Rodgers will try to change that at Philadelphia on Sunday, where the Green Bay Packers quarterback will be going for his first career playoff win in his third season as a starter.
Rodgers is well aware that his career will ultimately be measured by his success in the postseason, but knows he can’t do it on his own.
“I think it’s important,” Rodgers said. “I think the greatest quarterbacks are remembered for winning big games, but it’s not all about the quarterback. Great teams win games, and then the quarterbacks on those great teams are often remembered as being great quarterbacks. We want to win. Every time we take the field we want to win. It’s important to win. That’s why we play the game. And eventually, if you want to be remembered as a great player, you’ve got to win in the playoffs.”
While Packers coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this week that Rodgers and the offense have been “a little bit up and down at times” this season, he doesn’t want Rodgers to change anything about the way he plays going into the playoffs.
“Aaron Rodgers needs to be himself,” McCarthy said. “He’s established a brand of football at the quarterback position that’s pretty damn good, and I’m glad he’s our quarterback.”
Rodgers threw for 3,922 yards this season with 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions despite missing a game and a half because of a concussion. In his first three seasons as a starter, he has thrown for 12,394 yards with 86 touchdowns, 31 interceptions and a 64.6 completion percentage.
Rodgers said he has improved every year, but acknowledged he struggled with consistency this season. That was true of the Packers’ injury-depleted offense as a whole, a team that could score 45 points one week and 10 the next.
“I guess I was kind of hoping for a slightly bigger jump,” Rodgers said of his play this season. “Obviously I’m very critical of myself in the offseason and during the season as well. With the way I prepared and the way I took care of my body in the offseason, I guess I was looking for just a slightly bigger jump. But my decision-making was better, opportunities to do more things at the line of scrimmage increased because of my preparation, but … just decrease the gaps between inconsistent plays.”
McCarthy calls Rodgers’ numbers in the first three years of his career “phenomenal”—and if he plays up to the standard he has set for himself, playoff success is sure to follow.
“Playoff wins are more team goals, and I understand the way everybody wants to put those types of things on the quarterback,” McCarthy said. “(With) Aaron staying true to his standard of play, his brand of football, everything else will take care of itself.”
The Packers missed the playoffs in 2008, Rodgers’ first season as a starter. They made it in as a wild card last season and Rodgers had a monster game at Arizona, throwing for 423 yards and four touchdowns.
But the Packers lost a heartbreaker when Rodgers fumbled in overtime and Karlos Dansby returned it for a touchdown.
Rodgers also threw an early interception in that game, but he insists that play was the result of miscommunication with his receivers and had “absolutely nothing” to do with nervous play on his part.
Rodgers considers his ability to stay levelheaded under any circumstances one of his strongest assets.
“I would like to think so,” Rodgers said. “This is, to everyone else outside the building, it’s not another game. But to me, I don’t make it bigger than it is. That’s how I think I’m able to control the nerves and the internal pressure I put on myself.”
Rodgers said he is preparing and practicing the same way this week that he has all year, and the idea anybody will panic has become a running joke in the Packers’ locker room.
“A lot of times, we joke about it in here, about panic,” Rodgers said. “Like (the line) from the movie Semi-Pro: ‘Everybody panic!’
“We’re in the playoffs now. That’s not going to happen here. We’re still going to crack jokes at practice, we’re still going to be the same people. And personally, I’m still going to prepare the same way and expect to play well.”