The highest-rated passer in NFL history is mired in a small mid-prime slump, and it’s hard to determine what exactly is holding Aaron Rodgers back.
All we know is the Packers are stuck in a three-game losing streak — the first such streak Rodgers has experienced since 2008, his first season as the team’s starter. And they’re actually underdogs this week for a crucial game in Minnesota. That can be at least partially explained by the fact Rodgers just hasn’t been himself.
Some potential clues as to why this could be happening:
1. He’s not getting as much support as he’s used to from his running game. Eddie Lacy has been a mess and is averaging an abysmal 3.7 yards per carry.
2. No Jordy Nelson. The Packers offense didn’t seem to skip a beat without Nelson in September, but it’s possible opposing defenses have wised up and the loss of a star receiver is in fact taking its toll on Green Bay.
3. Head coach Mike McCarthy admits Rodgers is “banged up” and he’s listed as limited on the Green Bay injury report with a right shoulder injury.
4. McCarthy gave up play-calling duties after botching the NFC championship game last year. But that screw-up was more of an indictment on McCarthy’s game-management skills, and it appears Tom Clements is not doing anything McCarthy couldn’t as a play-caller. Maybe Green Bay tried to fix what wasn’t broken.
It has sometimes appeared as though Rodgers isn’t trusting those around him. He’s looked oddly skittish in the pocket and his chemistry with his receivers is off. And opposing defenses are zeroing in and locking up receivers on short and intermediate routes because the Packers lack deep threats in the receiving game.
When you consider all of that, it’s not as surprising to see Rodgers back within earth’s orbit. But my money’s on one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time finding a way to break out of this slump, just as Tom Brady did after the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots found themselves in a similar hole last season.