The NFL on CBS Twitter account posted a stunning stat about Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The post said that Aaron Rodgers only has two seasons with 10 or more interceptions since taking over as the Packers starting quarterback.
They also included the amount of seasons for six other Hall of Fame, or sure to be Hall of Fame, quarterbacks who had significantly more of those seasons.
This post re-ignited the narrative that the reason Rodgers has only one Super Bowl appearance and win is because he does not take risks with the ball.
Although I see how it is possible to come to this conclusion when seeing that stat, that is just not true.
There are two different arguments inside this narrative.
Does Aaron Rodgers take enough risks with the ball? And would taking more risks lead to more rings for Rodgers?
Let’s start with the latter.
When you look at this list from CBS Sports you see Tom Brady (12 times), John Elway (16), and Peyton Manning (16) as the players who have multiple Super Bowl wins.
Also on the list you see Drew Brees (14), Dan Marino (14) and former Packers quarterback Brett Favre (18). Brees and Favre only have one Super Bowl win and Dan Marino famously never won one.
This stat is not indicative of playoff success otherwise we would be looking at Favre as the quarterback with the most rings.
This isn’t groundbreaking news but one of the most telling stats when it comes to winning games is the turnover battle.
Bill Huber wrote that during the 2022 regular season, the team who won the turnover battle was 166-41-1. That is 80 percent of the time.
Aaron Rodgers has been exceptional throughout his career with not turning the football over. He has 449 touchdowns to 93 interceptions in the regular season over his whole career. That then goes into 45 touchdowns to 13 interceptions in the playoffs.
His touchdown to interception ratio does go up in the playoffs, but if the risk taking and interceptions are supposed to help him in the playoffs, then he should surely have more playoff success than being 1-4 in NFC Championship games, where he also has eight of his 13 playoff interceptions.
In fact, Rodgers is 9-2 in playoff games when he doesn’t throw an interception, both losses coming against San Francisco in 2013 and last year. This record and win percentage, 81 percent, is very similar to his regular season mark when throwing no interceptions at 77 percent.
However when throwing a pick, he is a dumbfounding 2-8 in the playoffs which is drastically different than his still sub .500 record of 34-38 record in the regular season.
Rodgers has proven to be a good regular season quarterback winning four MVPs, and he has won the NFC North in eight of his last 11 seasons. But the last thing that Rodgers needs to do in the playoffs to win a championship is take more risks with the ball.
Now for the other part of the argument. Does he take enough risks?
Rodgers is so under appreciated with how many risks he takes with the football. He makes a risky throw look like a routine bubble screen.
Again, it has already been established that these issues are not in the regular season for Rodgers as he can get it done there, the question is can he get it done in January?
I believe that in order to evaluate the amount of risks that Rodgers takes we have to stick to looking at his more current playoff games — especially when you look at some of the playoff losses the Packers have suffered in Rodgers tenure and more specifically, in the Mike McCarthy era.
No one is going to hold the 2009 and 2015 losses to the Cardinals, the 2012 loss to the 49ers or the 2016 loss to the Falcons against Rodgers. I think the 2014 NFC Championship game is also not something to put on Rodgers but that one is up for debate.
So let’s just take a look at the five playoff games that Rodgers has played with Matt LaFleur at the helm.
2019 NFC Divisional vs the Seattle Seahawks
I thought this game was in hand for the Packers for the first half and then I saw nightmares of 2014 in the third quarter.
The Seahawks offense scored touchdowns on their first three drives to make a three score game at halftime a five point game with less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth.
But skipping to the last few minutes of the game, Rodgers took his most notable risk when they needed him the most.
On third down and eight Rodgers hit Davante Adams up the seam to get a first down that all but sealed the game.
The throw was perfect.
Rodgers put the ball just over the shoulder of Seahawks defensive back Ugo Amadi and Adams used his signature ‘late hands’ to reel it in before going out of bounds for a 32-yard gain.
He didn’t need to take many risks in this game to win but when he absolutely needed too, he delivered.
2019 NFC Championship vs the San Francisco 49ers
Well, I’ll just say it.
There was no amount of risks that Aaron Rodgers could have taken in this game to flip this outcome.
The 49ers kicked the Packers teeth in, just like they did when they met earlier that season. On the ground the 49ers put up 285 rushing yards and almost 7 yards per carry. The Packers defense also gave up the second most yards to an individual runner in a playoff game letting Raheem Mostert get 220 of them on his own.
Rodgers took two notable risks in this game, one was backbreaking, the other one was a trend with Aaron Rodgers.
Starting with the risk that I believe took the Packers out of this game, let’s look at the closing minute of the second quarter.
Down 20-0, the game certainly seemed out of reach, but a revitalized Packers offense took the field in the second half and this could definitely have been at best a 14 point swing but at worst it should have taken a touchdown off the board for San Francisco.
With all three timeouts still in the pocket for Green Bay, Rodgers did what he had only done four times in the previous 17 games that year. Threw an interception.
Rodgers got too aggressive on a second and long and tried to fit a ball into Geronimo Allison up the seam, but a poor throw by Rodgers put it right in the breadbasket of Emmanuel Moseley and the 49ers cashed it in on offense to make it a 27 -point lead heading into the half.
Now for a common occurrence for Rodgers.
Once the game was surely lost Rodgers made another throw that he probably regrets. Rodgers threw an unneeded arm punt intended for Adams but instead was picked off by Richard Sherman.
Neither of these risks decided the game but neither got them remotely close to them winning the game.
2020 NFC Divisional vs the Los Angeles Rams
Rodgers had two more unsuccessful risks in this game. But neither were intercepted.
Just because a risky throw falls incomplete, doesn’t mean the quarterback shouldn’t get credit for the idea.
As the second half was nearing, the Packers number one offense was driving down to extend the six point lead they had over the league’s number one defense.
After connecting with tight end Robert Tonyan for a 33-yard gain, Rodgers took two end zone shots.
With 14 seconds left, Rodgers risked throwing an interception by trying to loft a ball into the endzone for Allen Lazard. A slightly underthrown ball led to a drop by Rams corner Troy Hill and kept the game moving.
The very next play, Rodgers tested the Rams defense again. He threw a ball up the seam and tried to put it just over the shoulder of safety John Johnson III. Johnson turned around in the nick of time and undercut the route beautifully.
The ball fell incomplete but both throws were incredibly risky by Rodgers and neither would be talked about due to the fact that nothing amounted from them, except for a Mason Crosby field goal.
2020 NFC Championship vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This, along with the next game on the list, have been used against Rodgers for his lack of risk taking and I couldn’t disagree more about this game.
Rodgers took three pretty game changing risks and in the end of the game.
This risk worked out. The next one did not.
With around 30 seconds left in the first half, Rodgers made a throw up the seam to a tightly covered Allen Lazard.
As he does, Rodgers tried to catch the defender with his head turned, but unlike the throw dropped by John Johnson the week before, Sean Murphy-Bunting reeled in the pass for Tampa Bay.
A slight underthrow from Rodgers and a less than slight hold of the shoulder pads by Murphy-Bunting turned what could have been a 20-plus gain on second down into a disastrous end of the half for the Packers. Of course what followed that throw was the dropped interception by Will Redmond and then the blunder by Kevin King.
Rodgers has made that exact same throw many times in his career. He made it in Week 12 of 2014 against the Vikings to Randall Cobb. He also made it later in this game.
With less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Rodgers put the ball just over the top of Murphy-Bunting’s head, and MVS made the catch.
Later this drive was the most criticized three play stretch of Aaron Rodgers career.
The Packers had first down and goal from the eight yard line. After two incompletions by Rodgers, they needed Rodgers to take a risk to get the ball in the endzone.
And on third down, he did.
Rodgers took the snap from the gun and started to move up and through the pocket.
He then had to make a decision on what to do next.
Run the ball with Ndamukong Suh and Shaquil Barrett on his heels and have to beat Devin White and Carlton Davis to the pylon, or throw it back across his body and fit it into an extremely difficult window to the best wide receiver in football?
Rodgers chose to try and make the throw that mirrored the decision of Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC Championship game. Threw it back across the middle.
The throw would end different than Favre’s throw, but ultimately was equally as effective.
The risk that Favre took ended in a Saints interception. The risk that Rodgers took ended in an incompletion.
The Packers would end up suffering the same fate as the Vikings with an NFC Championship game loss.
But now onto the most recent Packers playoff loss to the 49ers.
2021 NFC Divisional vs the San Francisco 49ers
This game is fair to criticize.
Rodgers played it fairly safe the entire game and only had completions to four different pass catchers. Adams and Aaron Jones each had nine catches. Rodgers other two completions were split between Lazard and Marcedes Lewis. Lewis’ only catch ending in a drive killing fumble.
Rodgers and the Packers offense seemed very different following the veteran tight end’s fumble.
He had 70 passing yards on six passing attempts up until that point in the game with four minutes left in the first quarter. Then for the last 49 minutes of the game Rodgers only had 155 passing yards, with 75 coming on an Aaron Jones reception to set up the, eventually blocked, field goal attempt before halftime.
But late in the game Rodgers had the opportunity to make one play. One very easy play.
All he had to do was hit a wide open Lazard over the middle on third down and the Packers would have been in business to kill the clock and line up for a field goal attempt that certainly wouldn’t have been a gimme, but one they would have liked their chances on.
Instead Rodgers threw up an unneeded arm punt to Davante Adams. Late in a playoff game. Against the 49ers. Sound familiar?
He took an unneeded risk and made a costly unforced error which happened to be the death knell in the Packers 2022 campaign.
I think there is definitely room to criticize Aaron Rodgers playoff performances. He hasn’t been the sharpest in his playoff appearances, especially against the 49ers, and when he loses in the playoffs, he generally loses in ugly fashion.
But, to say that part of the reason for Aaron Rodgers playoff shortcomings is due to his lack of risks being taken is ludicrous.
Does Aaron Rodgers need to be better in playoff games, and more importantly, home playoff games and NFC Championship games? Yes.
Is he going to do that by putting the ball in harm’s way more than he already does? No.