Aaron Rodgers’ Down Years Are Not Career Years for Most QBs

It only took one week for the Russell Wilson MVP season to take a back seat to the Aaron Rodgers 2020 Revenge Tour. A big part of that is Wilson playing fruitless Miami in Sunday’s early slate rather than roasting the winless Falcons on Monday night, but the fact is Wilson already has major competition from Rodgers, who seeks his third MVP and first since 2014.

On Tuesday, Rodgers took to Pat McAfee’s show and had this exchange about his so-called down years and how they would be career years for most quarterbacks:

If he’s counting backups, then of course he’s right about this. Rodgers has done more in the first four games this season than most backups have done in their whole careers.

But if we’re expanding this to the other 31 starting quarterbacks in 2020, then Rodgers is really stretching the definitions of “most” and “career years.” Even if we’re being generous and looking for 15 quarterbacks to qualify, he still comes up short, and it’s only a number as high as it is because of the current youth movement at the position with a lot of first and second-year starters in place.

Step 1: Which Seasons Are Down Year Aaron?

First, let’s figure out what “down years” are for Rodgers so we can count how many quarterbacks haven’t had a career year as good as them. His first year as a starter (2008) was good as far as expectations should go for a first-year starter in that era, but we’ll ignore that one since he technically had nothing to come down from at the time. I’m also going to overlook 2017 when he broke his collarbone again and missed nine full games.

This leaves three obvious choices, which also happen to be Rodgers’ bottom three seasons in ESPN’s QBR and completion percentage:

  • 2015: The Jordy Nelson-less year, the 6-0 start, then the Denver nightmare and fall from grace.
  • 2018: Mike McCarthy’s swansong as Rodgers fell in love with throwaways in a 6-9-1 season.
  • 2019: The Packers made it to the NFC Championship Game, but Rodgers finished lower than ever (20th) in QBR and barely threw for 4,000 yards.

These are the three seasons we’ll work with.

Step 2: Cross Out the Obvious Ones

While we are undergoing a transition period at the position, there are still plenty of accomplished players, both young and old, at quarterback in the NFL. So let’s cross out all the obvious ones who have a career year better than any of Rodgers’ down years. Some of the peak years I’ve chosen could be debated (some have multiple listed for that reason), but there is no debate that these quarterbacks can say they’ve had a career year better than Rodgers’ 2015, 2018 or 2019.

  • Tom Brady (peak: 2007)
  • Philip Rivers (peak: 2008/2009)
  • Drew Brees (peak: 2011)
  • Matthew Stafford (peak: 2011)
  • Nick Foles (peak: 2013)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (peak: 2014)
  • Cam Newton (peak: 2015)
  • Russell Wilson (peak: 2015/2019)
  • Matt Ryan (peak: 2016)
  • Dak Prescott (peak: 2016)
  • Derek Carr (peak: 2016)
  • Carson Wentz (peak: 2017)
  • Patrick Mahomes (peak: 2018)
  • Jared Goff (peak: 2018)
  • Deshaun Watson (peak: 2018/2019)
  • Lamar Jackson (peak: 2019)
  • Kirk Cousins (peak: 2019)
  • Jimmy Garoppolo (peak: 2019)
  • Ryan Tannehill (peak: 2019)

That’s already 19 quarterbacks, leaving 12 left besides Rodgers.

Step 3: The Dirty Dozen

As I list these 12 quarterbacks, note their years of experience in the NFL in parenthesis. Seven of them are in their first or second season.

  • Joe Burrow (1)
  • Justin Herbert (1)
  • Kyler Murray (2)
  • Gardner Minshew (2)
  • Daniel Jones (2)
  • Dwayne Haskins (2)
  • Drew Lock (2)
  • Baker Mayfield (3)
  • Sam Darnold (3)
  • Josh Allen (3)
  • Teddy Bridgewater (7; peak in 2015)
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick (16; peak was 2015 or 2018)

Let’s quickly call off the dogs from at least four fan bases, starting with the Bills Mafia. Yes, if Josh Allen plays anything like he has the first four games for the rest of the season, then he’ll be added to the previous group to make it an even 20 quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are rookies just three or four games into their careers. If the starts are any indication, they won’t have a problem soon outdoing Down Year Aaron. Kyler Murray’s had a couple of disappointing games after a good start to 2020, but he’s just 20 games into his career. Give him time.

Given the draft prospects of Gardner Minshew (sixth-round pick) and Daniel Jones (expected bust), their rookie seasons were way better than expectations. They still have potential. Drew Lock has only started seven games, so there’s hardly any certainty there. He’s still better off than Dwayne Haskins, who may not have the job by November at this rate.

Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were the first two quarterbacks off the board in 2018, and they’re certainly looking like disappointments relative to Allen and Lamar. Maybe if Darnold can get away from Adam Gase and/or the Jets he’ll have a shot, but it hasn’t been pretty so far. Mayfield’s rookie season (2018) actually stacks up pretty close to Rodgers’ 2018 from an efficiency basis, so he’s not that far off here. He just is much more likely to throw interceptions, but we’ll see if he can get the Browns back to the playoffs this year.

The only starters with more than three years in the league are Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Bridgewater actually won the division over Rodgers in 2015 before suffering that catastrophic leg injury in the following offseason, so this is only his third year as a full-time starter. This could be his career year for a Carolina team no one expected much from.

That means Fitzpatrick is the only quarterback who has started full time for more than three years and hasn’t really beaten out Down Year Aaron, though he was in the ballpark in 2015 with the Jets when he threw 31 touchdowns for a 10-win team. Fitzpatrick actually finished higher in QBR (62.0; 10th) than Rodgers (60.0; 14th) that year. Almost splitting hairs here. Fitzpatrick is just a Tua placeholder in Miami these days.

If we went back to the 2015-19 period of starters, then we’d still have a lot of quarterbacks who clearly have a better peak year than Down Year Aaron, including Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, etc.

However, Rodgers would at least win the argument over Blake Bortles and Brock Osweiler…

Conclusion: Rodgers Was Wrong

So when Rodgers claimed his down years are career years for most quarterbacks, he may have had the Brett Hundleys and Jordan Loves of the world in mind. He probably didn’t think he was just dunking on Fitzmagic, Cheesecake Factory Baker, Teddy’s Wounded Knee, and that hot mess that plays at MetLife Stadium right now. When you go through the starters in this league, what Rodgers said about his down years is simply not true.

Hey, it’s just the facts, bro.

(If you listened to the end of the McAfee clip, then you already knew how I was going to end this)

NFL Week 10 Predictions: The Upside Down

A year ago, Week 10 was incredible in the NFL. It was the week that left us stunned after the election, and Sunday’s hyped games even managed to exceed the hype with Cowboys-Steelers and Seahawks-Patriots. We needed that so badly. I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed a football Sunday as much as that one in the year since.

When I look at this year’s Week 10 lineup, much like last week, I struggle to find a game to get excited for. Steelers might flirt with disaster in Indy, or it might be a blowout for the fourth year in a row (third year in a row where Andrew Luck won’t suit up for Indy). Sure, Tom Brady may not have a big game in Denver per usual, but he doesn’t have to when he’s playing against that Denver offense in the night game.

Game of the Week (?): Saints at Bills

I much rather would have preferred to see Saints-Bills flexed to SNF. At least that game is interesting on both sides of the ball. Drew Brees has dinked and dunked his way to a very efficient, but not quite as spectacular passing season. The running game has picked up since the Saints realized Adrian Peterson had no place in this offense, and rookie Alvin Kamara deserves more touches with Mark Ingram. The Bills play very opportunistic defense and get a lot of takeaways. New Orleans’ road struggles are well documented. But we also know that Buffalo struggles to manufacture scoring offense with a limited cast around Tyrod Taylor, though all eyes will be on Kelvin Benjamin in his team debut. Oh yeah, the Saints are actually playing defense too, which has really carried this impressive 6-game winning streak.

I feel like I’m leaning on old trends here, but I’m going with Buffalo at home, because I think the defense will get those turnovers that swing the game into their favor. Good day for LeSean McCoy so Tyrod doesn’t have to match score for score with Brees.

Cowboys at Falcons

Glad it looks like the Ezekiel Elliott suspension is starting. I just want that story to go away. It also presents an opportunity for Dak Prescott to gain traction in the MVP race and silence some critics that Elliott is driving their success. No, great QB play has been the biggest change in Dallas over 2015 when the passing game was terrible with Tony Romo injured. The running game was still top 10 that year, but so what? You need the QB first. I think they’ll run the ball just fine without Elliott too, but it’s about the defense keeping the score down. Dallas has allowed 30+ in every 2017 loss. I keep saying the Falcons could be 1-7 just as easily as 7-1, so they’re a dangerous team, both to opponents and themselves. I think Julio Jones rebounds from last week’s horrible drop with a big game and Atlanta gets on track at home. For Dallas, it’s not just Zeke’s suspension, but Tyron Smith is out and Dez Bryant might be gimpy.

This won’t stop anyone, especially those from the other side of Pennsylvania, from blabbering on about “Dak ain’t shit without Zeke”. Hey neanderthals, you have 280 characters now. No excuse not to add “Dak ain’t shit without Zeke, Tyron Smith, and a healthy Dez.”

(Yes, Week 11 will be lit.)

Jets at Buccaneers: REVENGE

This game is crap, but I just wanted to point out all the revenge options here. Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick have both played for the Jets and Buccaneers. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was supposed to be Tampa Bay’s TE1, but they found two better players in Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. I guess that’s more revenge on New York’s side, but man, the big story is that Fitzpatrick has schemed his way into starting another game.

Fitzpatrick is so ready for this revenge game that he even shaved his fucking beard off. I know he went to Harvard — it’s true, if you haven’t heard — but I never hear what his major was. Alchemy? Dark arts? How else can you explain how a QB this bad can start a game 10 years in a row? I almost have to pick Tampa Bay even though I know the Jets have played better football for two months now.

2017 Week 10 Predictions

I told you this was the upside down edition, so here’s something brand new that I’ve never done in all these years. I’m going to start giving you my picks against the spread (ATS) every week in addition to the straight up (SU) picks I always deliver. I’m using Bovada’s lines on Saturday afternoon and I’m never going to bother updating them for any pre-kickoff changes. You get what you see.

2017Wk10

I know this is just going to annoy me more each week when so many spreads are determined by one play, like the late touchdown in SEA-ARI on Thursday night, but some have asked me for years to show my spread picks. I don’t have experience doing this, so we’ll just see how it goes. This is not my ideal season to start this (just look at my SU picks), but if not now, then when?

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Week 7: 11-4
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Season: 77-55