5 Passes Aaron Rodgers Wants Back
Packer fans, please leave your memories of these moments, your comments and reactions, but moreso, let me know if I am the only one who still feels the scars on my heart from most of them, especially those three at the bottom.
By Brian E. Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~Aaron Rodgers is as great of a quarterback as anyone who’s ever played the game.
That’s what the NFL Career Passer Rating chart says, and that’s what some analysts, experts, and other media folks say.
Packer fans under the age of 40 have been spoiled rotten by him, on the heels of Brett Favre and his three MVP seasons in the mid 1990’s.
But with just one Super Bowl in eight seasons starting, seven of them with the great Clay Matthews, and all of them with at least one superstar receiver (Greg Jennings 2008-2012, Jordy Nelson 2008-present) Rodgers is obviously not perfect.
He’s been outplayed by Colin Kaepernick, twice. One in San Francisco and one in Green Bay.
He’s been outplayed by Eli Manning, at Lambeau Field. He’s been outplayed by Kurt Warner, although what Rodgers did that game should have been more than enough. But Capers’ defense that day was atrocious, and the refs let Larry Fitzgerald push Charles Woodson down for two touchdowns.
And, believe it our not, Rodgers was outplayed by Russell Wilson in the 2014 NFC Championship game, despite the Packers defense picking Wilson off four times, and bringing Wilson to tears.
Here are the five passes Rodgers wishes he had back.
And Cheesehead Nation wishes he could do over.
At Carolina, 2015 Regular Season
The 6-1 Packers faced the still undefeated, 7-0 Panthers, in week nine. If the Packers could win, they would tie the Panthers for the NFC top-record and chase for the top seed, at 7-1 halfway through the season, with four straight divisional games to come.
Green Bay fell behind early, but thanks to a great late rally, the Packers had the ball inside the Carolina red zone, down by eight, with one play to potentially tie the game, should they make the two-point conversion.
Fourth and Goal, so McCarthy called up his best play, for his best receiver on the field. It was brilliant. One problem, Rodgers didn’t even throw it to him, for some reason.
At Arizona, 2009 NFC Wildcard Playoff
Maybe this should be number one, because of what it could have been. And because of what happened two plays later. But it didn’t cost the Packers a Super Bowl. Remember that season the Vikings, behind Favre, kicked the Packers butts both times. The Packer defense didn’t touch Favre in two games.
And the Saints defense was on the Bounty gate that year. After Warner carved up the Packers this game in his best game of his Hall of Fame career, he would go into New Orleans and get beaten to a pulp in a Saints blowout.
And then the following week in the NFC Championship game, the Vikings would dominate the Saints in the Superdome, but Favre was battered, roughed up, late-hit, almost broken, before he finally threw his patented last-second heartbreaking interception, costing them the Super Bowl appearance.
Had the Packers made it that far, the Packers would have been beaten by either of those teams, and Rodgers might have been the one crushed, instead of Favre and Warner. I don’t think Favre or Warner were ever good again after that relentless viciousness from Gregg Williams bounty defense.
But that doesn’t erase this one miss by Rodgers.
The situation was the Packers and Cardinals had just finished the highest-scoring game in NFL playoff history, with the Cardinals kicker Jay Feely missing a chip-shot at the end of regulation in a 45-45 tie. It gave the Packers miraculous life, and everyone thought that the lucky winner of the coin toss would unfairly be given the win.
That was all the talk from Fox Sports’ Joe Buck and Troy Aikman as they discussed the possibility, and then reality, of overtime. That was before the rule change giving each team a chance at having the ball in overtime, barring an offensive touchdown on the first possession. This game, despite the ending going against the logic, was what made them put in the new overtime rule.
Also remember that this was Rodgers’ coming out party. His first year as starter, 2008, he played well but the defense and special teams were absolutely horrible. It cost jobs, and brought in Dom Capers and the 3-4 defense, along with rookies B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews.
This 2009 offense was unbelievable, with a 1,200-yard rusher in Ryan Grant, a great tight end in Jermichael Finley, and all kinds of great receivers still in their primes. Donald Driver was still good. Jennings was at the end of his fourth year, Nelson his second year, and Jones his third year. Finley was a nightmare matchup for Arizona, but so was the speed of Jennings and Nelson.
So when the Packers won the coin toss, and received the ball, everybody thought the Packers would win. Heck, all it would have taken was a field goal in those days.
Forget the field goal, how about ending it on the first play of overtime just like Favre did in the 2007 Monday Night Football game at Denver, when he hit Greg Jennings for an 80-yard bomb on the first play to win it in dramatic fashion.
The table was set for Rodgers. Whole world watching, including the Gunslinger himself on TV back in Minnesota, where they had a bye. First play, two backs behind Rodgers, McCarthy dials up the game-winner, and Jennings blows by his guy and turns the safety Antrelle Role inside out. He was more open than he was to beat Denver in that 2007 overtime.
Numbers 3, 2, & 1
At Seattle, 2014 NFC Championship Game
He made three terrible throws this game. One of them should have been a free play as Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett jumped offsides. But no flag was thrown, as Seattle seems to have their own set of refs in that stadium when the Packers play there.
I love that Rodgers likes to take a chance on a free play for a big play, in this case, a possible touchdown.
But he needs to know that it was the rookie Davante Adams he was throwing to. He’s been overrated since the moment the Packers drafted him. If Rodgers didn’t know then, he should have learned the next year when Rodgers passer rating was in the 50’s for the full season counting on Adams to shoulder the load with Jordy Nelson out.
But besides it being Adams he was throwing to, it was All-Pro Richard Sherman that he was throwing against. Many teams simply avoid Sherman all game long. Rodgers has in the past. Nelson and Cobb were running routes, and they weren’t covered by Sherman.
The other interception was inexcusable and really rubs me the wrong way for one reason. That reason is because of how much Rodgers acts like a coach when it comes to Jeff Janis. Rodgers constantly has said that Janis doesn’t run his routes right too often, that he’s not sharp, that he’s not on the same page with Rodgers.
Well, Janis has gotten far, far fewer chances and reps with Rodgers, than Adams has. And certainly than veterans Nelson and Cobb have. Why Rodgers is always critical of Janis when they don’t see the defense the same way, or when Janis sees he can sneak behind a guy but Rodgers expects him to flatten it out. Case in point was the playoff game at Arizona last year.
There was a play to Janis where Janis was running an out at about the 10-yard line, but the defensive back was going that way already, to the sideline. Janis could see this. I could see this. It would have been incomplete or intercepted. So Janis cut it behind the defensive back, and into the end zone. Had Rodgers read all that the same way, it would have been a simple touchdown pass if Rodgers floated it into the side of the end zone.
The thing that most fans aren’t aware of is that the receivers don’t always run the routes exactly as they are penciled in the playbook. Defenses often mix things up, and what originally looked like it would be a winning route becomes a failure. Or, sometimes the receiver will see that, and fool the coverage by make an improvisation.
Remember the last-second touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the final game of the 2013 season at Chicago to beat the Bears and win the division? The one where Kuhn clipped the Bears’ free-rusher Julius Peppers to give Rodgers a chance to get out and throw it?
Cobb was not supposed to run the route he ran. But he knew he could get past the safety Conte who was pressing in to prevent the shorter route he knew was coming to earn the first down. Fortunately Rodgers saw it the same as Cobb did, and he threw it the right place.
It’s not always Janis’ fault, but if there is someone to blame, sure it probably is Janis more often than Rodgers, quite logically.
But sometimes Rodgers needs to see the same things Janis sees, and then big plays can be had.
This interception may not look like much, but it had enormous consequences in the end.
Back to this play in question: It came one play after a nice gain by Jordy Nelson gave the Packers a first down already in Mason Crosby field goal range.
See the play, but it was a basic route to the left, where Rodgers had Cobb in the slot, and Nelson out wide. Neither were being covered by Sherman, meaning both had mismatches. Simple routes, should have been an easy gain of five yards minimum, most likely more.
Somehow, Cobb or Nelson apparently ran the wrong route. Well, if that had been Janis, that would have been the explanation. In this case, we never got the true explanation. Did Cobb run the wrong route? Was Nelson supposed to break inside and keep going? Or did Rodgers make the mistake reading it, or just make an inaccurate throw from short distance?
And last but not least was the Packers second field goal drive. Up 3-0, having settled for a field goal when Kuhn’s one-yard touchdown was overturned, and then Lacy was stuffed on 3rd and goal from the half-yard line, the Packers got the ball back again thanks to a fumble by Seattle, at their 23-yard line, a sure field goal at least.
On second and goal from the 6-yard line, McCarthy got Nelson matched up wide left, far way from Sherman, and Nelson twisted his cornerback around and got open in the end zone towards the pylon. No safety help, quick route with Rodgers having plenty of time to make the throw, like stealing candy from a baby, it would be an easy touchdown and 10-0 lead. Nope, Rodgers led him too far to the outside, playing it safe. The result would be a play later, another field goal from the 1-yard line, and just a 6-0 lead.
It very easily could have, and should have, been 14-0 at that point, not 6-0.
The two interceptions both came in Crosby field goal range, so that’s probably a minimum of six points. Or 10 points if they would have been able to get one touchdown and a field goal. And then this pass missing Nelson also cost the Packers four points.
That’s a minimum of 10 points wasted, and as much as 18 points left on the table, from those three poor throws from the NFL MVP that regular season, Aaron Rodgers.
In a game that went to overtime -because of prayers like fake field goals turning into touchdowns, and because of Morgan Burnett sliding down on an interception return with over five minutes to go instead of going Nick Collins and taking it to the house for your dagger- these points, any of them, were the difference in Seattle playing New England in that Super Bowl instead of the Packers.
America still wouldn’t have known who Brandon Bostick was if Rodgers had any of those three throws back. For those reasons, these are the top three throws I wish Rodgers had back.