Rodgers' accuracy makes Packers tough to stop
Rodgers completed 65.7 percent of his throws during the 2010 regular season, and 68.2 percent in the postseason, as he powered the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory. For an encore, Rodgers has improved his accuracy to a jaw-dropping 73 percent through four games, tops among NFL starters and on pace for a single-season NFL record.
Rodgers doesn't make many bad decisions, doesn't miss many throws and can fire passes through the smallest of windows. Certainly, Rodgers has a wealth of receiving talent at his disposal. But it's his accuracy, more than anything, that makes the Packers' offense borderline-unstoppable at times.
That certainly was the case against Denver on Sunday, when Rodgers ran up a regular-season career-high 408 yards, throwing for four touchdowns and running for two more.
Some of Rodgers' accuracy is a natural gift, but Rodgers credits work with his coaches with making him even better.
"You really throw from the ground up," Rodgers said. "And having your feet in a good position, your hips in a good position, your shoulders in a good position, that's the biggest thing. So a lot of that's work. But I think you either have, or don't have, the accuracy thing at a young age. In order to improve that, it's all about honing those fundamentals."
The Packers are 4-0 in large part because of the fundamental excellence of Rodgers, the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
But Rodgers still can't quite shake free of comparisons to his predecessor.
In an interview with an Atlanta sports talk radio station this week, Brett Favre made comments about Rodgers that could be interpreted as an attempt to downplay his achievements. Favre acknowledged that Rodgers has "tremendous talent." But he also said that he wasn't surprised that Rodgers won a Super Bowl, saying "the biggest surprise to me would be that he didn't do it sooner" and that Rodgers "just kind of fell into a good situation."
Rodgers took the high road, choosing to praise his teammates.
Donald Driver played with both Favre and Rodgers, and was asked to contrast the two quarterbacks after Sunday's win.
"Accuracy. He has the best of it," Driver said of Rodgers. "I tell people all the time, he takes what they give him. You don't find too many quarterbacks like that. The quarterback that I played with (Favre) was a gunslinger. He's going to throw it regardless, I don't care how many people are there, he's going to try to get it through there. Aaron's going to take what they give him. He's going to keep his composure and he's going to make the game (look) easy for him. It's a proven fact."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy praised Rodgers' accuracy and decision-making, especially when plays break down.
"I just can't say enough about Aaron Rodgers' skill set and his ability to play the quarterback position completely, whether it's throwing it from the pocket, throwing it off-balance from the pocket, sliding and throwing the ball, moving out to his left and right," McCarthy said. "He has all that. Obviously he's blessed with a lot of innate ability to accomplish that, but there is training involved. I think you have to give credit to our quarterback program, we've definitely helped him from a fundamental standpoint, and I think he would tell you he's had good coaching along the way. He understands that and appreciates that."
Rodgers said the fundamental mechanics of throwing play a critical role in his accuracy. He aims to repeat the same motion every time he throws the ball, with the same arm angle.
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said coaches, especially McCarthy and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, deserve some credit for Rodgers' success — but certainly not the majority of it.
"He's gotten good coaching, but the guy throws a ball," Philbin said. "You guys have heard my analogy from Boston and watching Roger Clemens throw a fastball. The guy knows how to throw a football. But he's done a great job. Tom does a phenomenal job in preparation with him. Aaron, he invests a lot of time as well. You hope all that stuff matters."
Rodgers also is putting his personal stamp on McCarthy's offense during the week. Rodgers doesn't think a quarterback should try to add something to every play he runs, but he will pick his spots.
"I like to tweak plays to make them to plan for the unexpected," Rodgers said.
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson said it took a long time for him to truly get on the same page as Rodgers. To earn Rodgers' trust, a receiver doesn't just have to know the plays as they're drawn up, but also know where Rodgers will expect him to be when a play breaks down under pressure.
"It's one thing to know the playbook, but it's another to know exactly what to do," Nelson said. "I mean, Aaron wants certain things, and we're still working on that. There's stuff today in practice that we're still discussing. We want that perfect thing."