Melissa’s Monday Musings: Loss of Aaron Rodgers extends far beyond Packers
When David Johnson dislocated his left wrist in Week 1, the NFL (and fantasy community) arguably lost its best running back. When Odell Beckham Jr. fractured his ankle last week, ending his season, the NFL arguably lost its most thrilling playmaker. When J.J Watt’s season also ended last week after he fractured his tibial plateau, the NFL unquestionably lost a chunk of its heart.
Now with Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone and possibly missing the season, the NFL has lost its most essential player.
Last week in this space I had planned to dote on Rodgers after he produced his latest masterpiece, this time a thrilling win over Dallas. But then the vice president walked out of the Colts game, an NFL coach was caught snorting cocaine and we changed directions. Unlike those other social media made stories, Rodgers lingered. He usually does.
Before Sunday’s unfortunate first quarter injury, Rodgers was having a damn good year. Not his best ever, but up there. It was certainly a far improvement over last season’s early slump – of course there are 20 quarterbacks who would love to play like Rodgers during a ‘slump.’ However, it was Rodgers’s late brilliance last season – winning eight in a row before falling to Atlanta in the NFC Championship game – that added another layer to his legend.
For those without functioning eyeballs, Rodgers possesses an otherworldly skillset. He can survey the field faster than anyone, shift a defense with his eyes better than anyone, throw the back shoulder pass more accurately than anyone, and protect the ball with more genius than anyone. Rodgers has the lowest interception percentage (1.55%) and the only passer rating over 100 (104.1) in NFL history among passers with at least 1500 pass attempts.
The current quarterback landscape only lends itself to a further appreciation of Rodgers. Peyton Manning has retired. Drew Brees is at the tail end of his career. Tom Brady has already cemented himself as the greatest of all time after filling his hand with Super Bowl rings, and he’s 40. The slightly younger Matthew Stafford-Joe Flacco contingent has never been able to have consistent success. And because of a few wayward drafts, there is hardly a next generation of obvious greats. The book’s still out on Cam Newton, not to mention Derek Carr, Deshaun Watson and a few others with promise.
The leaves 33-year old Rodgers as the NFL’s lone generational quarterback still nestled deep in his prime. Like Manning and Brady in there’s, Rodgers of today simply makes your jaw drop. He’s either going to be methodical, make some ridiculous throws or both. If you love football, you have to love watching Rodgers. Even Bears fans I know, simply marvel.
As the seas have started parting for Rodgers and he garners even more attention, he has become more compelling off the field as well. In a recent well-read interview with ESPN’s Mina Kimes, Rodgers discussed his personal growth and own enlightenment as it relates to understanding the plight of his teammates. In an era where quarterbacks are basically robots with coaches to help them go to the bathroom, Rodgers’s intellectual curiosity is so refreshing.
One of the NFL’s most shocking stats is that Rodgers’s only has one Super Bowl ring. He’s certainly had chances at more but run into a series of postseason roadblocks (one of whom is a free agent QB, by the way). This seemed as good a year as any to get that second, especially after the showcase Rodgers put on against Dallas last week. Alas, it won’t be happening. The Packers have little to no shot without Rodgers.
As much as the Packers need Rodgers, the NFL needs him as well. The league’s quarterbacking deficiency grows more obvious each week as the latest system quarterback doesn’t pan out. Rodgers is our constant. You either get sheer awesomeness for a full 60 minutes of football or you have adrenaline knowing the awesomeness will come at any moment. The NFL without Rodgers is a lot less awesome. Especially this season.
A few other thoughts from a bewildering Week 6:
At the end of the ’94 season, the NFL instituted a salary cap to promote parity. I’m not sure we’ve had a more parity-filled season than this one to date. Ben Roethlisberger throws five interceptions one week, and his Steelers stymie the undefeated Chiefs the next. The Jets demolish the Patriots secondary for a half. The Cardinals oscillate between meager and offensive powerhouse. The Giants deserve their own category of confounding. I’m far more partial to parity if it’s rooted in teams making strategic roster moves and maximizing potential. But unfortunately this version feels a lot more due to injury and lack of quarterback replenishment than an overload of evenly dispersed talent.
Arizona’s offense exploded as a whole in its 38-33 win over Tampa Bay. But the star of the show was newest member, 32-year old Adrian Peterson who clearly thought it was turn back the clock day. When Peterson was traded to the Cardinals this week, he declared: “I still have a lot left in the tank.” Nothing he showed over the past two years with the Vikings or in his brief tenure with Saints would have suggested that was true. But 26 carries, 134 yards and 2 TDs later, Peterson is back to his shifter, faster, bulldozing version. He should be a fun one to watch. Next up on the comeback tour: the Rams who just allowed 130 rushing yards and a touchdown to Leonard Fournette.
Relatedly, the Cardinals dropped the best social media tweet of the weekend:
BREAKING: Ankles (via @AdrianPeterson) pic.twitter.com/oA7318RuLM
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 15, 2017
The networks have universally stopped showing the anthems for obvious reasons. Avoid the optics, alter the conversation. But given that one powerful owner just threatened to sit players who don’t stand and the possibility of other owners following suit, they should have been aired this week. Hopefully the special NFL meeting on protesting and social issues Tuesday will result in some amicable, productive solution. But for now, the anthem is still a story, even if the genesis has been twisted and gentrified.
Kirk Cousins’s numbers were strong (25/37, 330 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) but in what most assume was an audition to be San Francisco’s starter in 2018, Cousins wasn’t even the most intriguing quarterback on the field. That honor went to backup-turned-starter rookie C.J. Beathard who replaced a woeful Brian Hoyer in the first half and nearly sparked the 49ers to victory number one. Cousins was fine – he certainly made a few impressive throws. But he also missed open receivers, failed to keep plays alive in spots, and didn’t showcase any intangibles. Assuming disaster does not strike, Cousins will command a lot of money in free agency next year. The 49ers have significant cap space but also need a true franchise quarterback who can take them places.
Has anyone in NFL history ever been as marketable as Peyton Manning two years past retirement? Sunday afternoons are still wall-to-wall Peyton.
– I’m done making Jets jokes. They showed a lot taking advantage of New England’s depleted secondary in the first half. Love Austin Seferian-Jenkins’s toughness.
– Of course Green Bay should call Colin Kaepernick. Some of the Packers most haunting film in the past five years involved Kaepernick under center.
– I think the Chiefs should have thrown in a few option plays for Alex Smith. His legs are a huge asset.
– We need injury analysts in the broadcast booth. They don’t need to diagnose an injury on the spot (nor would they try) but a little more context and range of possibilities would be much more useful than “it’s a right shoulder injury.”
– Angry Tom Brady is my favorite kind of Tom Brady.
– It was very strange to see Brock Osweiler back on the field as a Bronco, even if for one series.
– I’m not sure I’ve ever been less excited about a Monday Night football game than tonight’s Colts-Titans affair. But at least I’ll be eating paella with a pilsner to wash it down. Be sure to follow our new(ish) Twitter account as we’ll be live tweeting all the best Grudenisms.