NFL

Rodgers stand-off could stall Green Bay's Super Bowl ambitions

By Sports Desk May 28, 2021

"With my situation, look, it's never been about the draft pick, picking Jordan."

Aaron Rodgers this week broke his silence amid his stand-off with the Green Bay Packers, which cast a shadow over the 2021 NFL Draft as his desire for a trade was revealed last month and has left a perennial NFC contender to start their preparations for the upcoming season without the league MVP, insisting his push to leave has nothing to do with them selecting his heir apparent, Jordan Love, in the first round in 2020.

"It's just kind of about a philosophy and maybe forgetting that it is about the people that make the thing go," said Rodgers on ESPN's SportsCenter. 

"It's about character, it's about culture, it's about doing things the right way."

But whatever Rodgers' reasons for his self-imposed exile, the reality for the Packers is that the longer this episode drags on, the more it becomes about Love and the potential drop-off from a future Hall of Fame quarterback to one who did not even suit up for a game as a rookie.

Just how precipitous could the decline in play from Rodgers to Love be if the three-time MVP does not return to play the 2021 campaign? Stats Perform analysed the data to look at the scale of the challenge the Packers may face if they have to turn the keys to the offense over to Love in the coming season.

Rodgers' finest hour?

Most quarterbacks in the NFL would struggle to live up to the standard Rodgers produced in 2020, as his skill set and Matt LaFleur's offense – with its roots in the ultra quarterback-friendly Kyle Shanahan attack – coalesced to devastating effect.

Rodgers completed 70.7 per cent of his passes, the highest mark of his career in seasons in which he attempted at least 200 throws, for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns and five interceptions.

That equated to a TD-INT ratio of 9.60, the second-best of his career behind a 2018 season where he threw only 25 touchdowns, as Rodgers outperformed each of his prior MVP seasons in 2011 (7.50) and 2014 (7.60) in that regard.

There is a case to be made, therefore, that the 2020 campaign was Rodgers' finest to date, and it is one furthered by the advanced metrics.

Rodgers' well-thrown percentage, which measures how often a quarterback delivers an accurate, well-thrown ball, was 82.4, third in the NFL behind Philip Rivers and Ryan Tannehill.

In other words, Rodgers' completion percentage was no accident. He produced on-target throws at an extremely high rate and did an excellent job of avoiding turnover-worthy passes.

Indeed, Rodgers was also third in the NFL in pickable pass percentage, which analyses how often a throw is interceptable by the defense. Only Alex Smith (2.12%) and Tom Brady (2.20) threw a lower percentage of interceptable passes than Rodgers (2.23).

Rodgers has not thrown double-digit interceptions since the 2010 season, when he led Green Bay to Super Bowl glory, and he suffered only 19 sacks for negative yardage in 2020. At this stage in his decorated career, Rodgers possesses a masterful knowledge of how to maximise his offense's potential to produce positive plays and limit defenses' opportunities for game-changing takeaways.

Without any NFL experience, Love's ability to do the same is questionable at best after a turnover-laden end to his collegiate career.

A bemusing bet on Love

The Packers' decision to trade up in the first round in 2020 to select Love as Rodgers' eventual successor was a contentious one not just because they eschewed the chance to boost the supporting cast of wide receivers in a historic draft at the position. Planning for the future at the game's most important spot is advisable but making that move for a quarterback coming off the 2019 season Love endured was always likely to raise eyebrows.

After an impressive 2018 in which he threw 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions for Utah State, Love experienced a hugely underwhelming 2019.

Love's 17 interceptions were the most in the FBS in a year that saw his touchdown total dip to 20, while his completion percentage of 61.9 was only good enough for 54th in the FBS.

And his struggles in connecting with his receivers and issues with turning the ball over were a consequence of Love's consistent failure to produce accurate throws.

Love's 2019 well-thrown percentage of 66.74 was well below the average of 73.20 for Power 5 and Group of 5 quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts.

Thirty-eight of his passes were considered interceptable, giving him a pickable pass percentage of 8.21 that was the third-worst among signal-callers to meet that 100-throw threshold. 

When under pressure his well-thrown percentage declined further to 54.89 per cent and his pickable pass rate increased to 12 per cent.

A quarterback struggling when he feels the pressure is no surprise, but the shortcomings Love displayed when operating from a clean pocket and when under duress while playing against largely non-Power 5 opposition makes the prospect of him facing NFL defenses after a season on the bench a very alarming one.

Should he start in 2021, Love will have the benefit of something he lacked during his final year at Utah State, a supporting cast capable of elevating his game.

Stellar safety nets

While much has been made of the lack of investment in Rodgers' receiving weapons, whoever plays under center in 2021 will be playing with arguably the premier wideout in the NFL in Davante Adams.

He racked up 1,374 yards, the second-highest mark of his career, while leading the league in yards per game (98.1) and receiving touchdowns (18). Adams was also top of the charts in burn yards per route (3.9) among receivers to play at least 50 snaps in 2020.

The apparent telepathy Rodgers and Adams enjoy powered the Packers' run to the NFC Championship Game last season, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling also displayed intriguing progress.

With 45 burns – which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is catchable or not – on 61 targets, Valdes-Scantling was eighth in burn percentage (73.8), second in burn yards per target (18.96) and fourth in big-play percentage (46.1) while recording the third-highest average depth of target (18.1) of all receivers with 50 snaps to their name.

Running back Aaron Jones was re-signed this offseason and could offer an extremely valuable safety net for a young quarterback having flourished in the zone-running scheme employed by LaFleur, posting a career-high rushing yards total of 1,104 and leading all running backs in yards before contact per attempt with 3.65.

Though Adams and Jones are unquestionably elite weapons, a lack of depth at receiver has long since been an issue. The third-round selection of Amari Rodgers this year was a belated attempt to address it but was obviously a pick made with giving Rodgers a dependable slot option in mind.

Rodgers' incredible consistency in delivering accurate balls to all levels of the field has helped Adams to grow into one of the NFL's most feared players at the receiver position and unquestionably played a role in Valdes-Scantling's recent development.

With Love bereft of experience and the ball-placement proficiency that has contributed significantly to Rodgers becoming an all-time great, it is highly debatable whether he could build the same kind of rapport with Adams and Valdes-Scantling or help Amari Rodgers quickly blossom in the slot.

The Packers are a team for whom the Super Bowl has frustratingly proven a step too far in the past two years. Rather than enabling them to take that leap in 2021, a switch from Rodgers to Love is more likely to put them in reverse in the short term. For Green Bay to realise the potential of a loaded roster, it is imperative Rodgers is the first to blink in this most public of staring contests.

Related items

  • Tokyo Olympics: Durant and Team USA roll with the punches to bring gold closer Tokyo Olympics: Durant and Team USA roll with the punches to bring gold closer

    Kevin Durant admitted Team USA were caught with "a nice haymaker" from Australia before clambering to their feet and reaching another Olympic final.

    The Americans scored a 97-78 victory at the Saitama Super Arena, putting a fourth successive gold medal at the Games within reach.

    But at one stage in the second quarter Durant and co trailed 41-26, with the Australian Boomers making a fast and purposeful start to the semi-final that they could not maintain.

    It was at the point the USA side fell 15 points behind that they took a timeout, and from that stage onwards they dominated, Durant leading the team with 23 points and nine rebounds.

    Australia shot just 25 of 61 – 41 per cent – from the field, whereas USA managed 38 of 74 and dominated the boards 44-29 in what became a convincing victory.

    "We've been down 15 in games before and came back," Durant said. "It doesn't matter what level it was at, or where it's at. A lot of guys have been in that position before. We know how to handle ourselves.

    "We kept our composure and we knew that we could get back into the game pretty fast, if we got stops and got out and ran. So we've got to give credit to Australia because they came out and hit us with a nice haymaker, but we were able to get back up and get that lead back."

    It came as no surprise to Durant that Australia began as they did.

    "We knew Australia would come out fast and hit us with a nice punch. We know that teams want to get us down early, see how we respond," said the Brooklyn Nets star.

    "A lot of these guys got continuity for years and years, so they know how to play with each other. I feel like a lot of teams are expecting us to fold early.

    "We stuck with it, stuck with our principles, made a couple of switches on defence, and we were able to get some momentum going into the half. Guys came out with that intensity, making shots as well."

    The 32-year-old Durant is chasing a third gold medal of his Olympic career, having played on the London 2012 and Rio 2016 teams.

    For Jrue Holiday, who is coming off an NBA championship-winning season with the Milwaukee Bucks, this is a first Olympic experience.

    Like Durant, he saw no need for panic after Australia began Thursday's semi-final so strongly.

    By half-time, Australia's lead had been cut to just 45-42, and a 32-10 third quarter for the USA showed their firepower.

    "I think we played the game long enough to know that there's always a chance," Holiday said. "So we took that six minutes in the second quarter and kind of ramped it up, and went into half-time in the position that we liked."

    Australia have finished fourth in Olympic men's basketball four times, never going further and claiming a medal.

    They will have a bronze-medal game to come in Tokyo and must pick themselves up to go again.

    Jock Landale scored 11 points against the USA, and the Melbourne United star accepted it was tough for Australia to keep up their early high level.

    "It's hard. It's really hard. They're great basketball players, they're smart basketball players," Landale said.

    "They figure out what you're doing and they just find ways to exploit it. I think we started turning the ball over in that third quarter and they were just living in transition, and that's tough to beat. They're the most athletic guys in the world, so I think that's probably where we lost them."

  • Scherzer lands 10 K's in Dodgers debut, Gausman finds form for Giants Scherzer lands 10 K's in Dodgers debut, Gausman finds form for Giants

    Max Scherzer has started life with the Los Angeles Dodgers in style, tossing down 10 strikeouts in their 7-5 victory over the Houston Astros in MLB on Wednesday.

    Scherzer joined the Dodgers from the Washington Nationals upon last week's MLB Trade Deadline.

    The 37-year-old right-hander had 10 K's across seven innings, only allowing five hits and two runs.

    Scherzer becomes the seventh pitcher to strike out 10 or more players in their first Dodgers start since the franchise moved to Los Angeles.

    The pitcher's display fuelled the 52,724 fans at Dodger Stadium, sparked after striking out Jose Altuve on four pitches.

    "The crowd was definitely into it and you can feed off that, you definitely get some adrenaline from that," Scherzer said.

    "To go out there and pitch well and to have the fans ask for a curtain call for me, I've never had that happen, so that's a cool moment and something I'll never forget."

    Baez stars for Mets, Gausman finds form

    Javier Baez dazzled in the New York Mets' 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins that ended their three-game losing run. Baez hit a solo homer in the eighth but also completed an incredible second-inning slide for home plate.

    San Francisco Giants pitcher Kevin Gausman re-captured some form as he sent down eight strikeouts across six innings as they triumphed 7-1 over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Two-way star Shohei Ohtani always elicits a lot of excitement but he had no at-bat impact yet tossed down six strikeouts across six innings, allowing only one earned run, in the Los Angeles Angels' 2-1 win over the Texas Rangers.

    New recruits Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson all delivered for the Atlanta Braves, with the former pair homering and the latter with a double in their 7-4 victory over the St Louis Cardinals.

    Bryce Harper starred again with his 17th home run of the season as the Philadelphia Phillies won 9-5 over the Washington Nationals.

    Mejia tough shift for Indians

    The Cleveland Indians had mounted a good run in the American League Central but their 8-6 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays leaves them 52-53, having lost three of their past four games. They were not helped after trailing 8-0 after three innings as Jean Carlos Mejia allowed seven hits and eight earned runs early.

    Rizzo makes Yankees history

    Anthony Rizzo hit his third New York Yankees home run to become the first player with RBI in each of his first six games in their long franchise history as they won 10-3 over the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees have been around since 1903.

    Wednesday's results 

    Cincinnati Reds 6-5 Minnesota Twins
    Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 Seattle Mariners
    Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 Pittsburgh Pirates
    Oakland Athletics 5-4 San Diego Padres
    Philadelphia Phillies 9-5 Washington Nationals
    New York Yankees 10-3 Baltimore Orioles
    Toronto Blue Jays 8-6 Cleveland Indians
    Boston Red Sox 4-1 Detroit Tigers
    New York Mets 5-3 Miami Marlins
    Los Angeles Angels 2-1 Texas Rangers
    Kansas City Royals 9-1 Chicago White Sox
    Atlanta Braves 7-4 St Louis Cardinals
    Chicago Cubs 3-2 Colorado Rockies
    San Francisco Giants 7-1 Arizona Diamondbacks
    Los Angeles Dodgers 7-5 Houston Astros

     

    Mariners at Yankees

    Rizzo will look to continue his hot form for the Yankees (58-49) when they host the Seattle Mariners (58-51) in the first of their four-game series.

  • Tokyo Olympics Recap: 'Nerves got better' of Holloway in hurdles, USA into basketball gold medal match Tokyo Olympics Recap: 'Nerves got better' of Holloway in hurdles, USA into basketball gold medal match

    Favourite Grant Holloway said nerves got the better of him after finishing second to Jamaica's Hansle Parchment in the men's 110 metres hurdles Olympic final.

    The American led at the halfway mark but faded over the final 20 metres as he was beaten by his 31-year-old rival.

    Parchment triumphed with a season-best time of 13.04 seconds, ahead of Holloway in 13.09, lucky to scrape ahead of Jamaican Ronald Levy who took bronze with 13.10.

    Holloway and Parchment had run in the same heat and semi-final prior to the final, with the American winning both, before falling short in the all-important race.

    "I think the anxiousness and the nerves got the better of me towards the end and I got sloppy with my form," Holloway said. "He got me this time but I'll make sure I get him in the next."

    He added: "Hats off to Hansle for an amazing race. I was watching him when I was in high school. He's a hell of a competitor. He has an amazing race plan, he executed to the best of his ability."

    Parchment admitted he learned from losing to Holloway in the previous two runs.

    "I made some changes to my start, because I knew if I was going to catch up, I had to be closer in the first half," Parchment said. "I think I ran through pretty well. I maintained composure. It was a great race."

    Portugal's Pedro Pichardo earned gold medal glory with a national record 17.98m in the men's triple jump.

    Pichardo's triumphant effort came with his third attempt, while China's Zhu Yaming claimed silver with a personal best of 17.57m. Burkina Faso's Hugues Fabrice Zango took the bronze with 17.47m.

    USA's defending champion Ryan Crouser threw an Olympic record 23.30m to win the men's shot put gold.

    Crouser bettered the Olympic mark he set five years ago in Rio de Janeiro to win from countryman Joe Kovacs (22.65m), while New Zealand's Tomas Walsh (22.47m) claimed bronze.

    EARLY SCARE AS USA REACH FINAL

    The United States trailed by 15 points in the second quarter against Australia but rallied to qualify for the men's basketball gold medal match.

    USA won 97-78 over Australia, who have never won an Olympic medal in men's basketball having finished fourth four times.

    The Boomers had raced to a commanding position early on as Team USA struggled from beyond the arc.

    Yet the reigning Olympic champions reduced the margin to three points by half-time and went up several gears with a 32-10 third quarter.

    Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant top-scored again with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Devin Booker had 20 points.

    USA will face either France or Slovenia in the final as they chase a fourth straight gold medal.

    CARRINGTON MAKES NEW ZEALAND HISTORY

    New Zealand's Lisa Carrington added a third Tokyo 2020 gold medal to her haul, landing the title in the women's kayak single 500m final.

    Carrington claimed her fifth-ever Olympic gold with a strong victory in 1:51.216, from Hungary's Tamara Csipes and Denmark's Emma Jorgensen.

    She becomes the first athlete from New Zealand to win five Olympic gold medals, surpassing the four of Ian Ferguson, also in canoe sprint between 1984 and 1988.

    Carrington is the fourth woman at Tokyo 2020 to win three gold medals, after Australian swimmers Emma McKeon (four) and Kaylee McKeown (three) and South Korean archer An San (three).

    GERMAN ADDS GOLD IN OPEN WATER

    After winning bronze in the 1,500m in the pool, Germany's Florian Wellbrock won the men's marathon swimming in open water.

    Wellbrock won in one hour, 48 minutes and 33.7 seconds across 10 kilometres, finishing 25.3 seconds ahead of Hungary's Kristof Rasovszky for silver, with Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri earning bronze.

    The size of the German's victory was the biggest margin in Olympic marathon swimming history.

    “It’s a little bit unreal," Wellbrock said. "The first seven (kilometres) of this race felt really easy."

    AUSSIE SKATEBOARDING WINNER

    Keegan Palmer won Australia's first-ever skateboarding gold medal with two amazing runs in the men's park final.

    The 18-year-old's first run scored 94.04 before a throwaway second round. Palmer backed it up on his final run with a staggering top score of 95.83.

    Brazilian Pedro Barros was next best with 86.14 for silver, while Cory Juneau claimed bronze with 84.13.

    The event was the final skateboarding medal opportunity from the sport in its debut Olympics.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.