Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2015 season. Today, we begin our series by examining the quarterbacks.
It was a trying season for the Green Bay Packers' offense, and though the injuries on the offensive line and wide receiver were contributing factors, the quarterback play was not at the level that Packers fans have been accustomed to for the past half-decade. The Packers finished just 25th in the league in passing yards, behind such stellar passing attacks as the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans.
To be sure, it was a disappointing season for the offense as a whole, and at some point, that all comes back on the players taking the snap from center.
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Believe it or not, Rodgers finished fifth among NFL quarterbacks in overall "Expected Points Added," an overall value measure of quarterback play generated by ESPN. That ranking put him one spot ahead of the expected NFL MVP, Cam Newton. One remarkable part of that stat is the number of points he was able to contribute due to penalties committed by the defense. Rodgers led the league by a substantial margin in that area.
All told, Rodgers' raw numbers were down across the board, despite throwing the most pass attempts in any one season of his career (572). He set career lows in completion percentage (60.7%), yards per attempt (6.7), yards per game (238.8), and passer rating (92.7). Still, he did so throwing for more than 30 touchdowns and single-digit interceptions, a feat which must not be ignored, and he did so for the entire year without his favorite target, Jordy Nelson.
Rodgers also dealt with some bizarre bouts of inaccuracy on throws that he rarely missed in the past. Far too often a back-shoulder pass or out route sailed over his receiver's head or far off-target into the benches along the sideline.
Compounding the difficulty in grading Rodgers' performance is the knee surgery that he underwent following the season and his postseason comments. Just how much was Rodgers' knee bothering him over the second half of the season? How much was that contributing to his apparent jumpiness in the pocket and his struggles going through his normal read progressions? This will likely have to be speculation until the end of time, but it marks the third straight year that Rodgers has had a noticeable injury issue, following his broken collarbone in 2013 and his calf muscle problem that limited him down the stretch in 2014.
Rodgers keeps himself in excellent shape, and there seems to be little reason to believe that these issues are a sign of any sort of major long-term problem. However, his injury status will bear monitoring in 2016.
Backup: Scott Tolzien
Tolzien saw only mop-up duty in a handful of games, with his only extended action coming in the blowout loss to the Cardinals in week 16. He was sacked once in that game and completed his only pass of the year for four yards.
Third-String: Brett Hundley
Hundley's quick study from OTAs to training camp was evident, and a series of solid preseason performances gave way to a breakout game against New Orleans in the final preseason game. Going into his second year, Hundley will likely be given every opportunity to take hold of the Packers' backup job, even if Tolzien returns, and if he plays well the Packers may choose to stick with just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster again.
Position Grade: C-
We are grading on a curve here, and Rodgers is justifiably held to a higher standard than just about any other quarterback in the league. He certainly did not play up to that standard this season, as one look at his numbers show. Still, the mitigating circumstances of offensive line and wide receiver issues as well as the uncertainty surrounding his own knee issue all contributed to it, and compared to the rest of the starting quarterbacks around the league he
The other reason Rodgers' performance stays out of the D or F range is because of Rodgers' leadership ability and the frequency with which he seemed to will his team back into games. While not the most impressive season overall, it did provide two of the most incredible plays in recent memory: a pair of Hail Mary touchdowns, including one in the postseason to send a playoff game to overtime. It was a season Packers fans will not soon forget, for both good reasons and bad.
Stay tuned as we look closer at the Packers' additions at the quarterback position in the 2015 offseason as well as break down the one upcoming free agent.