The Green Bay Packers’ improbable Hail Mary-driven win over the Detroit Lions in Week 13 may have come at the right arm of Aaron Rodgers, but that doesn’t mean the Packers can lean on Rodgers to fix all that ails them this season.
Rodgers is perhaps the best quarterback in the league today, but you wouldn’t know it if this were the only season of his that you had watched.
In 2015, Rodgers is completing a career-low 60.5 percent of his passes as a starter, and his passer rating of 97.4 is the second-lowest one he’s posted since 2008.
Rodgers has, however, already rushed 44 times this season for 260 yards, putting him on pace for 64 attempts and 378 yards, which respectively would tie and break his career highs.
That stat, in a nutshell, helps to sum up what’s wrong with the Packers offense this year.
Diluting the problem down to its simplest level brings us to the conclusion that Rodgers has to do too much, and that he’s really not capable of excelling given everything that has been heaped on his back this season.
To start, the offense has been over-simplistic. That could be a factor of associate head coach Tom Clements taking over play-calling duties from head coach Mike McCarthy.
It could also be a side effect of the lack of Jordy Nelson, meaning that essentially the entire downfield game has been either cut from the game plan or extremely limited, given the personnel on the field.
Ah, the personnel. Where to begin with them?
It’s easy to see that Rodgers is growing frustrated with his pass-catching corps, which on the whole is a young one and very green.
While veteran James Jones has played nine seasons in the NFL and Randall Cobb, five, every other wide receiver — Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, and Ty Montgomery — has played two or fewer seasons.
It’s the same case with the tight ends, except now that veteran Andrew Quarless has returned, it could energize the offense.
Rodgers has not been afraid to go public with his concern about his teammates’ preparation — or lack thereof — but it’s not clear whether the quarterback’s comments are motivating or offending his receivers.
“Being a pro is all about making sure you're as ready as possible by the time the game hits,” Rodgers said this week, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “ I think that's the important thing for guys to remember here, especially young guys.”
However his weapons are preparing, it doesn’t appear to be working. Adams, Jones, and Cobb all have multiple drops on the season, many of them critical catches that could have put points on the board.
Jones dropped a sure touchdown in the end zone against the Chicago Bears in Week 12, and Adams dropped another end-zone pass on the same drive when he jumped in front of a throw intended for Cobb.
While Rodgers has attempted to make up for the errors of his teammates by tucking the ball and running or dancing in the pocket to extend plays, there’s ultimately only so much he can do on his end of the ball. He cannot catch his own passes.
So unless Rodgers can scramble for 300-plus yards in a game, he needs help. He needs it from his offensive line, which has taken a step back in pass-protection this season; he needs it from his run game, which is finally getting going again behind Eddie Lacy; but most of all, he needs it from his pass-catchers.
Unfortunately for the Packers, while Rodgers can mask many flaws within this offense, he can’t carry it through the final quarter of the season.
While the final seconds against the Lions was improbable and historical, it’s not sustainable.
Making the playoffs will have to be a concerted team effort.
All statistics and NFL rankings are courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.