David Garrard was pleasant, upbeat and polite, but it was clear he was at least a little annoyed with the familiar question.
The Jacksonville Jaguars' starting quarterback, who earned a seven-year, $60 million contract extension in April, has thrown 11 touchdowns against 10 interceptions through 13 games this season after throwing 18 touchdowns against a measly three interceptions in 12 games last year.
So, David, what's gone wrong this season?
"It's tough coming off a season where you only had three interceptions," Garrard said in a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field on Wednesday, "because pretty much anything after that is going to be worse. You can't really go through a season and have two interceptions. So, it's tough. I understand why I get asked that question quite a bit."
Aaron Rodgers can sympathize. All season, he's been dogged with comparisons to his superstar predecessor, Brett Favre. Rodgers' statistics are superior to Favre's in every way this season — 3,192 to 2,845 in yards, 22 to 20 in touchdowns, 11 to 15 in interceptions and 92.1 to 88.2 rating — but in the all-important win column, Favre's Jets are 8-5 and Rodgers' Packers are 5-8.
Five of those losses have been by four points or less, and in a sixth — at Tampa Bay, when Rodgers sustained a shoulder injury — the Packers were trailing by two points before he threw an interception.
During his career in Green Bay, Favre rallied the Packers to victory 40 times in the fourth quarter. Rodgers has done it once, when his defense scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter at Detroit in Week 2. Not that Rodgers has performed poorly in the clutch in all of those games — he's rallied the Packers the last two weeks, for instance, only to see his late-game theatrics be frittered away — but it's also one big thing his critics can cling to.
"You look at some of the games, and we've gotten ourselves in position and taken the lead but we lost it," Rodgers said. "It would probably be a different spin on some of those games if we're able to stop them or we score a touchdown instead of a field goal. It's, ‘Hey, the offense drove us down and won the game.'"
Rodgers, who signed a six-year, $65 million contract extension after just seven starts, professes he has confidence in himself when the game is on the line. While he knows wins and losses are what quarterbacks are judged on, he can point to his late-game performances against Minnesota (missed field goal that would have won the game), Carolina (rallied team from 11 down to tie the game, then mounted two drives to put the Packers ahead) and Houston (rallied team from seven down in the fourth quarter) as evidence he can be a clutch quarterback.
"You want the ball in your hand at the end of the game," Rodgers said. "That's what you grow up watching on TV and what you dream about Saturday nights at the hotel is the opportunity to win the game."
Meanwhile, the plight of Garrard and his Jaguars is more direct but hardly absolute. Last season, when Garrard's passer rating of 102.2 ranked third in the NFL, the Jaguars finished 11-5 and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round before losing at New England. This season, when his passer rating of 80.9 ranks just 22nd, the Jaguars are 4-9.
"We've really had to deal with a lot," Garrard said. "We've never really it seems throughout the year have gotten over it. It's kind of been a struggle for us to continue to do the same things offensively. It's been one of those years where we haven't gotten a lot of breaks, haven't got a lot of things go our way. Not making any excuses or anything, but that's pretty much how our season has gone."
The Jaguars' demise started early and tragically. Backup tackle Richard Collier was shot, leaving him paralyzed and with a leg amputated. Starting center Brad Meester (biceps) missed six games, and starting guards Maurice Williams (biceps) and Vince Manuwai (knee) were lost for the season in the opener.
The beat-up line's shortcomings have made life miserable for running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Last year, that dynamic duo rushed for 1,970 yards, 14 touchdowns and almost 5.1 yards per carry. This year, they're on pace for 1,431 yards, 15 touchdowns and barely 4.0 yards per carry. Plus, Garrard has been sacked 35 times compared to 21 last season.
This week, Garrard lost his top receiver, 6-foot-6 Matt Jones, to a league suspension. To add injury to insult, Taylor — the 16th-leading rusher in NFL history — was placed on injured reserve because of torn ligaments in his thumb.
"That's kind of how our season has gone," Garrard said of the Jones suspension. "It's been one thing after the other. That's just one more thing to add to the list. We all knew it was coming eventually. We just didn't know when and how long. For it to come and finish his season, it's a tough break for him, but it's a tough break for us, too. He was doing a great job of catching all the passes that I've thrown to him and making some great plays for us. That's one dimension of our offense that's been taken away."
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wins are elusive for Rodgers, Garrard
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