Ted Thompson believes Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in football. So does Mike McCarthy and for that matter so do I. But, if Rodgers fails to come up big in yet another NFL playoff game Sunday, when the Green Bay Packers will face the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoff, then it might be time to seriously re-think where he falls in the QB pecking order.
It’s not that one game defines a career. And this game against the Cowboys certainly won’t define Rodgers. However, the fact that Rodgers and the Packers are just 1-3 in the postseason since winning the Super Bowl in 2010 is a disturbing trend. What’s even more disturbing is the way Rodgers has played in those losses. Yes, Rodgers often plays extraordinary. But in his last four playoff starts he has been anything but.
After posting passer ratings of better than 111 in four of his first five playoff starts, the 24th pick in the 2005 draft has managed just one passer rating of over 100 in his last four playoff starts (leading to a 1-3 record) with the one plus 100 game coming against the Minnesota Vikings in the 2012 playoffs, when the Vikes were without starting QB Christian Ponder.
Against the Giants in 2011, the 15-1 Packers lost at home 37-20 in the divisional round. Rodgers completed just 56 percent of his passes for 264 two touchdowns and one interception. He also lost a fumble. In 2012, against the San Francisco 49ers again in the divisional round, Rodgers was again outplayed. He did hit on 66 percent of his passes for 257 yards. He also threw two touchdowns and an interception. His passer rating was 91.5, which isn’t bad but in the playoffs being good just doesn’t cut it, you need to be great.
Then came the 2013 playoffs, when Rodgers that the Pack snuck in the tourney after #12 returned from an eight-week injury absence to beat the Bears in Week 17 and win the NFC North crown. Following that win, the Packers hosted the 49ers, with a golden opportunity to make a run at their fingertips. And once again Rodgers failed to deliver. That loss in my opinion rests on his shoulders more than any other player on the Green Bay roster.
The defense, which was supposedly Green Bay’s weakness, held Colin Kaepernick and the Niners to 23 points. The Packers should have been to score more than enough points to win. Yet, Rodgers simply didn’t bring his “A” game. He finished the game with just 177 yards passing and one touchdown. The Packers failed to get a first down on their first two possessions. Then, down 20-17 in the fourth quarter, facing a first-and-goal at the five-yard line, Rodgers couldn’t get his team into the end zone.
The Packers kicked a field goal to tie the game at 20-20. But in the playoffs, each field goal you kick, especially in the red zone, brings you one step closer to defeat. And on the Niners’ next possession, they milked the clock and kicked a game-winner.
While it may be unfair to place each loss at Rodgers’ feet. The fact is if he played at an elite level in any of those three games, the Packers would have won or at least would have had a much better opportunity to do so. So at this point, even though Rodgers may not be 100 percent on Sunday, he needs to deliver. He needs to win a big game and if he wants to prove he is the best quarterback in football, he needs to win games in January and February, just like he does from September through December.
Rodgers said himself that the standard of greatness in Green Bay is winning two Super Bowls, because that’s what Bart Starr did. And if he’s going to get that elusive second Super Bowl he has to start playing at an elite level once again in the playoffs, starting Sunday against Dallas. If he fails and the Packers lose a home playoff game for the third time in four years, his long-term legacy may soon come into question.