Sage Rosenfels is a former 12-year NFL quarterback who now writes, does radio, and podcasts about the NFL and college football.

What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers?

First, let me get something straight: I think the world of Aaron Rodgers, as I’ve said dozens of times on social media. I regularly describe him as the “Video Game Quarterback” on my radio shows and podcasts. I believe he’s the best quarterback in the NFL and every team in the league wishes they had him. I think Tom Brady’s the greatest quarterback of all time and I feel confident saying Bill Belichick, the greatest coach of all time, would trade Brady for Rodgers in about two seconds (and I think Brady is basically the same player he was six years ago).

That’s how good Aaron Rodgers is. He makes throws no quarterback has ever made, at least not in my lifetime. He can occasionally take a piece of chicken s— and turn it into the absolute best homemade chicken salad you’ve ever had – the kind your grandma used to make for a Fourth of July picnic with the perfect amount of mayo, celery, dark and white meat, and some special seasoning … You get my point. I think he’s really good.

So how come Rodgers is having the worst statistical year of his career? Why, to the professionally football-trained eye (mine), isn’t he his normal self? How come my 12-year-old daughter asked me last week, “Isn’t that the guy who used to be good or something?” Yes, it’s that bad. Or is it? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Here are some possible reasons he doesn’t look like the same quarterback from years past.

His team isn’t very good

Sure, by the looks of it, this Packers roster is solid. Their defense is definitely much improved. After ending the last few seasons in the middle to bottom half of the NFL, the 2016 Packers defense is ranked in the top 10.

So let’s check out the offense. They have a solid receiving corps led by Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. They have two old-school style running backs with Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Pro Football Focus had the Packers’ offensive line ranked third-best in the league coming into the season. Tight end Jared Cook, who came to Green Bay via free agency from the Rams, averaged a solid 47 catches during the last five seasons.

But look a little closer. For the last few years, the Minnesota Vikings have exploited the inability of the Packers’ wide receiver corps to separate versus man coverage. Other teams are now following the Vikings’ defensive game plan. Nelson is definitely not the same player after returning from a torn ACL. Cobb doesn’t have the size and strength to beat strong corners such as Xavier Rhodes consistently. Cook has been hurt and Richard Rodgers is very average. Come to think of it, the Packers haven’t had a real threat at the tight end position since Jermichael Finley back in 2013. A great quarterback without a weapon at tight end? That’s an issue.

At running back, Lacy and Starks are almost nonexistent in the passing game (and they’ve both been hurt at various times this season). They do a decent job on screens but are definitely not a threat to beat a linebacker one-on-one out of the backfield. To me, this is a huge problem. The Packers have the best thrower in football but their running backs aren’t a legitimate part of the passing game. Compare with New England: Tom Brady has two legitimate threats at tight end and the Patriots continue to sign/draft running backs who are dangerous receivers. The Packers’ roster is solid, but it isn’t set up to maximize Aaron Rodgers’ talents.

Too much on Rodgers’ shoulders

As a consequence of the team relying on him so heavily the last few years, Rodgers is possibly trying to do too much. This makes me think of Michael Jordan in his younger years, when the Chicago Bulls put so much on one great player’s plate that the team didn’t have a ton of success.

Football is the ultimate team sport and I don’t believe one player can consistently bear the load and be successful, as Rodgers has the last couple seasons. Maybe all this pressure to carry the team has finally gotten to him. I’ve always felt that if one player is struggling, it’s up to everyone else on the team to play better to take pressure off said struggling player. Allow Aaron to “manage” a few games and, if the Packers win, maybe he’ll get his groove back.

Expectations are too high

We’ve seen Rodgers win so many great games over the last eight years with his wizardry that we’ve gotten spoiled. Just check out his career stats – they’re nothing short of amazing and the dude plays in frigid Green Bay.

In 2008, Rodgers’ first year starting, he had a solid but not spectacular 93.8 passer rating. He followed that with a 103.2, 101.2, 122.5, 108.0, 104.9, 112.2, and came down to earth in 2015 with a 92.7. That was one heck of a run. Maybe we just got used to such spectacular play from him that our view of him is disjointed. It’s like we’re a kid born to parents who are oil tycoons. We have no frame of reference. While this is a possibility, numbers don’t lie, and neither does the expression of frustration on Aaron’s face during games.

Is he having personal issues?

No, not personnel issues like we’ve already covered – personal, as in family and friends, etc.

Before I dive into this, let me be the first to say I know nothing about Aaron’s personal life. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Well, I guess I know he dates Olivia Munn, but that’s really about it. I’ve hung out with Aaron a time or two. I trained with him for a week or so one summer and we had lunch to discuss playing with Favre and other things. But to say I would know anything about his personal struggles would be a misrepresentation. The reason I’m saying this is because I understand firsthand how personal issues can affect one’s play.

I had some issues when I played (everyone does) and I definitely saw teammates struggle with them. If things aren’t right off the field, it can put extra stress on a player, which can negatively affect performance on the field. I repeat, I know nothing about Aaron’s personal life. But that possibility can’t be taken off the table.

Maybe nothing is wrong with him

He’s only played six games this year. RELAX.

I do believe there is something wrong with the Packers’ offense, but it’s not the quarterback. My recommendation to Rodgers and the Packers is fairly simple: Go back to what you were doing a few years ago. Stop calling so many plays in the shotgun formation and get under center more often.

Running the ball out of shotgun simply isn’t as effective as when the quarterback is under center. Also, Rodgers was at his best when he would boot out of the pocket and hit big plays downfield. Fake it to those “running” running backs that you do have on your roster and give this receiving core time to get deep down the field. That’s when double moves happen. That’s when big plays happen. That’s a great way to let Aaron use his magical arm.

Buying time in the pocket is hard, and getting on the edge with nobody around is a heck of a lot easier. Quarterbacks who have to live their life from the shotgun end up taking a lot of hits. This leads to frustration.

This Green Bay team doesn’t have a top tight end and its receivers need extra time to beat man coverage. The running backs are only good at running the ball. The Packers need a better formula for success which matches their personnel.

To me, that means going back to basics. Ted Thompson needs to find Aaron Rodgers receiving weapons at all five eligible skill positions instead of just two. Problem solved, chicken salad served.

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