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Desperately Seeking Aaron Rodgers: NFL Unfiltered Week 4

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The National Football League’s incessant quest to find the next Aaron Rodgers has created a game full of quarterbacks like Cleveland’s Josh McCown.

 

It is no longer enough to find a good quarterback who makes a few throws each Sunday while limiting his mistakes. Instead, every team uses three, four, even five wide receivers and expects the likes of Sam Bradford  to dominate defenses with their intelligence and athleticism. But there is no other player like Rodgers, and that is not meant to disparage Bradford or McCown. It’s just that Rodgers has no equal in today’s game. Furthermore, very few in league history have ever played at his level. Aaron Rodgers photo: obtuseobserver.com/?tag=aaron-rogers

 

Yet, coaches continually ask their quarterbacks to throw 40 passes each game as if that were the only way to win. It is an oddity and flies in the face of logic.  Imagine for a moment how ridiculous the Phillies would seem if they suddenly asked shortstop Freddy Galvis to hit 30 home runs, or asked catcher Carlos Ruiz to steal 50 bases. Or what you might think of the Sixers if prized rookie Jahlil Okafor had instructions to attempt 5-8 three-point shots every night.

 

Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened in the NFL.

 

For one clear example, look no further than the Detroit Lions. From an athletic perspective, their quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is similar to former Dallas Cowboys’ Hall of Famer, Troy Aikman. And while Stafford is a bit shorter, their arm strength, quick release and nimble feet are quite comparable. The difference? The Cowboys saw Aikman as an important piece needed to win, instead of the sole reason they won, while the Lions seem to think Stafford is a savior.

 

To wit, Aikman attempted 500 passes only once in his entire career—1997, and the Cowboys finished that year 6-10—while Stafford has never attempted fewer than 600 passes in any season in which he played the bulk of the Lions’ games.

 

But most media scribes, talking heads and fans believe the game has changed.  hey say it’s a passing league now, and the only way to win is by throwing the football as often as possible. If that’s true, why are the Lions on their way to their fifth losing season in Stafford’s seven year career, despite the struggles and uncertainty of the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings in the same span?

 

The fact is, the Lions are a paltry 35-46 since they made the organizational decision to place the burden of winning on Stafford’s shoulders. It is no wonder he is already complaining of soreness after just four weeks of play.

 

Another good example of a quarterback being asked to do too much is Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. In Dalton’s first three seasons, he averaged just under 34 pass attempts per game and after three straight playoff appearances, they likely thought they were on to something. But a funny thing happened while they waited for Dalton to become Dan Marino. The Bengals realized Dalton had a tendency to complete passes to their opponents, as his 49 interceptions in his first 48 games illustrates.

 

Armed with this knowledge, Coach Marvin Lewis apparently decided to ground the Dalton aerial circus and instructed his offensive staff to pare it down. Hence, Dalton attempted 121 fewer passes (including playoffs) last season than he did in 2013. He is also currently averaging a 1987-like 29 pass attempts per game this season. At that rate, the Bengals are a very dangerous football team because they play good defense and effectively run the football. We once called that a winning offense. Now, it has negative connotations and implies the quarterback who runs it is nothing more than a game-manager.  

 

Maybe, but Aikman managed his games all the way to three Super Bowl championships and a yellow, Hall of Fame blazer. There are plenty of quarterbacks in today’s NFL capable of consistent production if they played for teams committed to a more tedious, perhaps less exciting brand of football. It isn’t that complicated, despite the notion the game has evolved.

 

Those who do not remember relative game-managers—and champions—like Joe Theismann, and Jim Plunkett are loath to admit it, but teams ask too much of their quarterbacks in today’s NFL.  There simply aren’t enough players like Rodgers for teams to win playing this style of football.

 

But there are more than enough quarterbacks to suffice, provided teams treat them like good players instead of all-time greats.        

 

RELATED: NFL Unfiltered Week 2: Can Jeffrey Lurie Reign in Chip Kelly?

 

THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Week 4

 

-Listening to so many football analysts come to Mike Tomlin’s defense after he mismanaged the end of the Steelers game is laughable.  The good humor comes from the fact that wasn’t the first time he exposed himself as a poor in-game strategist.  But Steelers fans know this all too well. Rodgers is definitely different, but never forget he averaged a measly 31.6 pass attempts per game the year the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. They haven’t come close to a championship since they deemphasized running the football.

Photo: Peter Diana/Post Gazette

 

-Atlanta Falcons quarterback, Matt Ryan is on pace to attempt the fewest passes in a season since 2010.  If they stay committed to that formula, the Falcons are dangerous.

 

-In my view, former Broncos great John Elway is the best quarterback of all time. That’s certainly arguable, but Joe Montana did not have as many physical gifts as Elway, and that isn’t debatable. Makes me wonder what would have happened if Bill Walsh had forced Montana to run a similar offensive system to Elway’s.

 

-By most accounts, Eagles’ wide receiver Nelson Agholor runs the 40-yard dash in about 4.4 seconds, but he doesn’t seem faster than Riley Cooper.

 

-Joe Philbin put most of his faith in quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s ability to channel his inner Dan Marino, and it cost him his job. Another victim of the notion the NFL is a passing league.

 

-Ndamukong Suh and Byron Maxwell’s respective teams are 2-6 combined. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, NFL owners and general managers simply can’t resist paying big money via free agency.

 

-Want further proof early free agency is a losing proposition? The Buffalo Bills are now 29-39 and paying their third different head coach since signing defensive lineman Mario Williams. Ironically, Williams has played very well.


Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

If you enjoyed Earl's article, you might also like:

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Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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Rodgers photo: USAToday.com

Thumbnail: bethaneywallace.com 

 Mike Tomlin photo: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette