Maybe we now understand why Brett Favre was so salty about his exit from Green Bay. At the time, fans, teammates and opponents were stunned by the move of Ted Thompson to turn away Favre, offer him millions of dollars not to play and move forward with Aaron Rodgers.
Thompson basically stood alone in his view that, moving forward, the Packers were better off with the unproven Rodgers. One Super Bowl title and a perfect 6-0 record later, Thompson has proved to be an NFL version of Nostradamus. Not only has Rodgers become one of the rare few that has been able to replace a legend at quarterback and not miss a beat, it can be argued that the Packers upgraded at the quarterback position.
There comes a point in which you have to acknowledge Rodgers as the best quarterback in the NFL without equivocation. Last year while leading the Packers to a Super Bowl title, he finished third in the NFL with a passer rating of 101.3 – trailing only Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. If Rodgers has a game against the Vikings Sunday in which he has a 101.3 passer rating, it would be his worst game statistically of the season.
His first six games of the 2011 season have read like a compilation of the greatest career games of very good quarterbacks. Although defenses know what is coming, to date, nobody has been able to stop his. Consider the following:
vs. New Orleans – Completes 27 of 35 passes for 312 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 132.1
at Carolina – Completes 19 of 35 passes, 308 yards, two TDs, no picks, 119.9 P.R.
at Chicago – Completes 28 of 38 passes, 297 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, 111.4 P.R.
vs. Denver – Completes 29 of 38 passes, 408 yards, four TDs, one interception, 134.5 P.R. He also ran for two touchdowns in that massive game.
at Atlanta – Completed 26 of 39 passes, 396 yards, two touchdowns, no picks, 117.0 P.R.
vs. St. Louis – Completed 17 of 28 passes for 310 yards, three TDs, one pick, 119.6 P.R.
What has made Rodgers so deadly is that he has a stable of receivers that all have a role – from Greg Jennings on down. Like Favre, he has helped establish supporting players as viable passing threats and has found a way to spread the ball around enough to make everybody happy and get almost 10 skill-position players involved in the passing game.
Jennings clearly has been his favorite target – he has been targeted 48 times, catching 35 passes for 530 yards and four touchdowns. However, Jennings is far from being the only target. He is just one of six Packers that has been targeted at least 20 times this season by Rodgers. Tight end Jermichael Finley has been targeted 35 times, catching 23 for 321 yards and three TDs. Jordy Nelson has been targeted 31 times, catching 20 for 413 yards and four TDs. James Jones has been targeted 21 times, catching 15 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Veteran Donald Driver has also been targeted 21 times, catching 12 for 101 yards and two TDs. Running back James Starks has been targeted 20 times, catching 15 of them for 113 yards.
But perhaps even more impressive is what the part-time bit players have done, pulling in practically every pass thrown their way. Rookie Randall Cobb has been targeted just 10 times, but has caught nine for 174 yards and one touchdown. RB Ryan Grant has been targeted eight times, catching seven for 52 yards. Fullback John Kuhn has been targeted seven times, catching six for 32 yards. None of them has been called on very often to be major contributors to the passing game, but, when they have, they have delivered – combining to catch 22 of 25 passes thrown their way for 258 yards.
Rodgers isn't just pass happy like QBs like Drew Brees or Tom Brady. He is eighth in the league in attempts (208), but fourth in completions (146), first in completion percentage (70.2 percent), third in yards (2,031), first in average gain per attempt (9.76 yards), first in touchdowns (17) and first in touchdown percentage. (8.2).
Only two other quarterbacks have a touchdown percentage of more than 6.0 – Brady (6.8) and Matthew Stafford (6.3) – and Rodgers' passer rating is on pace to set the all-time NFL record currently held by Peyton Manning (121.1 in 2004). Speaking of being on pace, if Rodgers continues his current production for the remainder of the 2011 season, he would finish with these eye-popping numbers – 555 attempts, 389 completions, 5,416 yards and 45 touchdowns. His completion percentage would rank him third in the modern era of the NFL, behind only New Orleans' Drew Brees (70.62 in 2009) and Cincinnati's Ken Anderson (70.55 in 1982). The current single-season record for passing yards is 5,084 by Dan Marino of Miami in 1984. Unfortunately, with the pass-happy NFL of 2011, Rodgers is on pace to shatter Marino's record, yet still finish third in yardage for the season among quarterbacks.
If the Vikings are to knock the Packers off their perch as the NFL's last unbeaten team, it will entail containing Rodgers. To date, nobody has been able to do that and, if there is a frontrunner for MVP, it has to be the Packers QB who is on pace to have one of the greatest individual seasons of all time.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings face challenge with red-hot Rodgers
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