Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the best players of his generation. An all-time talent who replaced a Hall of Famer and somehow surpassed his legacy, Rodgers is entering a defining moment in the final years of his NFL career.
The 38-year-old won’t be around as long as Tom Brady. He won’t match the historic longevity of Brady’s career nor will he create the old debate about the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Circumstances define a legacy. If Rodgers doesn’t slip to the Packers at the 24th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, instead landing with the San Francisco 49ers or Washington Commanders, he likely never becomes a four-time NFL MVP.
On the other hand, circumstances have also largely controlled the Packers’ issues in the playoffs. From the Brandon Bostick onside kick gaffe in 2015 to overtime losses when he never touched the football and costly injuries (Nick Collins, Jermichael Finley and David Bakhtiari), a series of factors shaped how he is viewed today.
It all takes us to the doorstep of the 2022 NFL season. Rodgers is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons but it was followed by another rough performance in the playoffs. Heading into the final years of his NFL career, he must now face the new challenge of playing with a largely unproven receiving corps.
All of that sets the table for a season that will be pivotal to the Packers’ future and Rodgers’ legacy.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense without Davante Adams
The 2022 Packers’ offense is going to look different than what fans have witnessed in recent years. Green Bay lost a player responsible for 34.3% of Green Bay’s receiving yards last season. In addition, Packers’ quarterbacks posted a 115.3 passer rating when they targeted Adams in 2021.
We have seen glimpses of the LaFleur passing attack without an All-Pro wideout. Incredibly, Rodgers and LaFleur are 7-0 without Adams in the lineup.
Green Bay Packers offensive stats without Davante Adams (2019-2021)
|Result||Points Scored||Total Yards||Yards per Play||Aaron Rodgers stats|
|WIN @ DAL (2019)||34||335||5.2||64.7% completion, 0-0 TD-INT, 238 passing yards, 85.2 QB rating|
|WIN vs DET (2019)||23||447||6.5||51.5% completion, 2-1 TD-INT, 90.0 passer QB rating|
|WIN vs OAK (2019)||42||481||8.7||80.65% completion, 5-0 TD-INT, 429 passing yards, 158.3 passer rating|
|WIN @ KC (2019)||31||374||5.8||69.7% completion, 3-0 TD-INT, 305 passing yards, 129.0 QB rating|
|2019 season averages||23.5||363.3||5.4||62% completion, 6.5-1 TD-INT ratio, 250.1 passing yards, 95.4 QB rating|
|WIN @ NOR (2020)||37||369||6.3||65.6% completion, 3-0 TD-INT, 283 passing yards, 124.9 QB rating|
|WIN vs ATL (2020)||30||403||6.7||81.8% completion, 4-0 TD-INT, 327 passing yards, 147.5 QB rating|
|2020 season averages||31.8||401.1||6.3||70.7% completion, 9.6-1 TD-INT ratio, 268.7 passing yards, 121.5 QB rating|
|WIN @ ARZ (2021)||24||335||4.7||62.2% completion, 2-0 TD-INT, 184 passing yards, 90.4 QB rating|
|2021 season averages||26.5||378||5.8||68.9% completion, 9.25 TD-INT ratio, 257.2 passing yards, 11.9 QB rating|
Obviously, a small sample size over three years doesn’t imply Green Bay will be just as effectively without Adams in 2022 as it performed with him. There are going to be changes, Rockers acknowledged that this summer.
“The offense has to change. Last year, when you have a guy who is that talented, it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that 80 percent of the plays in the passing game were designed specifically for 17, so we’re obviously gonna do some things a little different.”Aaron Rodgers on the Green Bay Packers offense without Davante Adams, via Packers Wire
Protecting Aaron Rodgers
One critical factor will be the Packers’ offensive line. If everyone is healthy, including tackles David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, this is arguably the best pass-protecting offensive line in football. David Bakhtiari allowed just nine pressures and one sack in 446 pass-block snaps in 2020. When healthy, center Josh Meyers (65.6 PFF pass-blocking grade) held up well and Jenkins is an exceptional talent.
All of that will prove essential in 2022. While Rodgers is still playing at an elite level, his 2021 campaign showed that he can be a much worse version of himself when pressured.
|2022 situational stats||QB rating||Completion %||YPA||TD-INT|
|Rodgers in a clean pocket||122.2 (1st)||76.9% (1st)||8.4 (4th)||29-1|
|Rodgers vs pressure||68.9 (18th)||39.5% (28th)||5.3 (25th)||8-3|
A stable Packers offensive line would mean there is a high probability Rodgers maintains his MVP-caliber play, even without Adams. However, Bakhtiari is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in December 2020 and Jenkins came off the PUP list late in training camp after suffering an ACL tearing in late November.
“The health and the depth of the offensive line is supremely important, I think that’s a big reason why the Packers allowed Lucas Patrick to walk and they spent three draft picks on the offensive line…They spent a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick and a late-round pick on the offensive line, too. I think that underscores how important the offensive line is to the Packers’ plan.”Jason B. Hirschhorn, co-founder of The Leap, on the importance of Green Bay Packers offensive line in 2022
LaFleur will certainly depend on the ground game more this fall and that is an area of strength on this team. Aaron Jones remains one of the best all-around running backs in the NFL and A.J. Dillon is the perfect complement for this committee backfield.
If the Packers protect Rodgers as they have in previous seasons, this offense can still help win a lot of games. The recipe will be different and it might not be like fans remember being done before, but winning football games matters most.
Green Bay takes a new approach building around QB1
Once Adams rejected the Packers’ contract offer, the new approach with roster construction went into effect. It’s apparent in several ways, especially when comparing the total financial commitment to wide receivers compared to those for the top wideouts.
- Green Bay Packer spending at wide receiver: $19.448 million cap hit
- Keenan Allen cap hit (2022): $19.2 million
Instead of devoting a significant portion of the cap towards a No. 1 receiver, Green Bay spread it across the defense. Parting ways with Adams allowed the front office to re-sign linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, cornerback Rasul Douglas and extend Jaire Alexander. In addition, the Packers signed Jarran Reed and strengthened their special teams. Of course, this also means asking Rodgers to lift the receiving corps, the same approach we’re seeing with the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s going to be a challenge. The four-time NFL MVP has benefitted from always having either an outstanding receiving corps or a high-end No. 1 receiver. While there is confidence in Allen Lazard and rookie Romeo Doubs generated buzz in training camp, this will be an adjustment for the Packers’ quarterback.
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“Even going back to Aaron Rodgers’ earliest stages as the Packers’ starting quarterback, he had a really talented and deep receiving core. Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver at the beginning. In the middle, Jordy Nelson at this apex, Randall Cobb had become a Pro Bowl receiver…Going into the 2022 season, he doesn’t have anybody like that.”Jason B. Hirschhorn, co-founder of The Leap, on Packers’ receivers through Aaron Rodgers career
More than ever before, this team will depend on its rushing attack, defense and special teams. The 1A and 1B pairing of Jones and A.J. Dillon provide Green Bay with two complementary backs, each capable of a 1,000-yard season. Just as important for this franchise, after years of issues on special teams, it could now be a strength in 2022.
Ultimately, the defense should make the biggest difference. A top-five unit in NFL defense rankings, there is more depth on the defensive line than in prior years with a talent-rich secondary and the best off-ball linebacker pairing we’ve seen from Green Bay in a decade-plus.
With the NFC up for grabs this season, Green Bay should have just as strong of a shot as before and it might be in an even better position during the playoffs. It all comes down to Rodgers.
Projecting Aaron Rodgers stats in 2022
Losing the receiver responsible for 34% of Rodgers’ touchdown passes will undoubtedly negate some of Rodgers’ production in 2022. Even if Allen Lazard steps into a bigger role and some of the rookie wideouts surpass expectations, the passing stats will go down.
We have seen fluctuation regarding Rodgers’ output in recent years. It dipped significantly from 2018-’19, with talks of regression that influenced the decision to draft Jordan Love. Ultimately, Rodgers bounced back with consecutive MVP campaigns.
Aaron Rodgers stats (2011-2021)
|Year||Yards||Pass TD||INT||QB Rating||PFF grade||Comp %||Record|
Even in a 17-game season, it seems unlikely Rodgers reaches the 40-touchdown mark. A variety of factors play into this. Among them, Green Bay shifted from a team that passed on 58.6% of its plays last season to an offense hovering closer to a 54-46 split this year and it might be closer inside the red zone.
- Aaron Rodgers career stats: 55,360 passing yards (10th), 449 passing touchdowns (5th), 65.3% completion rate (11th), 104.5 passer rating (2nd), 27 game-winning drives
Another thing to consider, a prolific scoring offense might no longer be necessary to win consistently. Green Bay will have one of the best defenses in the NFL, keeping games tighter and shifting the need for 30-point games to 24 points. Plus, a more effective rushing attack can soak up the clock.
“You hope with the elevated play of the defense, you hope with the special teams getting better, the health of the offensive line. The Packer still have arguably the best running back duo in football, Robbert Tonyan is going to return from injury. You hope all of those factors together are going to help mitigate the absence of Davante Adams this season.”PAUL BRETL OF DAIRYLAND EXPRESS AND THE PACKERS WIRE on where Packers can improve
One last thing to keep in mind, losing Adams might result in necessary changes for LaFleur and Rodgers. One of the best play-callers in the NFL will have a bit more creative freedom, not feeling the need to constantly find ways to funnel the football to Adams. As for Rodgers, not being locked in on a single target for an entire game comes with some benefits.
- Projected Aaron Rodgers stats 2022: 4,078 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 66.3% completion rate, 3 rushing touchdowns
Will Aaron Rodgers retire with the Packers?
Aaron Rodgers’s career with the Packers started with uncertainty. Selected with the 24th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, he attempted just 59 passes in his first three seasons. With a Hall of Fame starting quarterback ahead of him on the depth chart always waffling about his future, Rodgers had to wait.
It’s funny how history has a way of repeating itself. Rodgers initially indicated in 2019 that he planned to retire at 45 after winning a Super Bowl. He later heavily weighed retirement after the 2020 season and it was on the table once more after another early elimination from the playoffs.
The new contract provides some clarity. Rodgers, the highest paid NFL player in 2022, will retire with the Packers. It’s just a matter of when he walks away. Taking a year-to-year approach on his NFL career, it feels safe to assume No. 12 will play through the 2023 season. After that, a chapter will be closed in the Packers’ history and the debate over Rodgers’ legacy begins.
Reflecting on Aaron Rodgers’ legacy
When Rodgers hoisted the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 6, 2011, everyone assumed it would be his first of multiple Super Bowl celebrations. Instead, the Packers haven’t advanced past the NFC Championship Game in 11 consecutive years.
“If you’re looking at it through that lens, pure individual dominance, you can make the argument of him being the best quarterback in NFL history. When you bring in the other context – team success and Super Bowls in his case, only having one – that’s going to bring him down in the estimation of many.”Jason B. Hirschhorn on how Aaron Rodgers can be viewed among all-time greats
There’s very little doubt Rodgers is one of the most talented quarterbacks in NFL history and his resume in the regular season speaks for itself. However, there are valid criticisms of his performances for the majority of his playoff career. It’s especially apparent when looking at his numbers after the 2010 Super Bowl run.
Aaron Rodgers playoff stats (2011-2021) vs regular season stats (2011-2021)
|Record||Comp %||TD – TD %||INT – INT%||Pass YPG||YPA||QB Rating|
|7-9||63.8%||32 – 5.3%||10 – 1.6%||273.6||7.3||96.5|
|112-46-1||65.6%||362 – 6.6%||61 – 1.1%||268.2||7.7||106.3|
In the Packers’ 16 postseason games over the last decade, the offense averaged 5.4 points per contest. This isn’t to suggest that Rodgers is entirely responsible for Green Bay’s repeated downfalls in January. Even if you take his 96.5 passer rating in those 11 contests, he would still rank ahead of Joe Montana (95.6), Russell Wilson (95.3) and Tom Brady (90.4).
However, Brady boasts six fourth-quarter comebacks and eight game-winning drives during that same stretch in the playoffs compared to one comeback for Rodgers and two game-winning drives.
It represents a mark on his Hall of Fame resume that won’t go away without him hoisting another Lombardi Trophy. If Rodgers wants to be considered one of the five best quarterbacks in NFL history (Brady, Montana, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, John Elway) it requires another Super Bowl.
This will very likely be the last peak years of Rodgers’ legendary career and Green Bay knows it. The front office assembled a defense capable of helping this team reach a Super Bowl and one that can keep games to a low enough score to reduce the pressure on Rodgers.
If Green Bay hoists the Lombardi Trophy once more, there can be a strong argument for Aaron Rodgers as one of the five best quarterbacks in NFL history. Even if this team falls short of the mountaintop again, Aaron Rodgers should go down as the best quarterback in Packers’ history.