Packers 2018 Recap: Aaron Rodgers

There was odd poetry to Aaron Rodgers’ 2018 season.

In Week 1, he returned to play when he probably shouldn’t have. In Week 17, he was playing when he shouldn’t have at all. In Week 1, he made spectacular play after spectacular play to bring the Packers back from the brink. In Week 17, he left Lambeau Field in an ambulance. In Week 1, Mike McCarthy dialed back to 2014 to give Rodgers access to quick-throwing pistol sets that offset a ferocious pass rush. In Week 17, McCarthy was long gone, the ultimate loser in a season-long cold war between himself and Rodgers.

So what do we make of Rodgers’ 2018?

2018 Stats

  • 372 of 597 passing, 25 TD, 2 INT, 97.6 passer rating

  • 43 rushes, 269 yards, 2 TD

  • 3 fourth quarter comebacks, 3 game-winning drives

Expectations going into the season: High
Expectations were: Not Met

2016 analysis: Exceeded high expectations
2017 analysis: Did not meet high expectations

What we said after last season:

Like the 2013 season, Rodgers successfully rehabbed and returned from his broken collarbone. It’s unlikely we’ll ever know just how much work the quarterback put into his comeback. Here was a man doing everything in his power to return and save the Packers’ season, likely spending countless hours in physical therapy and mentally replaying the tackle that broke his right collarbone.

By Week 15, Rodgers convinced everyone inside Lambeau Field that he was healthy enough to rejoin the team. Green Bay was on the edge of the postseason and needed not only to win the season’s remaining three games but also have a few other games end in a favorable outcome.

Rodgers stumbled in his return against the Carolina Panthers, throwing three interceptions for just the third time in his career and the first time since 2009. In addition, he needed to call three time outs to avoid penalties for a delay of game. The Panthers blitzed more than half of the game, keeping Rodgers on the move all game long.

Even still, Rodgers had the Packers within 30 yards of a game-tying touchdown with two minutes left in the fourth quarter when Geronimo Allison fumbled and the Panthers recovered.

The magic Rodgers seems to possess showed up throughout the 2017 season, but he wasn’t on the field enough to lift the Packers into the postseason.

Analysis: Rodgers disappoints in 2018, but who’s to blame?

One of the most important and most exhausting debates centered around Aaron Rodgers’ apparently subpar play. To be fair to Rodgers, most NFL teams would at least Google the statute of limitations on certain crimes if it meant they could acquire what passes for subpar in Green Bay. But by his own stratospheric standards, Rodgers was astonishingly mortal in 2018.

The raw numbers are not kind to Rodgers. In six games, he completed 60% of his passes or less. His passer rating was below 90 in five. In three games (one shortened by injury), he averaged under six yards per attempt, a pathetically paltry sum.

More philosophically speaking, 2018 was the first time where defenses didn’t seem all that afraid of Aaron Rodgers. It’s a perception thing, to be sure, but more often than not, defenses seemed willing to just sit back and let Rodgers and the rest of the Packers offense bog themselves down.

So who’s to blame?

Mike McCarthy’s offense (unfairly maligned though it may often be) played a critical role, especially for the undue strain it put on both the Packers’ rookie receivers and newly acquired tight end Jimmy Graham. But the same scheme also produced a tremendous season by Davante Adams (and two previous MVP campaigns from Rodgers), so it can’t be fully saddled with the blame, either.

Rodgers can’t be exempt from criticism for his play this season, much though he may have disliked McCarthy’s playcalling. It’s clear that Rodgers didn’t play as well as he could have in 2018, whether you measure by his standards or anybody else’s. He has work to do to get back to where he’s expected to be in 2019.