If the NFL world isn’t careful, the criticism of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will enter Jay Cutler territory before it knows it.
Rodgers is apparently awful. He’s why the Packers are 3-2 this year and why their offense has struggled since the middle of last season.
Talking heads have upped their criticism. On FS1, Hall-of-Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe joked that Rodgers was playing like he had been drinking in the Packers’ 30-16 loss against the Cowboys on Sunday.
“He’s bad right now,” Sharpe said.
Former teammates are included, too. Former receiver Greg Jennings said that he and other teammates were often blamed for failures, while Rodgers wasn’t.
“No one has ever wanted to or has done what we’re hearing them do now, which is talk about his flaws,” Jennings said in the same segment with Sharpe on FS1. “Everyone is in shock. No one has ever seen him play like this before.”
Even former Packers great Brett Favre is talking about Rodgers’ problems.
What’s next? Professional examinations of his body language? A therapist’s look at his relationship with actress Olivia Munn?
The criticism is frankly out of control. There have even been aggregated stories on websites run by CBS and USA Today that link Rodgers’ struggles to Deflategate.
Rodgers simply isn’t meeting the exceptionally high standards he set for himself since leading the Packers to seven consecutive postseason appearances and four division titles after becoming the starter in 2008.
It’s true that Rodgers hasn’t been Aaron Rodgers.
According to the NFL Network, Rodgers is 7-5 in his last 12 regular-season starts, completing 58.6 percent of his passes for 226.8 yards, 20 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 83.3 passer rating.
Statistically, Brian Hoyer has been better with the Bears and Texans. He’s 6-6 in his last 12 starts, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 262 yards, 20 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 94.1 passer rating.
But with all due respect to Hoyer — who has been better than a typical backup in his three starts for the Bears — who is going to take him over Rodgers?
If Rodgers is a problem, he’s one that nearly every NFL team, including one that calls Lake Forest home, would love to have.
Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio isn’t buying the criticism of Rodgers. He doesn’t care that Rodgers’ 88.4 passer rating is currently the worst of his career.
“I still see the great quarterback that he is with the release and the scrambling and the mobility and the creativity and the accuracy,” Fangio said Tuesday. “They’ve gotten beat by maybe the two best teams in the NFL currently in Dallas and Minnesota. They’re still the same offense they’ve always been, and he’s still the same quarterback he’s always been.”
It’s a message that coach John Fox and players shared, too, though at 1-5 it doesn’t seem like it will make much of a difference.
As Fox pointed out, the Packers still lead the NFL in third-down efficiency (49 percent). That starts with Rodgers.
“I see a great player and a pretty darn good football team,” Fox said.
Fangio’s words mean more, too, because his defenses have typically stymied Rodgers. Fangio was 4-0 against him when he was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator.
With the Bears, Fangio’s defense flustered Rodgers into his worst performance of last season – a 17-13 win for the Bears at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night in which Rodgers had a 62.4 passer rating.
“Coach Fangio has always done a good job of really diagnosing our offensive schemes and trying to take away what we do best,” Rodgers said. “It’s a sign of a great defensive coordinator. They always have great attention to detail and route recognition and formation recognition.”
Rodgers was asked six consecutive questions about his struggles during a conference call with the Chicago media, including why Fangio has stopped him. He handled it all well. All that was missing was his famous R-E-L-A-X message.
“As a leader, you’re looked at at all times—the highs and the adverse times,” he said. “You’ve got to be someone who’s consistent every day at work and on the field. I’m trying my best to be that and be a good teammate and realize, ‘Hey, we’re still 3-2. We’re in the mix here. We’ve got some work to do, some stuff to clean up. But we’re not far off.’ ”