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Packers 2021 Roster Grades: Aaron Rodgers’ resurgence keeps him in franchise’s plans

After the team drafted a quarterback in the first round in April, Rodgers delivered arguably his finest season to ensure that he will be in Green Bay for at least a while longer.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

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 2020 season. Today, we examine the quarterbacks.

The Green Bay Packers sent shockwaves through the NFL in April of 2020. When general manager Brian Gutekunst traded up in round one of the NFL Draft to select Jordan Love, the headlines and articles were legion: Is Aaron Rodgers on his way out? Are the Packers ready to replace the 37-year-old? Will he be disgruntled and not want to play for the team any longer?

Then the actual football began, and any questions about Rodgers’ status as an elite quarterback were answered — emphatically — by his performance on the field. Rodgers was consistently the NFL’s best quarterback in 2020, as he fully bought into head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense. Rodgers thrived with better timing, a strong play-action passing game, and the confidence that comes with a second year in a new offense.

Let’s look at the season in a bit more depth.

Starter: Aaron Rodgers

372-526 (70.7% completions), 4,299 yards (8.2 yards/attempt), 48 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
121.5 passer rating, 84.3 QBR, 1,649 passing DYAR, +36.9% passing DVOA
38 carries, 149 yards (3.9 yards/carry), 3 touchdowns

What more can be said about the 2020 NFL MVP? Rodgers led the NFL in essentially every passing efficiency category, and he posted career-high single-season marks in completion rate, total touchdown passes, touchdown rate, and QBR. His passer rating for the season was second in league history, trailing only his own record set back in 2011.

Rodgers also closed out the season with an incredible hot streak. Over the six regular-season games after Thanksgiving — all Packers wins as the team locked up the NFC’s top seed — he completed more than three-quarters of his passes with 19 touchdowns against just one interception. That was good for a passer rating of 133.1, and he even added two rushing touchdowns during that final stretch as well.

The postseason was a bit of a mixed bag. Rodgers was great against the Los Angeles Rams and had great moments against the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game, putting up his best performance in that round of the postseason in any of his opportunities. However, the offense did struggle to move the football during critical moments late in that game and Rodgers missed on some potential touchdown passes and big plays with the Packers trying to rally for a victory.

All in all, however, this campaign was exemplary. Rodgers spoke after the season about his timing and leg strength as being a critical reason for his bounce-back season, as it allowed him to trust his legs and get the football out in a better rhythm than he had in recent years. Between a better rhythm and quicker release of the football and the play of his offensive line, Rodgers was sacked just 20 times in the regular season, by far the fewest of his career in a full season and fewer even than in either of the two seasons when he missed significant time due to injury.

More advanced numbers also show a drastic improvement in Rodgers’ game. According to Pro Football Reference’s advanced stats, Rodgers was off-target on just 69 passes intended for receivers for a bad throw rate of 13.8%; that was down a drastic amount from the previous two years, as his rates were 21.2% and 19.4% in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Backups: Tim Boyle, Jordan Love

(All stats recorded by Boyle)

8 appearances; 13 rushing attempts, -9 yards, 1 fumble; no pass attempts

A human victory cigar, Boyle entered seven regular season games to either hand off or take a knee. The eighth contest, in the Packers’ week six game against the Buccaneers, saw him take the field at the end of a blowout loss to save some hits on Rodgers. His only passing dropback saw him get sacked and fumble the football, though he was able to recover it.

Love, the 26th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, was inactive on gameday every week.

Overall Grade: A

All told, Jordan Love was an afterthought during this team’s run to a second straight 13-3 season and to the top of the NFC table. Rodgers’ game drove this team, and he only had one truly “bad” game all season long. Outside of the two losses to the Buccaneers, Rodgers was sacked just 16 times, staying fully healthy all season and never once appearing on an injury report.

It had been some time since Rodgers played at this level — the 2016 “Run the Table” stretch was impressive, but it was hero ball, driven by his improvisational ability rather than a combination of player and coaching and scheme. So long as Rodgers is able to maintain his physical condition, there’s every reason to think that he can sustain the success he displayed in 2020 and can keep Jordan Love on the bench for the foreseeable future.