At 3-5 and with tough games coming up, the Packers are having a miserable 2022 season, with no end in sight to their struggles.
From potential Super Bowl contenders, they have lengthened steadily in the betting and whether bettors are using NFL computer picks or relying on their own judgment, they are deserting Green Bay, who are already falling behind the pace set by the Minnesota Vikings.
The most frustrating aspect of their dramatic loss of form is that they’ve saved their worst performances for the games that they were expected to win. Defeats to the Giants, the Jets and the Commanders may not look so bad by the end of the season, and the two New York teams in particular are playing well, but it’s hard to ignore the conclusion that they have made it hard for themselves, given what is coming.
After losing last night to the Bills, they still have to face the Cowboys, the Rams, the Eagles and the Vikings for a second time. Right now, they don’t look like winning any of those games, and their chances of making the playoffs look extremely slim as we head into Week 8.
As the best player on the franchise and one of the top five quarterbacks of all time, Aaron Rodgers has obviously taken his share of the blame for the situation. But how much of that blame does he deserve?
The case against Rodgers
Much of the criticism of Rodgers seems to have been informed, at least in part, by his public persona over the last two years. In particular, his approach to the Covid-19 vaccine during the 2021 season was the cause of a lot of controversy, all of it distracting for the team.
While much of that criticism may be fair, it didn’t stop the Packers from reaching the playoffs last season and their Wild Card loss was not down to Rodgers.
It has been suggested that Rodgers isn’t enough of a leader, that he doesn’t do more to cultivate a team spirit, and that he is on occasions aloof. Yet there is plenty of evidence to indicate the opposite. It’s hard to form a clear picture of exactly how well or badly Rodgers leads the team, and even harder to draw a connecting line from that to their recent failings.
Some reports have also indicated that Rodgers’ apparent uncertainty about returning to Green Bay contributed to Davante Adams leaving the franchise, or that Rodgers could have done more to prevent Adams making that decision. Again, it is hard to know the truth, but it seems unlikely that Rodgers was the only factor leading to Adams’ departure.
The case for Rodgers
The case for Rodgers is a little clearer. While there has been some drop-off in his performance, the main issue with the Packers’ passing game is the receivers making too many mistakes. That isn’t down to Rodgers – he has thrown three interceptions in half a season, compared to four in total last year, but that is not a disastrous stat, and when receivers are not getting separation, interceptions are more likely.
Head coach Matt LaFleur can also take a share of the blame. Has he adapted enough to the fact that Davante Adams is no longer on the roster? Suggestions that the Packers are looking at trading for one or more experienced wide receivers before November 1 would indicate that they are aware there is a problem, but LaFleur could arguably have got more out of his offensive roster.
Perhaps the biggest problem for the Packers has to do with the offensive line. Injuries and loss of form have meant that the line has not been able to build any continuity so far and this has had a knock-on effect on the rest of the team. Rodgers has been given less protection at a time when he arguably needed more, as he worked to develop his connection with his inexperienced receivers.
Matt LaFleur has been criticized for not shifting to a more run-orientated game, at least in the short term, and the strong performances of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon have indicated this could be a good way to go. The problem is that the offensive line has struggled to provide an effective run-block cover, and none of that is down to Rodgers.
As the face of the franchise and one of the NFL greats, Rodgers will inevitably and rightly take his share of the blame for the current situation. But of more significance is the need for better performances from the wide receivers, and changes to the offensive line. Without those, there is little that Rodgers can do to lift the Packers out of their current slump.