GREEN BAY – Duh.
It’s hard to imagine a more indispensable player in the NFL today than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s reigning most valuable player at the apex of his career. Any list of most important players, in truth, begins and ends with him. Everyone else is a distant second.
The reason is twofold: No quarterback today has the skill set of Rodgers, who makes plays with his arm, his feet and his brain; and no team in the NFL has a more inexperienced backup than the Packers, who have Graham Harrell – the only No. 2 on current league depth charts never to have thrown a single regular-season pass in the NFL.
Rodgers, who was knocked out of two games during the 2010 season with concussions and missed what at the time appeared to be a critical late-season game against the New England Patriots as a result of the second, hasn’t had any problems with concussions since switching to a new helmet before the team’s run to the Super Bowl XLV title.
Rodgers finished last season having completed 343 of 502 passes (68.3 percent) for 4,643 yards (9.25 yards per attempt) with 45 touchdown passes and six interceptions (a 1.2 percent interception rate). He was sacked 36 times in 15 games and set an NFL record for single-season passer rating (122.5) while breaking the franchise record for touchdown passes and passing yardage before sitting out the meaningless regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions on Jan. 1.
“I’ve been asked that a bunch of times and my response has been he’s the entire package,” quarterbacks coach-turned-offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “He’s what you’re looking for in every aspect. He has great physical talent. He can move around, he has a strong arm, he’s accurate, he’s smart, makes good decisions, makes them quickly. All those things combined him make him, in my mind, the prototype of what you’re looking for in an NFL QB.”
With Rodgers calling the first-half plays as de facto offensive coordinator in that New Year’s Day game against the Lions, backup Matt Flynn threw for a team-record 480 yards and six touchdowns, a performance that helped him land a lucrative free-agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks and made some wonder how much of Rodgers’ success was system-based. There’s unlikely to be those questions this year about Harrell, and if the Packers lose Rodgers for any extended period of time, their season figures to go kaput.
Asked what he could do to help the reigning NFL MVP improve, new quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo wouldn’t say what goals he’s set with Rodgers. Clements, though, said some of those goals got Rodgers’ attention when presented to him.
“I don’t want to get into exactly what we did, but we set some goals for him where he kind of said, ‘Whoa,’” Clements said. “We’ll see.”
Now it’s up to Rodgers to reach those goals. If he does, the disappointment of a 15-1 season going up in playoff smoke could be replaced by a second Super Bowl title.
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