt. There is nothing else to look at.

Gabbert misses Kasim Osgood by four yards on a throw that travels maybe nine yards into the flat. The announcers realize that Luck and Manning are the only interesting people to talk about, so Beuerlein talks about the possibility of trading Manning. Guy Whimper holds Robert Mathis on a sack. Guy Whimper sounds like a Muppet. Deji Karim’s first name is pronounced "Daisy." I’m not saying that a football team cannot have a Daisy, a Chick, and a Whimper, but it just seems wrong.

The Colts hand off three times and punt. Painter clearly audibles on one of the running plays to avoid a blitzer to the offensive left side. "He learned that from Peyton Manning," Beuerlein exclaims, forgetting that a few minutes ago he said Painter was unable to make such decisions. Perhaps he only half-learned it.

The Jaguars two-minute drill is actually three straight draw plays to MJD, followed by a receiver screen that goes nowhere, before Gabbert finds Jarett Dillard wide open over the middle for his first truly good pass of the half. "Scobee’s never made 16 field goals in a row," Beuerlein says. Sure enough, he misses from 45 yards.

Second Half: Jaguars start the third quarter with an MJD iso, a shotgun MJD draw, a Gabbert scramble, and a punt. If you love seeing teams handoff on first and second down, this is the game for you.

Painter overthrows Garcon on an out route. The Colts punt back.

Three straight Jaguars runs, then Gabbert misses Zach Potter by about five yards on yet another easy throw on a bench route. I realize that the UFL teams I covered last month have more recognizable receivers on their rosters than the Jaguars. Gabbert hits Karim on a crossing route for a first down. Gabbert is sacked on the next third-and-long, but Tyler Brayton is called for hands to the face. The Jaguars get another first down on two handoffs and a Gabbert scramble on third-and-short. Mike Thomas takes an end-around for another solid gain. Is this a drive? It is hard to tell. Gabbert hits Chastin West on a slant, and Dedes actually says the Jaguars are "kicking it into high gear." After 16 excruciating plays and ten minutes, Gabbart hits Dillard on an 11-yard go route for a touchdown.

Manning walks onto the field during the stoppage to confer with Painter. "If I’m Curtis Painter, I tap into that resource as much as I can," Beuerlein says, providing us with a Painter-tapping-Manning image while making the most obvious point in the history of humanity. After a few completions, Painter is 11-of-15, but with an amazing number of passes for zero to three yards. Painter gets away with a near interception when Derek Cox cannot quite haul in the pass he jumped in front of. Two plays later, William Middleton intercepts a pass intended for Wayne.

But there’s a twist! A sad, sorry, pathetic twist! The Jaguars had 12 men on the field. It takes the refs about four hours to determine this, but the Colts get the ball back. The crowd sounds almost lively as Brown has a short run and Painter connects with Austin Collie for a first down. Then Painter throws right to Paul Posluszny, and this time there are 11 Jaguars on the field. Counting Cox’s bobble, Painter was essentially intercepted three times on this drive.

The Jaguars eat clock for a drive, though that is arguably what they did all game. Ironically, the offense is more open now than it was for much of the game, with West catching another slant and MJD moving the chains on a third-and-long screen pass.

Painter is pulled in favor of Dan Orlovsky. In Brown and Orlovsky, the Colts have two players in their backcourt from Connecticut. Oops, backfield! Orlovsky’s second pass attempt is stripped from behind by Jeremy Mincey, and the ball lands in Tyson Alualu’s hands. The Jaguars get the ball in the red zone, giving MJD’s fantasy owners around the world a reason to cross their fingers. Sure enough, he slams the ball home on the third try. Give the Jaguars credit for knowing what their responsibility was on that drive: they only exist to provide MJD fantasy points at this point.

Down 17-3, Orlovsky leads one of those silly late drives full of six-yard passes to Tamme. It ends on fourth-and-2 in the red zone. Beuerlein and the other guy speculate that Orlovsky may be the starter after the bye. Why not? As the Jaguars line up in victory formation, we get Manning again, crouched on the sideline. The director has stopped pretending that we care much about anyone else. It reminds me of one of those movies that is built around the final film footage of a great actor’s life: a director takes twelve seconds of the legendary face staring off into the distance and tries to stretch it across some small-budget movie with no-name actors, making you think the great thespian was really involved in the whole picture. Manning cannot do anything but crouch and stare, but his crouching and staring tells more of the story of this game than anything else.

Final Impressions: The word "lassitude" kept popping into my head. These aren’t just bad teams, but listless teams, and there is no excuse for anyone to play with this amount of disinterest in mid-November. The Jaguars are supposed to be rallying around their rookie quarterback, but their gameplan not only has training wheels, but a car seat and soft blankie. Gabbert does not look like he can do much, but he does not get a chance to do anything: he literally threw exactly one pass downfield.

Mincey wound up with two-and-a-half sacks. The Jaguars defensive line is stout enough, but to say that this is some hard-hitting, play-making defense is just silly.

The Colts? They have two rookies on the line, Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai are hurt, and the receivers besides Wayne were so completely made by Peyton that they might as well have his copyright on their necks. The defensive ends are OK but aging, and the whole defense is built to protect 10-point leads, not shut down an opponent running down their throats. Still, there’s no excuse for this kind of offensive apathy when the man under center has two full years in your offense. This gameplan appeared to be little more than "stall for three hours and see if anyone notices."

Oh well. Now I feel caught up with these teams and can talk intelligently about them, in the unlikely event that anyone asks.

And Finally

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Free Library of Philadelphia for my little meet-and-greet on Monday. It was a lot of fun in a fascinating, historic building. Little known fact: behind the stage there are dressing rooms for the presenters, complete with Broadway style lights and mirrors. I had the urge to buy myself a bouquet and throw a tantrum.

The next The Philly Fan’s Code event is at The Field House, right next to the Philadelphia Convention Center, on December 1, during the Eagles-Seahawks game. It will be a chance to hang out with me during an Eagles game! Perhaps not a selling point. But there will be food, beer, and trivia, in an incredibly transit-convenient location where we can drown our Eagles sorrows and just fall into the trains.

Walkthrough is taking next week off for Thanksgiving and various family birthdays. See you soon!

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 17 Nov 2011

77 comments, Last at 26 Apr 2013, 4:49pm by Chatrandom.com

Comments

1
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 11:50am

I have been embiggened by the sheer cromulence of this Walkthrough. Well done.

2
by Temo :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 11:54am

I haven't seen a single Rodgers snap this season, and now I'm not sure I want to. Play that close to perfection sounds like it'd make for a fairly boring game.

4
by jfsh :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:06pm

Watching Rodgers pass is about as boring as watching Michael Jordan dunk.

19
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:42pm

Yeah, the guy is awesome to watch. This is not Tom Brady we're talking about here.

------
We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

23
by dryheat :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:02pm

Wait...what? I've heard Brady been called a lot of things, but not boring or otherwise painful to watch.

26
by tuluse :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:08pm

I find a lot of Brady games pretty boring to watch.

Wait while he sits in the pocket for 5 seconds, then finds an open Wes Welker who somehow avoids 3 tacklers and gets 12 yards. Rince and repeat.

27
by thejoshbaker :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:09pm

Tom Brady is boring and painful to watch.

There.

29
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:22pm

Di not know wgat to do Mon dayy noght. Total crap game. Boring Pates vs boring/crappy Chiefs. Actually havd to root for xhiefs which horrible disgusting feling. Raiders havd shot ag 1 serd. Need Chrfs to hrlp out by beating Pates. Not going to happen of coutsd becaissre chiegs stinkbomb of a team. Cannoy watch anything else thay night all crap on tv mon night. Damcing with the Stars, 2 Broke Gitls and some other jink.

31
by dryheat :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:27pm

Some times I wish you'd slow down a little bit so your typing is easier to understand. For example, looking at your post above, it reads as if you're suggesting that the Raiders could be the AFC's top seed in the playoffs.

32
by tuluse :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:29pm

He is.

Raiders have shot at 1st seed. Need Chiefs to help out by beating Pats. Not going to happen of course because Chiefs stinkbomb of a team.

33
by unverifiable (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:37pm

2 Broke Gits sounds like a great idea for a TV show

41
by dryheat :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 4:50pm

Would that be Snively Little Rat-faced and Dreary Fat Boring Old?

53
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 11:07pm

Rodgers is boring, but that's only because of his lame TD celebrations and his lame auto insurance advertisements.

What's really boring is Rodgers tossing endless TD passes to uncovered receivers because the defense has blown a coverage. That's where the problem really lies -- the endless supply of blown coverages delivered by defenses this year.

So... no -- Rodgers' performance is unsustainable. The defenses will catch up eventually. Actually, soon, I hope.

20
by R O (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:51pm

As a Chargers fan I can tell you that watching Rogers is NOT boring. I remember one play in particular (I can't remember if it was late in the first half or second but it doesn't really matter). The Chargers had good coverage and the pass rush flushed Rogers out of the pocket pretty quickly. My poor abused mind may be exaggerating, but he may have been slightly off balance while definitely being at a near full run. He literally seemed to flip the ball with the nonchalance of a throw away out of bounds. BUT the ball traveled about 60 yards in the air and was an absolute laser to a fairly well covered receiver. Just completely demoralizing. I can't remember whether that play or the next was the touchdown but it was a foregone conclusion in either case.

The dude CANNOT keep this up all season can he?!?!? FREAKING INCREDIBLE and downright depressing.

43
by Temo :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 5:05pm

Well I didn't say that his play would be boring. I said the game would be boring, since blowouts often are. If a team I'm interested in is not playing, I'm just rooting for a close game.

60
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 1:47pm

I love Rodgers and I'm not sure it can keep up but as great as he is, we've seen this before from a Packers QB. Tom Silverstein points out a 16 game stretch that matches Rodgers current 16 game stretch pretty well.

Rodger's last 16 games (including playoffs)
356 of 503 (70.8%); 4,642 yards; 42 TD; 7 INT; 37 sacks; 121.5 Rating. Packers are 15-1 (4-0 post season)

Brett Favre (end of 95 + playoffs first 7 games of 96)
353 of 517 (68.3%); 4,243 yards; 49 TD; 7 INT; 32 sacks; 119.1 rating. Packers were 14-2 (2-1 post season)

Favre lost Robert Brooks and Freeman and his play did drop off (that's where the stretch stops). He was still making plays with Don Beebe and Terry Mickens and Mark Chumara. It would be like the Rodgers losing Jennings and Nelson. Rodgers is still going to make plays with Jones, Driver, Cobb, and Finley, but it won't be the same level.

The end of Favre's career should not completely erase how good he was. There is a reason he won 3 MVP awards in a row. I loved watching Favre during his younger years too. 93 - 98 were fun to watch, he wasn't compared to himself quite so much, he had a lot more good with his bad. Rodgers doesn't do as much bad, he doesn't force things as much. But as much as I hated Favre at the end of his career I do remember when he was that good too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=t4gYuovfEzM if you want to see some of his play during that stretch.

I'm sure you could find similar Manning, Brady, and Brees stretches. I'm not saying it doesn't diminish what is happening. Play this good doesn't come along all the time. You should enjoy it.

As a fan I'm hoping it does continue, I actually want it become clear that Rodgers is better than Favre in part because I got so tired of the retire, don't retire, diva behavior. I also want to witness the greatest QB season (not just 16 game stretch) and I want it to be done by a Packer. :)

63
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 7:41am

I agree. Was watching the America's Game for the Packers last night and the Packs offense didn't seem that great. In fact looking at the logs ... 9 of last year's 11 interceptions came in the first 7 games, the 8th game against the Jets his passer rating was 59.7 ... since then Rodgers has been hot ... at some point he'll come back from stratospheric to great ... just like the others ... but for now he's doing an awesome job and his accuracy is incredible.

As for Favre ... I think he was always the product of "synergy" ... Holmgren's coaching got the best out of the offense, the defense led by Reggie White. I daren't say Favre couldn't carry a team but the Packers success wasn't just him.

65
by Jimmy :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 10:53am

I am a long way from being a packers fan but Favre during his MVP years may be the best football player I ever saw.

66
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 11:46am

As for Favre ... I think he was always the product of "synergy" ... Holmgren's coaching got the best out of the offense, the defense led by Reggie White. I daren't say Favre couldn't carry a team but the Packers success wasn't just him.

Favre's best teams mirrored Rodgers best teams closer than one might think. The 95, 96, and 97 Packers. Compared to the 09, 10, 11 Packers.

Both had coaches who are considered good at coaching QB's.

Both had young QB's who were playing at very high levels. Both QB's could run on you at times (Favre was over 180 yards rushing in all 3 years and 3, 2, and 1 rushing TD in those years)

Both had decent but not great offensive lines with some veterans and some younger guys.

Both teams had a running back that went from work horse veteran to shared time, to replaced by a younger better back (Bennett replaced by Levens, Grant replaced by Starks)

Both had veterans in the secondary who were at the prime of their career and another at the tail end (Butler & Robinson compared to Collins and Woodson) with other solid role players.

Both had a dominant defensive player who was good at pass rushing (White and Matthews)

Both had solid but not outstanding linebackers (Koonce/Simmons and Bishop/Hawk) again I'm comparing Matthews to White here because of 3-4 vs 4-3.

Both had solid tight ends (Chmura and Finley)

Both had a good kicker. The 90's version punter was more consistent but the current version has the talent.

The receivers are a bit different both had a clear #1 in Brooks and Jennings (though Brooks got hurt one year but you can use the Finley injury to compare to that). The veteran giving way to the younger #2 guy(s) that Driver is now was filled by 1 year FA pick-ups with Ingram/Beebe. But Freeman vs Nelson/Jones replacing them fits OK.

The 95 - 96 teams really only had a good return one year with Howard. The other years were guys like Schroeder (think Jordy Nelson) or Freeman (think Tramon Williams type returns). Cobb is no Howard (yet) but again compares favorably.

This year the Packers D is not as good as expected but the talent differences between Favre's teams and now isn't that different. Woodson and White are both Hall of Famers, both had several all Pro players (Butler, Matthews) and several Pro Bowl Players.

Neither had great running backs, yeah Levens had a 1435 at 4.4 YPA season in 97. Grant had a 1253 at 4.4 YPA season in 09. The 95 and 96 seasons had a fair bit of split RB carries like the 10 and 11 seasons are having. But I think Favre's teams had a bit more consistent running game.

So if I broke it down.

D-Line / Pass Rushers: Favre
Linebackers: Push
Secondary: Rodgers

Running Backs: Favre
Tight Ends: Push
Receivers: Rodgers
O line: Push

Special Teams: Favre

I would say the product of synergy comment works just as well for Rodgers. Of course I've got a feeling that Rodgers best years could very well shift to 10, 11, 12 so his 3rd, 4th and 5th years as starter. I'm looking at Favres 4th, 5th, and 6th years as starter anyway. In that case Rodgers could actually end up with better or worse team mate advantages.

74
by Von (not verified) :: Tue, 11/22/2011 - 6:22pm

Don't forget Sterling Sharpe as well. You have to wonder if that was what Brett was really bitching about earlier this year. Not that he was jealous of what Aaron had this year compared to what he had at the end of his career, but what he has in his prime. Some of those guys stay healthy through the '90s, maybe he isn't Mr. cannot-win-his-second-playoff-game-ever-again after the Elway Superbowl.

3
by thejoshbaker :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 11:59am

I hate Curtis Painter.

12
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:47pm

I hate Iceland!

67
by Kevin from Philly :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 1:14pm

I hate marzipan.

69
by jebmak :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 4:24pm

I hate Homsar.

72
by Mr Shush :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 9:04am

I hate, I hate, I hate Peter Pan.

5
by big_jgke :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:06pm

That 'cromulence' section was terrific. I constantly get in arguments with people over their entirely orthodox, yet totally subjective, definitions of words and who fits them.

6
by Harris :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:09pm

Talking to you can't be anywhere near as painful as watching those teams dick-trip all over the field for four hours.

7
by dryheat :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:11pm

On Monday afternoon, I realized that I had no idea what happened in Sunday’s Jaguars-Colts game. I did not know who won or what the score was. It was a gaping hole in my current NFL knowledge, and there was only one thing to do about it: watch the entire game, without peeking at the final outcome, and record my impressions.

I know what you mean. Yesterday I found out that the Browns beat the Rams in their historic return to Cleveland on Sunday. Unlike you, I really didn't care enough to glance at a box score, let alone watch the game.

15
by MCS :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:15pm

The Browns won?

21
by dryheat :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:59pm

Did they not? Jebus, I guess it wasn't even interesting enough to me to reliably remember who won one day later. I do remember finding out it was a low-scoring, one-point game. I was watching football all day Sunday, and I don't recall a single cut-in featuring that game, or even being discussed at the half.

Furthermore, I don't even care enough now to check and see if your comment was serious or tongue-in-cheek.

30
by MCS :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:23pm

I was serious. I had no idea whether they won or lost.

Just checked. It turns that the Rams did not lose.

56
by Jerry :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:52am

This late-game play sums the game up.

75
by Spielman :: Fri, 11/25/2011 - 8:12pm

As someone who watched that game, let me assure you: Everyone at that game, including both teams, lost.

17
by Keasley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:30pm

And that is the single greatest thing about football gambling. It gives you a cheering interest in every game, no matter how cromulent the game looks on paper.

I'm in an 'office' pool with a $35 entry and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes of approx $500, $350, and $150.

So the cost to me is less than $2 per week and I've won once, come in second or third a couple times. It's enough to make me irrationally passionate about the outcome of a Colts/Jags game, especially late in the season if I'm still in the running for a prize (which I almost always am).

Note: I am not advocating large scale gambling (which I would define as more than $200 over the course of a football season). But to each his own.

70
by jebmak :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 4:27pm

Only $200 per season?!

I think that a large scale gambler is defined as someone who bets more than the speaker is comfortable with.

8
by djanyreason :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:13pm

In the last six games, has Aaron Rodgers thrown any bad throws that his receivers made good plays on to catch the ball?

Not to say his season hasn't been amazing, but you need to count both Type 1 and Type 2 errors...

58
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 8:56am

There have been excellent catches in tight spots, such as Jennings from the slot on a skinny post where the ball comes right over the defender's shoulder to Jennings, but I don't recall any one-handed or fantastic catches due to an errant throw. Rodgers' throws are incredibly accurate, on the numbers, even down field. Going into the Viking game, Rodgers' completion percentage on throws where the ball traveled 20 yards in the air was 65.2%, which would have been fourth on the overall league list for all throws.

As far as the sacks, I think that's slightly overrated because Rodgers often picks up the first following a sack. He was sacked four times against the Chargers, but three of those sacks were overcome with subsequent first downs. The fourth sack was a zero yarder on third and two that led to a Packer punt.

9
by BroncFan07 :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:18pm

The noble spirit of this column has embiggened the smallest reader.

10
by Ryan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:29pm

B-b-but these are young quarterbacks! You forgot to mention the word "poise." EVERY young quarterback has poise!

54
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 11:10pm

Curtis Painter is neither young nor poised.

11
by TheSlinger :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:40pm

"Mincey wound up with two-and-a-half sacks. The Jaguars defensive line is stout enough, but to say that this is some hard-hitting, play-making defense is just silly."

3rd in DVOA.

25
by tuluse :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:06pm

Helped by playing Cam Newton during a monsoon.

13
by Alexander :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:03pm

I thought cromulence was a negative adjective until I read this.

36
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 3:03pm

I had to google it. Until then, I was thinking it was Cromartie-like or something equally obscure. Turns out it was.

14
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:14pm

Not only do the Jags have a DE named John Chick; he used to be a Colt. His move from the Colts to the Jags was less than amicable.

http://www.stampedeblue.com/2011/9/7/2410329/john-chick-said-no-to-colts...

22
by thejoshbaker :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:00pm

Anything that stampede blue says is unlikely to be true and should be ignored.

24
by thejoshbaker :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:02pm

Anything that stampede blue says is unlikely to be true and should be ignored.

Edit: Anything bad about BBS is worth saying twice.

34
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 3:00pm

"Should be ignored" is open to discussion, but the article is factually true. Chick was on the Colts, was cut in preseason, received practice squad offers from both the Colts and Jags, and chose the Jags. That information can be gathered from a number of non-Stampede Blue sources if that's your preference.

64
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 7:46am

thejoshbaker ... please explain yourself ...

37
by TomC :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 3:04pm

I wonder if anyone has ever called him "Jack" (http://www.chick.com/information/authors/chick.asp).

16
by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:17pm

What's great is the last incompletion in the first Vikings game, where you said "this can be considered his only truly inaccurate pass of the game." Jason Wilde brought that up with Rodgers during their weekly radio show and Rodgers took exception, saying that he thought Jennings should have stopped the route in a hole in the zone but he kept running. So his only inaccurate throw in the game? Just a miscommunication, and one where A-Rod thinks he did the right thing, at that.

55
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 11:14pm

So you're saying that Rodgers blamed the receiver for his misses. Sweet guy.

73
by dbostedo :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 10:09pm

To be fair, he blamed the receiver for his miss. Singular. Which is pretty amazing.

18
by Keasley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:31pm

And that is the single greatest thing about football gambling. It gives you a cheering interest in every game, no matter how cromulent the game looks on paper.

I'm in an 'office' pool with a $35 entry and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes of approx $500, $350, and $150.

So the cost to me is less than $2 per week and I've won once, come in second or third a couple times. It's enough to make me irrationally passionate about the outcome of a Colts/Jags game, especially late in the season if I'm still in the running for a prize (which I almost always am).

Note: I am not advocating large scale gambling (which I would define as more than $200 over the course of a football season). But to each his own.

28
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:13pm

Rodgers quarterbacking brst simce Stabler 1976. Yo topple Stabler gking to have to win Siper Bowl and kerp playinh like wizard

35
by TomC :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 3:02pm

"Painter is a fairly athletic quarterback" Beuerlein says. Fairly. On this play, he runs like he just stood up from the toilet to answer an important phone call without pulling his pants up first.

F'ing brilliant, even by Tanier standards.

38
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 3:06pm

Glad to see Chastin West made it. He was in the Packers camp and looked pretty good. Just couldn't make the squad since they had so many good receivers (plus they kept 5 tight ends on the roster which was even weirder than last year's 3 fullbacks).

39
by ammek :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 3:15pm

Nobody writes about bad football teams as well as Mike does. Thanks for the Colts-Jags recap, it makes such a change from the breathless mainstream coverage and the snarky blogosphere.

40
by ebongreen :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 3:24pm

The author has quantified something I've seen all year: it's a surprise when Aaron Rodgers just flat misses on a pass. It's on the order of once or twice a game. It's rare enough that I say it out loud - "Wow! He actually missed one!" There are drops, and deflections, and throw-aways and spikes - and those seem more frequent than his misfires. He and his receivers make the passing game seem almost as routine as a belly handoff.

I have never seen quarterback/receiver play like this. Manning is probably the closest, but he's never moved like AR does. MVick can move, but hasn't near the accuracy.

47
by Biffo (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 6:20pm

I used to be merely surprised when he threw a bad pass; now I actually get confused.

59
by Arkaein :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 10:57am

Very few of his passes are deflected though. A few at the LoS, but the main reason he's hardly been intercepted this year, is DBs almost never get so much as a fingertip on any pass.

42
by Schrute Farmer (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 5:00pm

Thank you for this post, Tanier. I've been saying this in the comment section for, like, a month now. Rodgers is combining this level of unprecedented accuracy WITH an unprecedented downfield attack. Best QB play ever.

44
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 5:32pm

How soon we forget Brady 2007.

45
by Schrute Farmer (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 5:42pm

Rodgers' average pass travels 8.1 yards in the air.

Brady's average pass traveled 6.8 yards in the air. Remove the 'throw deep to double covered Randy Moss', and you get 5.3 yards.

Rodgers doesn't make his living on unders to slot receivers covered by linebackers. The two are not comparable.

46
by Temo :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 5:52pm

So far, Rodgers' DVOA is higher than Brady's 2007 DVOA. Though that's over 16 games for Brady.

48
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 7:36pm

The biggest danger to Rodgers is that he occasionally gets murdered by a DE like he's Cutler playing against the Giants. Allen threw him down pretty hard on his shoulder in the 1st quarter. The biggest risk remains whether Rodgers will take a killer hit some game because he refused to just Manning the ball into the stands or McNabb it into someone's feet.

49
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 7:52pm

Will writr Walkthrough gurst column next week fotr Sierra Nevada Tumbler box. If massses enjoy, then will expect some mininature vodkas as bonus

50
by slypumpkin :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 10:28pm

I work for Sierra Nevada and will personally buy Raiderjoe and Tanier a case of Tumbler each if Raiderjoe gets a guest column.

57
by Jerry :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 8:27am

Please make it so.

61
by Independent George :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:46pm

I'll double down and pay for a second case, on the condition that it is consumed before said column is written.

51
by John (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 10:32pm

Make...this...happen!

(Although missing Tanier for a week would be painful. How about a duet? Tanier interview RJ, RJ interview Tanier, something.)

52
by John (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 10:33pm

Ach, that's right, forgot next week would be a bye week for Tanier. In that case, no reservations whatsoever.

62
by Boston Dan :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 7:23am

"Mr. Springfield, how can I hope to achieve such greatness?"

"A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man."

68
by jebmak :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 4:14pm

"ME: What the hell does "cromulent" mean?"

I lol'd so hard.

71
by Ben :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 7:15pm

As a Colts season ticket holder, reading Tanier's recap of the game was more interesting then sitting through it live..

The first five plays after the opening kickoff were: run for a loss, incomplete pass, interception, run for a loss, interception. I knew right then that it was going to be a fantastic offensive show...

76
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77
by Chatrandom.com (not verified) :: Fri, 04/26/2013 - 4:49pm

decided to look back at all 18 incompletions to see what they told me about Rodgers’ amazing season. They told me it was even more amazing than even the stats show. Here’s a rundown of every single Rodgers misfire in the last three games:Chatrandom.com