A few weeks ago I pointed out to some of my colleagues here that Aaron Rodgers, while undeniably talented and very fun to watch, is overrated.
This was immediately deemed a hot take, the sort of thing that you say when you’re trying to get attention, but which is so ridiculous on its face that it’s not worthy of serious consideration. So I did what any reasonable columnist would do: I doubled down and I dug in.
Before today’s 31-26 home loss in the NFC Championship Game to the wild card Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there was already a case against Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers is 1-3 in Conference Championships.
Only Ken Stabler (1-4), Donovan McNabb (1-4) and Tom Brady (9-4) have lost more Conference Championships. pic.twitter.com/8xhNsGGXGE
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 24, 2021
Rodgers is now 1-4 in the NFC Championship Game. Other quarterbacks who lost four conference championship games include Donovan McNabb and Ken Stabler. No one is putting either of those guys in the top three all-time at the quarterback position, which somehow is a thing that happens where Rodgers is concerned with national NFL commentators:
— Dave Dameshek (@Dameshek) January 23, 2021
Rodgers has had so many bites at the NFC Championship apple because, like Tom Brady, Rodgers has spent his whole career playing in a division with perennially mediocre-to-awful teams in it. When your path to the playoffs includes two games against the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears every year, the walk isn’t that slippery or that steep.
So yes, Rodgers has a regular season record of 126-63-1. After today, though, his playoff record is 11-9, a whisker better than .500. Let’s put that record into perspective. Troy Aikman also finished his career with 11 playoff wins. But his career ended early at age 34, by which time he had won three Super Bowls. Similarly, Roger Staubach won 11 playoff games in his career. But that was before the expanded playoffs presented quarterbacks on good regular season teams with extra home playoff games against weak wild cards. And Staubach has two rings.
We can talk now about Rodgers’ one Super Bowl win if you want, but only if you’re willing to accept that the following quarterbacks have also won one Super Bowl: Nick Foles, Jim McMahon, Mark Rypien, Joe Flacco, Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer. Look, I didn’t put Rodgers on that list — Rodgers put Rodgers on that list.
But wait, there’s more. Rodgers is a terrific front-runner — many elite quarterbacks on good teams are — but he’s not the guy you want to bring you back from a deficit in the playoffs:
Aaron Rodgers is 1-7 in his postseason career when trailing at halftime (only win: 2014 Divisional Playoffs vs Cowboys). https://t.co/ZeYgM6TAAO
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) January 24, 2021
Well…it’s 1-8 now. And Rodgers’ fingerprints were all over today’s loss. His ill-timed interception near the end of the first half gave Tampa Bay the ball near midfield, and the Buccaneers extended their lead to 21-10. Putting it more simply, Rodgers’ interception cost his team seven points in a game they lost by five. Brady threw three second-half interceptions and yet the Packers never even tied the game.
And any argument that Rodgers is anything more than a regular season phenomenon was crippled by the game’s end.
Down eight with 4:33 left, Rodgers drove the Packers to the Buccaneers’ 8-yard-line with 2:22 still to play. Three incompletions later, Packers coach Matt LaFleur decided that kicking a field goal and giving Tom Brady the ball back was preferable to giving Rodgers another chance to score a potential game-tying touchdown. You’ll never believe this, but the Packers never got the ball back.
Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback. You’re playing at home. You’ve come back from 18 points down to make it an 8-point game. How do you justify kicking a field goal on fourth and goal at the 8-yard line and giving the ball back to Tom Brady with two minutes left in the game?
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 24, 2021
Maybe LaFleur’s decision was influenced by the fact that Rodgers had also failed to get the Packers into the end zone from first and goal from the six in the second quarter.
Regardless, if Rodgers was all he is supposed to be, a top-3 (or top-5, or whatever) all-time quarterback, at home, as a #1 seed, one game from the Super Bowl, there is no way to take the ball out of his hands. But that’s what the Packers did.
And so it’s another aborted Super Bowl run for Rodgers, a player who will get you all the regular season miracles you can handle, but isn’t much fun to watch in the playoffs.
Unless, of course, you have the Packers’ opponent on the money line.
Aaron Rodgers is every Packers fan right now. pic.twitter.com/U6UTqnQRBP
— Scott Grodsky (@ScottGrodsky) January 24, 2021