ADVERTISEMENT

The surprising struggles of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers show why teams must be built around the limitations of a QB

ADVERTISEMENT

If quarterbacks were the main characters in the NFL, this season it played like One long episode of Ozymandias to a corrupt generation. Tom Brady And the Aaron Rodgers – along with the most advanced stars Russell Wilson And the Matthew Stafford – they were suddenly humbled by the game they had dominated for so long. After years of navigating the odds and age and off-season turmoil, these synchronized skating hits felt overwhelming.

ADVERTISEMENT

In trying to understand the implications, it has been tempting to search for a single, coherent explanation, for the sake of a cause. It was hard to do because the narrative about Brady and Rodgers produces almost weekly ripple effects that bring their complex questions to the table: Scoring decreased! Surprise teams have jumped into the Super Bowl talks! The quarterback prototype has been changed forever!

We’re so used to talking and thinking of star quarterbacks as agents for their teams, for the fortunes of their entire franchise. But read anything about the highlights of disappointing NFL seasons, especially ones Green Bay Packers (4-6) or Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5), and you will see a necessary acknowledgment of reality, a warning that these are not actually one-offs.

dragged down by a weaker support team, The Wall Street Journal reported Before dwelling on the struggling champions: “Brady and Rodgers have fallen short of the lofty standards they have set for so long. In turn, they are lowering the league-wide scoring average.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, left, and Tampa Bay quarterback QB Tom Brady have played well below their usual levels this season.  The sudden drop is hard to explain.  (Photo by Douglas B. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Tampa Bay Bucs QB Tom Brady have been playing well below their usual levels this season. The sudden drop is hard to explain. (Photo by Douglas B. DeFelice/Getty Images)

After a huge loss to Washington leaders in late october, Packers coach Matt Lafleur made it even more explicit when asked if Rodgers needed to play better. The team has to pull out of the collapse.

“I think it takes everyone. It takes everyone around,” Lafleur said. “You have to have protection in front of you to be able to hold on. You should get the players to make plays as well.”

This may sound like an aberration, like the trainer’s words. But the more seriously you examine the struggles and last glimmer of hope, the more right it seems.

For all the ways the amazingly bizarre personalities of Brady, Rodgers, and Wilson deserve lightning rods, this season’s disappearance could prove that they’ve got a lot of everything in their way on each quarterback. The best NFL teams consciously operate around human signal callers, not expecting a savior.

What do the numbers say about Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers?

There should be no doubt that Brady and Rodgers are not playing as well as we expected them to. Over the past two full seasons, they have patrolled at the top of most major statistical leaderboards along with Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. In advanced metrics that go to play-by-play, Rodgers and Brady They were ranked as the top two QBs in 2021-22 By DVOA Football Outsiders. This season, they are eighth (Brady) and fourteenth (Rodgers).

It’s a similar story in the EPA/play adjustment, a statistic that measures success based on the results of each snap against the average score of snaps across the league. They were ranked No. 1 and No. 3 among regular quarterbacks For the past two completed seasons combined. This year, they are languishing in the fifteenth and nineteenth placesamong the likes of Detroit Jared Goff and Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville.

Under the hood, Brady’s need to get the ball out quickly has greatly reduced the average yards of air for his throws, meaning he doesn’t throw nearly as many deep balls or even take as many intermediate shots that span the field. Rodgers’ biggest setback comes in his over-completion percentage – basically a measure of how many hard throws he completes from your regular shots. Whether it’s receiver quality, lack of a clean pocket or both, Rodgers is actually below league average in that category this season after the world has stepped on him for the past two years.

This recent overwhelming success spoils our perceptions. The duo seemed dramatic for Brady and Rogers as the mids of 2019 — Brady’s last season in New England, Rodgers played for the first time under LaFleur — finished 13th and 17th among DVOA-eligible passers.

Rodgers, in particular, was seen as dangerous but perhaps no longer tyrannical. Many of his numbers – Helpfully modified for the times by Pro-Football-Reference – fell below league average as Green Bay’s Brain Trust was built around its run game and defense You don’t necessarily need to excel in the middle to win matches. Back-to-back MVP campaigns later, Rodgers’ career arc now includes new heights achieved alongside a wide receiver Davant Adams in elite form.

So perhaps the return to Earth isn’t a cause for existential alarm when you consider the fact that Rodgers doesn’t have Adams anymore — or any other proven wide receiver — and often misses Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari For a large number of matches due to annoying injuries. Brady, meanwhile, has been trying to work without his major goals playing together until the past two weeks, and making up Shockingly fast attack which is ranked among the least effective in the league.

You can find similar excuses for the depraved Matthew Stafford Los Angeles Rams Attack, and Wilson’s new, eerily trained unit in Denver.

Left handling injuries. Depleted reception rooms. Defensive tactics played disadvantages.

These are all very valid theories of total scoring decline across the NFL that actually apply almost neatly to veteran, struggling quarterbacks. Yahoo Sports Jory Epstein I mentioned last month That defenses have stepped up their use of zonal schemes that impede the deep passing game. Football’s outsiders made a similarly compelling case More specifically, the registry issue is a transient one.

More and more evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, points to a defensive counterpunch that confines the high attacks led by Rodgers, Brady and others while giving up some ground to the ground attack.

As the Buccaneers and Packers both showed signs of life in their Week 10 victories, they were finally able to shift some of the responsibility off the quarterbacks’ shoulders. The Bucs had the best rushing game (by a mile) since week one as they put the best receivers back into a groove, and the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys Putting more emphasis on running and making hay through the action of playing.

How “Limited” Quarterbacks Can Lead to Ultimate Offenses

If these modifications seem like suboptimal makeshift moves to save sinking ships, they certainly are. But just checking the ages of the league’s biggest quarterback names will tell you some development at QB Savior Landscape was in store. After watching the new school duel between Mahomes and Buffalo’s Josh Allen in the playoffs last season, Stephen Ruiz of Ranger announced That “good enough is no longer good enough,” superstar sports stars who can move And the Darts are the future.

The problem with that is obvious. There are not many of them. Brady and Rodgers certainly aren’t in that mold. Perhaps the wisdom most teams should learn is a different line from that story: “If an NFL team is going to hitchhike to a quarterback with limited physicality, it’s best to put a loaded group around him.”

Two of the NFL’s best teams in 2022 have done just that, and they provide indisputable support for the practice of facing quarterback limitations and planning to either hide them or turn them against the defense. No one will claim to be a Miami Dolphins quarterback Toa Tagovailoa Or Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts are more talented than Brady or Rodgers, and I doubt many would bet they would outpace their older statesmen in 2023-24, but offenses designed around their lesser-known skills were outclassed in the world.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has enjoyed great success this season in an offense perfectly tailored to his skill set.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has enjoyed great success this season in an offense perfectly tailored to his skill set.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts This season he thrives in an attack perfectly tailored to his skills. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
ADVERTISEMENT

The Eagles brought back a much-misunderstood buzzword tactic — RPO (option pass) — in perfect time. Hurts allow Philadelphia to torment defenses that spend roughly every two weeks of the season doubling down on deep pass stops.

“They’re using the tactic precisely the way it’s supposed to be used,” Football strangers explained“Not as a completion rate booster but as a means of ensuring that any choice the defense makes is wrong.”

Meanwhile, in Miami, Dolphins’ new head coach Mike McDaniel Tagovailoa — the same QB who’s struggled to fit passes into tight windows the past few seasons — led the game’s most prolific air offense. Thanks to a barrage of clever gameplay designs That use the threat of the maximum speed of the receivers Terek Hill And the Jaylen Waddell.

With a playoff field of 14 teams, the Packers and Bucs may have enough cushion to find their own version of these fixes. So yeah, rebounds for Rodgers and Brady, even Super Bowl runs, are on the table a lot. However, this table can’t be made without a lot of other things going right. The significant economic downturn in 2022 may be just a timely reminder.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
%d bloggers like this: