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Aaron Rodgers = Marc Bulger?

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I know Aaron Rodgers was not (primarily) at fault for the second half collapse of the Packers last year, and I’m perfectly aware that Rodgers is getting absolutely no help from his pass protection unit this year.  Those are things that don’t (or at least shouldn’t) reflect on the quality of a quaterback’s play.  Rodgers, or anyone in his position, would struggle behind the Green Bay offensive line.  That’s a given.

But with all the aggregate evidence since week one of last year, I think I’m ready to conclude that Aaron Rodgers is not a top quarterback.  At least not yet.

Rodgers is a very fundamentally sound player who feels pressure and generally throws accurate passes.  Those are all traits of a good quarterback.  He seems to anticipate routes decently and has a quick release.  But Aaron Rodgers is a big time ball holder.  And in that case, he reminds me a lot of Marc Bulger.

Marc Bulger was a pro-bowler once upon a time.  Actually, twice: in 2003 and 2006, and he was pretty darn good in between as well.  In some respects, and in the opinion of many, he was a system guy on an extended stay after Mike Martz was dismissed.  Bulger is a well coached player who knows everyone’s role on the field and is a steady player who rarely has a personal missed assignment.  But Bulger was a ball holder, and though those players can have great years, having a high sack rate puts your career on a razors thin edge between success and failure.  Bulger was successful in this league for a long time, and he was a successful quarterback when he was roughly two standard deviations above the mean in completion percentage.  When he was doing that, setbacks in the offense doesn’t much matter.

But over the last two seasons and a handful of games, Bulger has become a 56% passer, and the ball holding tendencies he has always had is now killing drives.  Bulger played to the quality of his offense, and as his teams became under talented, Bulger moved from asset to liability.

And so it is for Aaron Rodgers.  In the same offense that Brett Favre once called the most talented team he ever had been around, Rogers completed 63.6% of his passes and posted a 93.8 passer rating.  But the continued emergence of Greg Jennings and stability of Donald Driver had a lot to do with that.  Those players are a constant on this team, and Rogers has really good numbers again this year.  But the rest of the receivers are in flux, and Rodgers’ sacks are costing the team wins, pure and simple.

How much of the ridiculous 11.8% sack rate is Rodgers?  A lot of it, but probably about 3.5% is directly attributable to below acceptable offensive line play and sample size issue.  But he’s holding the ball longer this year, and tonight, on the same field as Brett Favre, he certainly does not look as comfortable in his offense as Favre looks in his.  Can you blame him?  I don’t know.  His defense has not helped very much.

But Aaron Rodgers is no one’s franchise quarterback at this point.  He’ll probably make it to a pro bowl or two in his career, and there will be better days ahead than last year’s 6-10 disappointment, hardly Rodgers’ fault.  But when I watch Brett Favre, I see a lot of the Brett Favre of past days.  And when I look at Rodgers, I see a lot of glory-day Marc Bulger.  For better or for worse.

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