Have you ever heard of the expression ‘don’t poke the bear’?
The last time we saw the Green Bay Packers, they were on the losing end of an NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers in which the opposing quarterback attempted just eight passes. Aaron Rodgers posted a QBR of 23.3 and the 49ers ran wild with almost 300 team rushing yards in a contest that never even felt as close as the 17 point margin in the final score. It was an abysmally woeful performance.
To add insult to injury, the Packers shocked the football world in April’s Draft when they selected Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round. The pick bewildered pundits and alienated fans, but, most importantly, it cast doubt on the future of Rodgers’ time in Wisconsin. For a team that so desperately needed wide receiver help in a historically wide receiver laden draft, the move didn’t just feel odd; it felt personal.
To be fair, the Aaron Rodgers we’ve seen of late has not exactly been the two time MVP that we’ve grown accustomed to. In the last two seasons, Rodgers has put up back to back career lows in touchdown passes and QBR. In fact, in 2019 Rodgers ranked 20th in total QBR (right between Baker Mayfield and Jacoby Brissett). True to form, Rodgers didn’t turn the ball over almost at all, but he also wasn’t orchestrating explosive pass plays or throwing downfield nearly as efficiently as he had in the past. The Packers were winning, but it never felt as though Rodgers was the reason why.
In a football world dominated by names like Jackson, Wilson and Mahomes, Rodgers has found himself on the ‘outside looking in’ of the elite quarterback conversation, seemingly for the first time since he took the field over a decade ago. The Bad Man who was once considered the best quarterback in the NFL now sits comfortably in the back half of top 10 QB ranking lists (and in some cases, doesn’t make them at all). Not since his famous R-E-L-A-X soundbite have there been so many questions revolving around the signal caller.
Week 1 of the NFL season would see the Packers crossing state lines to take on their NFC North rivals the Minnesota Vikings and all eyes were fixated on Rodgers after such an eventful off season. With the pressure mounting from his own organization and the media, how would Rodgers respond?
The answer is? Masterfully; throwing for 364 yards, 4 touchdowns and boasting a passer rating of 127.5, Rodgers decimated the Vikings secondary en route to a 43-34 Green Bay win. To put the numbers into context, in the last two seasons Rodgers has only had a passer rating of 125+ five times, 4 touchdowns in a game twice and his 364 yards passing would’ve been the second most he recorded in 2019; all with virtually the same cast of receivers he had a year ago. Simply put, it was objectively one of the better performances in recent history for Rodgers.
Is this a sign of things to come for Aaron Rodgers and the Pack in 2020? Is Aaron Rodgers back?
It’s much too early to tell, but if I had to overreact?
Aaron Rodgers looks to be a man on a mission; as motivated and eager to prove the doubters wrong as he’s ever been, and if he continues to play at the level he played on Sunday?
That thought should terrify every team in the league. All 32.
Don’t poke the bear.