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Aaron Rodgers remained the league’s least interception-prone starting QB in 2019

Rodgers’ avoidance of turnovers continues to amaze, even as his luck regressed back to normal from 2018 to 2019.

Green Bay Packers v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

For all of Aaron Rodgers’ greatness over his illustrious career with the Green Bay Packers, one quality stands out over all others as his defining trait. Rodgers simply does not throw interceptions.

It is probably more accurate to say that Rodgers does not throw interceptable passes, and in 2019, he not only threw the fewest interceptions of any starting quarterback; he also threw balls that could have been picked off at a lower rate than any other starter.

This data comes to us from the fine folks at Football Outsiders, who have been tracking Adjusted Interceptions for years. The numbers are out for 2019, and to no football fan’s surprise, Jameis Winston and his 30 picks are the talk of the piece. By FO’s count, Winston threw 13 additional potential interceptions that were either dropped by the defense or broken up by his receivers. When subtracting off balls that were tipped by his receivers into the hands of defenders, that leaves Winston with a whopping 40 Adjusted INTs, 14 more than the next-closest passers (Philip Rivers and Kyle Allen). Also predictably, Winston’s 6.4% adjusted INT rate was more than one full percent higher than any other quarterback.

On the other end of the spectrum is Rodgers. In 2019, he threw just four interceptions, the lowest actual interception rate of any qualifying quarterback (at least 12 passes per game) in the NFL. That came with Rodgers attempting 568 passes (not including spikes), the eighth-highest number in the league. Adjusting all of his passes finds that one of the picks came off the hands of a receiver — surely the throw to Darrius Shepherd on Monday Night Football against the Detroit Lions. Rodgers also threw four passes that defenders dropped or that his receivers had to break up, though FO counts only three of those because one took place on a late-game or Hail Mary situation.

Thus in total, Rodgers was assigned six Adjusted Interceptions, giving him an adjusted interception rate of 1.1%. That was better than any other starting quarterback in the NFL last season, with Seattle’s Russell Wilson coming the next-closest at 1.4%. However, there was a single quarterback whose adjusted rate was lower than Rodgers’: Teddy Bridgewater, who backed up Drew Brees and narrowly qualified for the analysis.

Bridgewater threw two interceptions in 2019 and one ball that was dropped by a defender. However, both of the actual picks came off the hands of his receivers, giving him just one adjusted INT in 196 pass attempts. That leaves him with the league’s lowest Adjusted INT rate last season at 0.5%.

Ultimately, FO finds that on average a quarterback throws 30% fewer actual interceptions than Adjusted Interceptions. Based on that standard, Rodgers was about a half-pick lower than expected in 2019, suggesting that he was a bit luckier than the average quarterback. Still, the Adjusted Interception Rate as discussed above puts him atop the starting quarterback leaderboard. This represents a regression to the mean from 2018; that season Rodgers was substantially luckier than expected, throwing four fewer picks than the expectation.

Here are FO’s numbers for Rodgers over the past six seasons (remember that a negative number in INTs vs. Expected indicates a luckier performance):

Aaron Rodgers’ Adjusted INTs

Year INTs Adjusted INTs Adjusted INT Rate INTs vs. Exp
Year INTs Adjusted INTs Adjusted INT Rate INTs vs. Exp
2019 4 6 1.1% -0.6
2018 2 8 1.3% -4.2
2017 6 6 2.3% 1.4
2016 7 11 1.7% -1.5
2015 8 11 1.9% -0.5
2014 5 7 1.3% -0.4

Rodgers’ tendency to avoid interceptions has drawn him plenty of praise over the years, as well as some criticism for being overly conservative. But whatever the impact, the fact remains that Rodgers is the best quarterback in NFL history at avoiding interceptions. Rodgers has led the league in INT rate in four separate seasons, with six more finishes in the top five. Ultimately, Rodgers’ 1.4% career INT rate leading all active and retired players by at least 0.3%.

What FO’s numbers illustrate once again is that Rodgers’ tremendous success is consistent and is not a function of luck, as he had only one season in the past six that was a statistical outlier.