There are several different styles of analysis on the subject of how the Green Bay Packers will fare without Aaron Rodgers. My personal favorite is the “you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket” criticism, implying that the team relies on its quarterback too much.
This is a silly comment for several reasons, and here they are.
- Quarterback is by its nature the most important position in football, and trying to de-emphasize its importance almost never works.
- When it does work, it’s usually because a team has spent a lot of capital on an excellent defense. However, if that team finds a good quarterback, they eventually will have to pay said quarterback and end up with all of their eggs in said basket again.
- If you can get the best player at the best position, that is a huge win for you.
- There is not a supply of all-star backup QBs and no team could afford to pay for one.
My next favorite, the “I don’t understand the concept of a replacement player” trope, is also common. This is more understandable as it’s slightly more complex, but it’s still bad. This trope usually involves a person arguing something like “the Packers are a 2-14 team without Aaron Rodgers,” but without taking the next step of assigning the team a new quarterback.
If the team did not have Aaron Rodgers, it would have somebody, and who that person is will have an enormous impact on their record. This argument is generally an attack on the rest of the Packer roster, labeling it as untalented. Furthermore, people who make this argument usually do so based on the idea that that any other QB will be truly horrific — along the lines of Seneca Wallace. I actually think that while the Packers’ roster isn’t perfect, it’s fairly well constructed, and generally of high quality. I have some issues with Dom Capers and with the secondary, but I think that this is still probably a playoff team if you put, say, Matthew Stafford under center. Maybe even a healthy Sam Bradford.
The fact is that it is good to have Aaron Rodgers, and there is no way to both have Aaron Rodgers and prepare for not having Aaron Rodgers other than to…
- Draft a quarterback
- Develop that quarterback
- Hope for the best
Veteran retreads along the lines of a McCown aren’t going to get it done. In any case, the Packers have done everything they can to prepare, and their roster, as previously mentioned, is actually good when it isn’t on the disabled list. Just look…
- Mike Daniels - One of the two best players at his position in the NFL. Not a high draft pick, but who cares? (4th round)
- Kenny Clark - Fast-developing run-stopper extraordinaire, well above average with star potential. High draft pick. (1st round)
- Clay Matthews - Once a star for a Super Bowl winner, having a resurgent season. Well above average. High draft pick. (1st round)
- Nick Perry - Above average edge rusher having a solid season, even better without a club. High draft pick. (1st round)
- Morgan Burnett - Do-everything safety/Nitro Linebacker, great tackler, good finisher, fine in coverage. Versatility. Medium draft pick. (3rd round)
- Blake Martinez - One of the surest tacklers, and best ILBs the Packers have had in ages. Well above average with star potential (for an ILB). Medium draft pick. (4th round)
- Ahmad Brooks - Backup EDGE, hugely talented, when healthy has been as good as the starters. Supplemental 3rd round draft pick because he’s a bad guy.
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix - He has regressed, but he’s also a former Pro Bowler and a high draft pick. (1st round)
- Kevin King - Appears to be good when healthy. Best athlete in the secondary by a country mile. Speculative, but appears to be above average. High draft pick. (2nd round)
- Josh Jones - Big hitter/sure tackler along the lines of Burnett, has had some coverage struggles, but seems like a good prospect. Speculative, but likely above average. High draft pick. (2nd round)
That’s a quality group, and it’s bolstered by decent role players (Dial), average-y guys (House, Ryan, Thomas), and unheralded prospects (Hawkins, Pipkins). Injuries have killed the unit, but they haven’t been nearly as bad as people think and they have actually played pretty well at times. The 10 players above would either start for, or play a high percentage of downs for, almost every team in the league, and it’s a list that includes four 1st rounders, two 2nd rounders, and the all-world Mike Daniels.
- David Bakhtiari - One of the best left tackles in football when healthy. Mid-round pick. (4th round)
- Jordy Nelson - Former elite receiver, has made a nice return post ACL surgery, having a resurgent year. High draft pick. (2nd round).
- Davante Adams - A development success, Adams is now one of the most indispensable Packers as one of the only true downfield threats. Rodgers obviously makes the receivers better, but Adams is well above average. High draft pick. (2nd round)
- Bryan Bulaga - One of the best right tackles in football even when he isn’t fully healthy. High draft pick. (1st round)
- Corey Linsley - One of the best centers in football, makes his guards better, the other cog in the Aaron Rodgers 12-men-on-the-field/offsides machine. Low draft pick. (5th round)
- Lane Taylor - Another development success, Taylor stepped right into the space vacated by Josh Sitton and has played at least as well as his all-pro predecessor. Well above average with star potential. UDFA.
- Randall Cobb - Cobb is essentially a role-player as the team’s shifty slot receiver, but when healthy, he’s been one of the NFL’s best, and the position has only increased in prominence since he became a Packer. The Patriots would instantly sign him if he became available. High draft pick. (2nd round)
- Martellus Bennett - Bennett has been terrible this season, but hopefully that is just a slump as he is generally one of football’s best tight ends. High draft pick. (2nd round)
- Ty Montgomery - The converted wideout has struggled behind a makeshift offensive line, but when the blocking has been there he has been as elusive as any back in the league. Above average starter. Mid-round draft pick. (3rd round)
- Aaron Jones - It’s early, but Jones looks very promising in his limited playing time so far. Speculative, but likely above average. Low draft pick. (5th round)
- Jahri Evans - Evans is nearing the end of his career, and it would be disingenuous of me to say that he would obviously start for any other team, because he was available to Green Bay, but he’s been great in 2017 and it’s clear he had plenty left in the tank. Originally a mid-round draft pick. (4th round)
That’s four second round players, one first round player (plus Rodgers), and a few developmental successes like Taylor. The top 6 here are stars or close to it. Jordy Nelson is currently 2nd in DYAR and 4th in DVOA. Adams is currently 16th and 21st respectively making him a high level #2. Cobb is right behind Adams in DVOA at 23. Geronimo Allison is a useful backup and role player, as is Lance Kendricks.
The biggest question mark on the line was Evans, and he’s been both healthy and productive. The Packers do legitimately lack depth on the line, however injuries have hit them so hard that they’re down the 4th and 5th backups at some positions, and no team can prepare for that. The team will also likely need to reload the skill positions shortly with Adams a potential free agent and Martellus Bennett struggling, but no one can plausibly argue that the current team lacks talent.
I wrote this because when I encounter the “no talent” argument my reply is often to spend two minutes rattling off this list. The Packers are hardly a perfect team, but they have above average talent across the board, and the areas in which they currently struggle (DB, OL, soon to be QB) are beset by injuries.
They have their misses as all teams do (names like Khyri Thornton, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Kyler Fackrell, and Jason Spriggs may all end up as busts), but they have also taken steps to compensate for those misses, as good teams do. The next time you run into this criticism, please refer the person making it to this list and ask them see how many players they would like to have on their team. They may be surprised.