What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense?

Examining Rodgers' struggles versus Dallas and through the first six weeks this season -- and why he can still turn things around.

| 1 week ago
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense?

As much as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy are growing irritated of questions asking about what’s wrong with the Green Bay offense, there’s definitely a problem, and the questions will only intensify after their defeat to Dallas Sunday.

Rodgers ended the game with a PFF grade of 37.8, his second game of the season under 40, and unlike the first of those games, this one didn’t come against one of the league’s best defenses. Against the Vikings in Green Bay’s Week 2 loss, Rodgers was pressured on 12 of 42 snaps (28.6 percent), but this week he was only pressured on six of his 46 dropbacks (13 percent).

Rodgers had plenty of time in the pocket, but all too often he either just couldn’t pull the trigger or find receivers. On plays that had no pressure at all, Rodgers averaged 2.5 seconds with the ball in his hands. He got jittery in the pocket and took off with no pressure on the play four times, and those plays had no pressure on average 3.2 seconds into it.

The Packers’ pass protection is one element that is definitely not the problem in Green Bay. Of those six pressured dropbacks against Dallas that we referenced, one of those was of Rodgers’ own making. The offensive line combined to surrender just three total pressures.

Over the season, Green Bay’s offensive line has surrendered a total of only 27 pressures, 10 better than any other team in football, albeit on one fewer game than many. They have the league’s best pass-blocking efficiency score of 89.4, some distance clear of the next-best team at 86.8.


It’s always difficult to define why a great player is in a rut, but there seems little doubt that Rodgers is in one right now. Watching every throw of this game he was just a little bit off in a way we aren’t used to seeing him – or maybe more worryingly we are becoming used to seeing him. Rodgers missed on too many routine throws that he should be making, including some important ones in the overall context of the game.

The misses had been mounting up over the game, causing Green Bay to simply lose pace with a Dallas offense that was consistently scoring (another part of the team’s problem being the defense), but no play encapsulated Rodgers’ day more than the opening play of the final quarter. Green Bay ran a variation this four vertical play all game long, and this was pretty much the only time it was wide open. Rodgers went with a hard count that should have produced a flag, but that would have been just a bonus. He had wide receiver Randall Cobb wide open in the end zone for an easy score, and just missed him high. That’s a throw the old Rodgers makes in his sleep, but this current version is off by a yard.


Brett Favre was in the broadcast booth during the game, having appeared at halftime to see his name raised as part of the Packers ring of honor, and he talked about Rodgers “pressing” to try and right the ship, and that’s when things go wrong.

Typically, one of the features of his play is that Rodgers doesn’t make the critical mistake. He has the lowest career interception rate in NFL history at 1.6 percent. Only three players are under 2 percent all-time, and the other two are both at 1.9, so Rodgers is truly in a class by himself when it comes to avoiding the big error with the football.

In this game though even that deserted him, and he threw a terrible interception coming from a misread on the play. He simply never saw the dropping safety on one side of the field, and threw the ball right to where he was waiting. It’s an easy mistake to make, and one every QB falls foul of every now and then, but it’s the kind of mistake that Rodgers is historically good at avoiding, so when he comes up with one it’s worth drawing attention to.

Rodgers hasn’t become a bad quarterback – even in this game there were still some excellent plays from him, but they were all off-set and then some by the mistakes. Between the missed touchdown, the terrible interception, fumbling the ball in the shadow of the Dallas end zone on a QB-draw play, Rodgers was sinking in the quicksand.

The good news is that this offense still has components of success within it. It has the league’s best pass protection. Eddie Lacy is running well (he currently leads the league in PFF’s Elusive Rating), and as maligned as the receivers have been among fans, there are open plays to be had.

The Packers could afford to mix up the play calls a little bit, and vary their route depths at times, and the team could certainly use another option at the WR position — but their problems are not irreversible. Rodgers is stuck in a rut of play, and to use Favre’s term, is pressing to try and turn it around. It’s leading to more mistakes and bigger problems, but it just needs a few things to swing in his favor to get the old version of him we’re used to seeing back.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • ElyLake

    Ditto on McCarthy’s play-calling and offensive schemes. I think the Packers’ offense has become extremely predictable. Run Lacy twice, then try to convert on 3rd down. Or run Lacy once, then short pass, then try to convert on 3rd down. It was quite a contrast that Dallas’ first drive had NO third downs to convert, whereas GB had several on almost every drive.

    To me, Rodgers’ slump may have started at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, so that’s over a year. He seems just as mobile and his arm just as strong as ever, but timing issues and inability to see who is open make me wonder if his vision is somehow messed up. Otherwise I have no idea — maybe all stuff in his head? (Remember Crosby’s kicking slump a couple years ago that he eventually snapped out of?)

    Maybe I’ll have to resign myself to seeing the Vikings at the top of the NFC North for a while, until they figure this out.

    • nosoop4u

      You may have to resign yourself to that, even if they do figure it out.

      • ElyLake

        I can’t argue with that — Vikings are looking stronger (and better coached) every year…

      • William o’neal

        Packers will still win division
        Vikings 5-0
        Packers 3-2

        Week 7-Vikings at eagles-L, packers vs bears-W
        Week 8-Vikings at bears-W, packers at falcons-L
        Vikings 6-1
        Packers 4-3

        Week 9-Vikings vs lions-W, packers vs colts-W
        Week 10-Vikings at Washington-L, packers at titans-W
        Vikings 7-2
        Packers 6-3

        Week 11-Vikings vs cards-W, packers at Washington-W
        Week 12-Vikings at lions-L, packers at eagles-L
        Vikings 8-3
        Packers 7-4

        Week 13-Vikings vs cowboys-W, packers vs texans-W
        Week 14-Vikings at jaguars-W, packers vs seahawks-W
        Vikings 10-3
        Packers 9-4

        Week 15-Vikings vs colts-L(Luck is a difference), packers at bears-W
        Vikings 10-4
        Packers 10-4

        Week 16-Vikings at packers-packers W
        Packers 11-4(clinch)
        Vikings 10-5

        Week 17-Packers at lions-L, vikings vs bears-W

        Packers have better common opponents here 3-1 vs east and 4-0 vs south while vikings are 2-2 vs east and 3-1 vs south. Even if vikings did beat colts. All packers have to do is win the last game at Detroit to take the division record. Vikings are at a disadvantage going to Detroit on three days rest. And they really are not a lock to win in Chicago if Cutler is back.

        • Mike Weisel

          You really think turover prone luck is a good matchup vs vikings d?

          • Dylan Brescia

            Their offensive line performs way too poorly to match up against Minnesota. Their only real hope is that T.Y. Hilton can make some key plays before the pressure is on IMO.

        • Luke

          I only see the Cardinals, Cowboys, and a re-match against the Packers (at home) where the Vikings may lose; otherwise, it’s tough to make the argument that the Vikings lose more than 3 games this regular season without injuries factoring in.

        • WL- Minneapolis

          Care to make it interesting? I’ll take the Vikings on a $1,000 wager.

        • Berz

          Hahahahahahahahaha!! Thanks for the laugh!

        • angryguy77

          Drugs are bad mmmmmk

        • ANonnaMoose

          Once again, dumbest fans in the NFL.

    • Jacob Basson

      so far this season we pass more than we run on first downs, both overall and when only looking at drive-opening first downs.

    • GBPFan12

      If McCarthy were calling back to back runs with Lacy, we’d be fine..
      His play calling is the regular huddle up, various formations, balanced offense that’s been the only good thing this year.

      It’s the Rodgers “No Huddle” nonsense that’s predictable and automatic 3 & Out fodder. Guy said in the off season that he liked Peyton Manning’s Singleback no huddle offense with the colts…

  • John C

    All you have to do is look at when he starting dating.

    • ElyLake

      Oh c’mon — every other player is allowed to have relationships…..why is Rodgers different? Got anything other than the coincidental timing?

      • John C

        Who said he’s not allowed? I’m happy for him if he’s got a good relationship going. It’s IS pretty coincidental that when his QB play starting suffering (consistently and dramatically) is exactly when he starting dating. Can you think of any other major event in his life that would cause him to lose focus so much as this? especially another one that is timed so perfectly? Take a look at his QB rating history. Remember when the packers would consistently score 3 or 4 or more touchdowns? Previously he was consistently getting 30 pts higher in QB rating with one of the crappiest lines in the league. He made his crappy offensive line look GOOD. This year he has no excuse; the offensive line is phenomenal, and we have at least an average WR corps. He just needs to get his head in the game. He has become to complacent about his own abilities.

        • ElyLake

          All your stats are correct, but correlation does not equal causation.

          So unless you can point out WHY having a relationship with a beautiful woman would screw up his play (something that doesn’t seem to affect most other successful QBs) then it’s just coincidence.

    • Joe Doe

      Spot on! The one thing that a serious relationship does is calls into question every decision you make. Every little “are you really eating that?” and “are you sure you want to do that?” has him second guessing himself in every aspect of life. Moreover, he has to lie to her every time he tells her that her acting is good. None of this is healthy for a starting quarterback.

      • John C

        I couldn’t have said it better!

        • Joe Doe

          A kid doesn’t do well in school and the teacher asks if anything is different at home. It’s perfectly normal for someone not to be performing the same at work because of something going on at home. But apparently you can’t say the same thing about a quarterback.

          • John C

            Yes you can, and you did! And I agree! something IS going on at home (i.e. girlfriend)

      • Julie

        Other good QB’s still play good even though they are in relationships or married..

        • Drakulus

          Tom Brady is proof of that.

      • eYeDEF

        Since you never dated her, I’m wondering how you became so knowledgeable about Elizabeth Munn’s idiosyncrasies?

      • crosseyedlemon

        Haha! Apparently you’ve watched every episode of Dr Phil. but you really need to move out of your mom’s basement and stop resenting people who actually have a relationship.

    • packfriend

      The Internet says they started dating in April 2014. He won his second MVP the following season. Not to say that his personal life couldn’t be impacting his performance, but this particular take is demonstrably wrong.

  • Antileftist

    I wonder if Rodgers has gotten a little gun shy? He got beat up in that Denver game last season and hasn’t really been the same since. He doesn’t seem to set his feet as well as he used to. And his receivers aren’t helping as they don’t seem to be getting the separation they used to have. Rodgers seems to be holding the ball longer then he used to.

  • Kevin

    I’ve been saying for awhile now that Rodgers got so used to improvisation that now he only relies on it. He refuses to set his feet and get rid of the ball like any other successful QB in this league. I’m no QB coach but it seems too obvious that he needs to get back to the basics and just play QB like it’s meant to be played until he can work his way back to his previous success with improv.

    It doesn’t help that Jordy keeps dropping the ball. Everytime Rodgers does make a good throw Jordy manages to drop or fumble the ball. It’s happened at least 5-6 times the last 2 weeks. Two fumbles directly after the catch and 1 dropped pass resulted in a INT and multiple other critical drops that killed momentum.

  • martineast

    Agreed . Does seem like that Denver beat down started the slide. Seems like it made him more skittish.

    • Berz

      The Vikings 8 sacks on him didn’t help him either.

  • WL- Minneapolis

    Every time this story comes up, the obvious is never stated, so I will again.

    The Denver game last year showed the league how to beat GBs offense: press-man coverage to take away the short timing routes, contain Rodgers in the pocket, and force the low-percentage pass/throwaway/sack/turnover. Some teams don’t have the personnel to execute press-man, and in those games we hear the Packers offense is back. Like against Detroit. But good teams can go press-man and stop the Packers passing game, which gives the Packers a low ceiling when it comes to post-season.

    In the meantime, Rodgers is passing out of his prime, Jordy isn’t the deep threat he once was, and the rest of the Packers receivers are mediocre and can’t beat press-man. You can blame McCarthy and his offense and play-calling, but he doesn’t have the personnel or the knowledge (ie scheme change) to do much else. You can blame Ted Thompson for signing a bunch of mediocre receivers and tying up a lot of salary cap with Nelson and Cobb, but they used to be good until the system was found out.

    The Packers are around 27th in passing offense this year, which was about where they finished last year. This is about what’s wrong anymore. This is the new normal. Get used to it.

    • GBPFan12

      What short timing routes?

      The few times they run those (slants/curls/drags) – those “mediocre” receivers get open – only for their jittery QB to panic and abandon the play, forcing a stupid 40 yard back shoulder throw to Jordy.

    • Francis_Urquhart

      I think his slump started in the 2nd half of the Chargers game last year.

  • Backinmd

    Don’t know what to think about Rogers .. The best or one of the top three NFL QB for years ..Of course I can’t prove it but I think he is just burned out, bored with playing or both ..Watched the Cowboy game–ugh – and it seems he doesn’t have any enthusiasm, spark left in his game ..Kinda sounds silly but maybe he ought to cut back on his TV commercials ..He’s a shell of his former self going back to last year’s games ..Sure he doesn’t have to work another day in his life unless he wants to .. Been a Packer fan for years and it seems as if some of his teammates are getting long in the tooth .Rogers is missing open receivers on short routes that he could have made in his sleep the 1st ten games last year ..Know the 1st thing to go with a QB is arm strength …Is Rogers passing through his prime which started last year , the last six games of 2015 ..Remember Bret Farve’s last year with the Vikings a few years back …He started off with a bang but the last eight games or so his arm fell off and he retired ..Same thing with Joe Montana with KC his last year …

    • GBPFan12

      Look at that 60 something yard pass interference play against Detroit in week 3… Dude’s arm isn’t gone at all, scrambling to his left – flicks his wrist and the ball travels at least 70 yards.

      Dude is just sloppy and jittery.

  • crosseyedlemon

    PFF recently posted an article praising Derek Carr and he just claimed worst QB of the week award. If that form holds, then we can probably expect Rodgers to pass for 5 TDs against the Bears after this article.