Sudden struggles of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers show why teams should build around QB limitations

If quarterbacks are the NFL’s primary players, this season is playing out like one long episode of Ozymandias for a spoiled generation. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers – along with aging stars Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford – were suddenly humbled by the game they had dominated for so long. After years of overcoming obstacles, years and the chaos of time, hitting the skids all at once feels confusing.

When we try to understand what that means, there has been an attempt to find one coherent explanation, for a reason. It’s been hard to do that as the story surrounding Brady and Rodgers has produced weekly ramifications that bring their tough questions to the table: Scoring is down! Amazing teams left the Super Bowl debate! The iconic quarterback has been changed forever!

We have become accustomed to talking and thinking about star players as representatives of their teams, for all their wealth. But read anything about the NFL’s greatest seasons, especially those of the Green Bay Packers (4-6) or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5), and you’ll see a much-needed appreciation of reality, an awareness of that these are not so. basically one man shows.

“They are being dragged down by weaker supporters,” the Wall Street Journal said before talking about the stumbling heroes: “Brady and Rodgers have failed to meet the high standards they have set for so long.” And on the other hand, they lower the scoring rate league wide. ”

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

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

After a heartbreaking loss to the Washington Chiefs in late October, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur put it bluntly when asked if Rodgers needed to play well for the team to get out of its tailspin.

“I think everyone needs it. It takes everyone around him,” LaFleur said. “You have to have protection in front of you to be able to stand. You have to have guys who make plays, too. ”

That would sound like an aberration, as the coach says. But when you examine the problems and recent glimmers of hope, it’s even more true.

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For all the ways that the incredible personalities of Brady, Rodgers and Wilson deserve a lot of lightning, this season’s disappearing act may prove that they get a lot more of everything than anything else. one to return. The best NFL teams are always built around signal callers, never expecting a savior.

What the numbers say about Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers

There should be no doubt that Brady and Rodgers are not playing as well as we expected them to. For the past two full seasons, they have been patrolling the biggest stat boards along with Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. In advanced metrics that come down to a play-by-play level, Rodgers and Brady are ranked as the top two QBs in 2021-22 by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. This season, it’s eighth (Brady) and 14th (Rodgers).

It’s a similar story in Adjusted EPA/play, a statistic that measures how successful each individual player has been against the league’s overall performance. They placed No. 1 and no. 3 among average quarterbacks for the past two seasons combined. This year, they’re down 15th and 19th, between the likes of Detroit’s Jared Goff and Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence.

Under the hood, Brady’s need to get the ball out quickly has reduced the amount of air yards on his throws, meaning he’s not throwing as many deep balls or taking mid-range shots down the field. Rodgers’ biggest decline comes in completion percentage — basically a measure of how many more difficult passes he completes than your opponent. Whether it’s the quality of the receiver, the lack of a clean pocket or both, Rodgers is actually below league average in this category this season after leading the world in it the past two years.

That incredible recent success clouded our imagination. The surprising duo of Brady and Rogers looked to be midway through 2019 — Brady’s final season in New England, and Rodger playing for the first time under LaFleur — finishing 13th and 17th among passers. qualified to DVOA.

Rodgers, in particular, was seen as a threat but may have reigned supreme. Most of his numbers – adjusted for a period by Pro-Football-Reference – fell below the league average as the Green Bay brain trust was built around a running game and a defense that didn’t require the brilliance of quarterback to win games. Back-to-back MVP campaigns later, Rodgers’ career now includes new heights reached alongside wide receiver Davante Adams in elite form.

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So perhaps the return to earth isn’t the cause for panic when you consider the fact that Rodgers no longer has Adams — or any other proven receiver — and was often missing Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari. for many games. because of the broken hands. However, Brady has been trying to work without his top targets playing together until two weeks ago, and paid for a terrible offense that was among the worst in the best in the league.

You can find the same excuses for Matthew Stafford’s offense of the Los Angeles Rams, and for Wilson’s terribly coached new team in Denver.

Wounds on the left. Reception rooms are complete. Weaknesses played are defensive tactics.

These are the correct theories for the average score in the NFL that actually work very well for the old quarterbacks. Jori Epstein of Yahoo Sports reported last month that defenses have increased their use of zone schemes that disrupt the deep passing game. Football Outsiders has made a similar persuasive case that the scoring problem is, in particular, a passing problem.

A growing body of evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, points to a defensive counterpunch that combines high-flying offenses led by Rodgers, Brady and others while giving some space to, well, the offense of the ground.

While the Buccaneers and Packers both showed signs of life in the Week 10 win, they managed to take some of the responsibility off the shoulders of their quarterbacks. The Bucs had their best game (by a mile) since Week 1 as they got top receivers in a groove, and the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys by putting more emphasis on running and making hay through the game.

How ‘limited’ quarterbacks can lead to limited offenses

If those fixes sound like temporary, short-term fixes to save sinking ships, they probably are. But just looking at the name years of the league’s greatest players will tell you that there was some change in the QB Savior Landscape. After watching a freshman matchup between Mahomes and Buffalo’s Josh Allen in last season’s playoffs, The Ringer’s Steven Ruiz declared that “fit isn’t good enough anymore,” implying that athletic stars who can to move. and archery is the future.

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The problem with that is obvious. There aren’t many of them. Brady and Rodgers are certainly not in that shape. Perhaps the principle most teams need to learn is a different approach to that story: “If an NFL team is going to punt its drive to a quarterback with limited physical ability, it’s better to put the team filled around him.”

Several of the NFL’s best teams in 2022 have done so, and they provide undeniable support for the practice of facing quarterback weaknesses and planning to hide them or play against them. security. No one would say that Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts are more gifted than Brady or Rodgers, and I doubt many would bet on them to produce major leaguers in 2023-2024, but recipes designed around their notoriety have evolved. they were world champions.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has been thriving this season in an offense that is well-organized to his abilities.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has been thriving this season in an offense that is well-organized to his abilities. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Eagles brought back that oft-misunderstood buzzword trick — the RPO (run option) — at the perfect time. Hurts’ wheels allow Philadelphia to torment a defense that spends every week of the season doubling down to stop deep passes.

Football Outsiders explained: “They’re using this tactic exactly as it should be used, not as a way to make sure any pick the defense makes is wrong.”

Meanwhile, in Miami, new Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel has Tagovailoa — the same QB who has struggled to fit in tight windows the past few years — leading a powerful offensive attack. the best of the game because of the great game designs that use extreme speed. threat from receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

With a 14-team field, the Packers and Bucs may have enough of a cushion to get their version of these adjustments. Yes, Rodgers and Brady’s rebounds, even Super Bowl runs, are high on the table. However, that table cannot be set unless several other things go right. The sharp drop in the 2022 quarter may be a timely reminder.


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