Aaron Rodgers unloaded on the Packers on Wednesday, explaining his unhappiness with the organization after trying to force his way out this offseason.
However, the superstar quarterback notably did so from training camp, where he had just practiced alongside his teammates after months of uncertainty. The relationship between team and player is certainly strained, and likely headed for a divorce after the season, but Rodgers is still set to lead Green Bay in 2021.
The betting markets have responded on the heels of that resolution, increasing the Packers’ odds of winning the Super Bowl from 25-1 to 14-1. Their chances of winning the NFC North and the conference have also improved drastically. However, that may have been an intentional overreaction based on the expectation that bettors would flock to put money down on the Packers.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) July 28, 2021
There is no questioning how well Rodgers played a season ago, leading the NFL in quarterback rating (121.5), completion percentage (70.7), touchdown rate (9.1), interception rate (1.0) and adjusted yards per pass attempt (9.6). The Packers finished the regular season 13-3 and Rodgers claimed his third MVP award, as he was hands-down the best player in the NFL.
But it might be time to pump the brakes on similar success in 2021. While Rodgers is one of the most decorated quarterbacks of all-time, his production had noticeably declined before last year’s rejuvenation.
Furthermore, he will enter this season at age-38, and while Tom Brady and Drew Brees have shown that quarterbacks can play well into their 40s, it can be a dicey proposition when challenging Father Time.
Many expect Rodgers to repeat his standout 2020 season, in which he finished atop the NFL with a QBR of 84.3, besting even Patrick Mahomes. The five seasons before that, however, showed a player that was no longer in the elite category.
From 2015 through 2019, Rodgers had a combined quarterback rating of 97.5 and a yards per attempt figure of a pedestrian 7.1. Rodgers was No. 4 in the NFL in QBR in 2016, but in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019, he never cracked the top-12.
Rodgers’ masterful performance a year ago is a reminder of the prodigious talent, but it also might have masked the deficiencies that started to crop up as he aged. Davante Adams remains one of the best wideouts in the game, and the Packers’ offensive line is strong, so that is reason for optimism, but Rodgers also had both at his disposal in the recent down years.
The Packers brought back Randall Cobb via trade to appease Rodgers. While he was once a standout slot receiver, the 31-year-old Cobb is coming off a season in which he played only 10 games and amassed just 441 receiving yards despite playing with star quarterback Deshaun Watson on the Texans. Even though the trade may have made Rodgers happier, it’s unlikely to have a huge effect on the field.
I’M COMING HOME! 💚💛 pic.twitter.com/qxSwkQo89f
— Randall Cobb (@rcobb18) July 28, 2021
There is also the real concern that things go sideways between Rodgers and the front office at some point during the season. He spoke at length on Wednesday about his frustrations, from being uninvolved in personnel matters to watching good players and leaders continually leave the team over the past several seasons.
The unhappiness began when the Packers selected Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, which all but anointed Love as the organization’s quarterback of the future. Rodgers was hoping to get a commitment from the Packers this offseason about his status as the team’s starter for the next few years, but said it never came.
“That really wasn’t given at any time,” Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday. “So for me, I had to assess the situation, not necessarily wanting to be a lame-duck quarterback. Especially after an MVP season.”
Aaron Rodgers didn’t hold back in his first news conference since returning to the Packers. pic.twitter.com/5O4HIrE2OV
— ESPN (@espn) July 28, 2021
Rodgers is still a good quarterback, at minimum, and the Packers are the logical favorite to win the NFC North this season. While the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears have talent, they have enough question marks of their own. The Detroit Lions will likely be one of the worst teams in the league and are not a viable contender. The goal in Green Bay, though, is never just divisional supremacy.
Rodgers has led them to one championship, and a Super Bowl run is the expectation every season he is under center. Green Bay will undoubtedly be buoyed by his return, but there is a strong chance that the offensive explosion he captained a season ago is unable to be duplicated in 2021.
It is easy to watch the way Brady continually marches on, and then extrapolate that to Rodgers and other future Hall of Fame quarterbacks to do the same. On the flip-side, Ben Roethlisberger is a cautionary tale.
The Steelers may have won 12 games a season ago, but Roethlisberger’s numbers took a nosedive. He was a liability at times, and the expectations have been properly calibrated for his 2021 campaign.
Roethlisberger was 38 a year ago, when his decline became evident. He has never reached the career heights of Rodgers, so maybe the Green Bay quarterback turns around and posts another season for the ages, but a downward trajectory must be considered.
When news of Rodgers’ return to Green Bay broke, his MVP odds were slashed, putting the star quarterback on the short-list of preseason favorites. Regression, though, could be coming. It may not be time to buy high on Rodgers considering Mahomes is younger, just as prolific, and stocked with weapons in Kansas City.