January 25, 2022

Why Aaron Rodgers' Packers Legacy Will Ultimately Be a Disappointment

Only a handful of quarterbacks in NFL history could ever compete with Aaron Rodgers' physical gifts. 

The three-time — and soon-to-be four-time — NFL MVP has incredible arm strength, pinpoint accuracy, and a knack for devastating defenses. 

Despite throwing just 59 passes by his third season and missing 19 games due to injury or rest, Rodgers sits 10th all-time in passing yards, fifth in touchdowns, second in passer rating, third in adjusted yards per attempt, first in interception rate, and 11th in touchdown rate. He never finished a full season with a completion rate under 60.7%, with most of his career coming before the huge boom in passing efficiency. He had more than eight interceptions just twice, and none since his third season starting.

Rodgers also reinvented himself after a small drought at the end of the Mike McCarthy era that came as his supporting cast diminished along with his overall risk-taking. Under head coach Matt LaFleur, Rodgers has once again been a devastating presence. And he's accomplished two of his finest seasons with one superstar receiver, a solid running back, and a remaining supporting cast that would rank as one of the worst few in the league.

It's likely Rodgers will win his fourth MVP trophy this season after helping the Packers to a 13-4 record with 4,115 yards, 37 touchdowns, a 68.9% completion rate, and just four interceptions. His efficiency is historic, and his highlight film is filled with jaw-dropping completions. He's the best pure passer I had ever seen until Patrick Mahomes.

Football has never been just about the quarterback. Yet it's hard as we sit on what may end up being the end of Rodgers' career, or career with the Packers at least, to not feel as though Rodgers' legacy in Green Bay falls short of what it should have been. Rodgers won his lone Super Bowl appearance, then proceeded to lose four NFC championship games. 

Unless we're comparing Rodgers to Tom Brady, many of Rodgers' playoff numbers are respectable. His 11-10 playoff record is fine, and it's notable that four of his losses came in overtime battles. He never touched the ball in those overtime games.

The Packers deserve some blame for Rodgers' lack of sustained success deep in the playoffs. Their resilience to maximize their roster through free agency and trades has clearly left them hampered in key matchups. The franchise had countless opportunities to acquire a veteran to push either their defense or offense over the top, but haven't even shown interest in most instances. 

When Rodgers did have one of the better receiving corps in the NFL, the Packers defense was no better than average and often let the offense down in key moments. In the last two seasons, it was the offense not playing well enough, as Davante Adams and Aaron Jones weren't enough to overcome opposing teams loaded with deeper playmaking groups. This past loss to San Francisco was especially painful since the Packers earned the top seed, and the 49ers had little outside of their own two stars to work with.

And yet, the Packers couldn't convert when it mattered most once again. This is where Rodgers' own shortcomings in the playoffs have plagued him. Throughout his career, he had only two exceptionally great playoff runs. The majority of his playoff appearances brought sharp declines in efficiency and effectiveness.

The 38-year-old is already an all-time great, but any chance he had at even greater claims has taken a big hit. Green Bay won't offer salvation any longer with their cap constraints in 2022, meaning if Rodgers only cares about winning, he'd need to leave and hope greener pastures await elsewhere.

Denver is appealing but he'd be joining a division with Mahomes and Justin Herbert, plus a conference with Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and maybe Deshaun Watson. Tennessee, Indianapolis, and Cleveland would also become much more potent with Rodgers but similar concerns exist. If Tom Brady retires, could Rodgers supplant him? New Orleans would be ideal but their cap situation is too limited unless Rodgers cuts his salary in half.

The reality sets in quickly as to where Rodgers goes from here. His pathway to being the GOAT is gone. Maybe it was never attainable because of what Brady has accomplished within the same timeframe, but there was once a time where the argument could have been made for Rodgers to be the most talented raw passer despite less team success.

Though he's still one of the most dangerous and enjoyable quarterbacks to ever play, Rodgers' playoff struggles and off-field attitude towards Covid have tainted his legacy. It's a shame because it feels as though the fans were the ones who lost out the most on his rare potential.

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration