Since winning a Super Bowl in February of 2011, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has went on to record quite possibly the greatest two-year stretch of individual quarterback play in NFL history.
Rodgers' NFL MVP from the 2011 season proves that his accomplishments have been far from swept under the rug. ESPN's Ron Jaworski, a noted film analyst and former NFL quarterback, has also ranked Rodgers as his top quarterback in each of the last two offseasons.
But I still don't believe Rodgers' last two seasons have been fully appreciated.
Consider that, since 2011, Rodgers ranks first in the NFL in passer rating (114.9), regular-season wins (25), yards per attempt (8.48), touchdown to interception ratio (6:1), touchdown percentage (8.0) and interception percentage (1.3), despite being sacked (87) more than any quarterback in football and his offense lacking a rusher with over 600 yards in a season.
By throwing 39 touchdowns against just eight interceptions in 2012, Rodgers became the first quarterback in NFL history to post back-to-back seasons with 35 or more touchdowns and eight or fewer interceptions. In fact, only four times in history has the feat been accomplished: Twice by Rodgers (2011, 2012), and twice by Tom Brady (2007, 2010).
When combining his MVP season in 2011 (45 touchdowns, six interceptions) with an MVP-quality 2012, Rodgers has actually thrown an All-Universe total of 84 touchdowns against just 14 interceptions over the last two seasons.
Only Drew Brees (89) has more touchdowns since 2011 than Rodgers, but the New Orleans Saints quarterback has also thrown 19 more interceptions (33).
Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre once threw 77 touchdowns over the 1995-96 seasons, the peak of his powers. But he also tossed 26 interceptions during the two-year stretch, or 12 more than Rodgers. Brady tossed 75 from 2010-11, but still had 16 interceptions despite throwing just four during the 2010 season. Peyton Manning's 78 scores from 2003-04 were accompanied with 20 picks. There's simply no historical comparison.
Of the passers with at least 60 touchdown passes since 2011, only Tom Brady and his 20 picks come even close to matching Rodgers (however, "close" may be too generous to Brady; Rodgers has a 6:1 touchdown to interception ratio, while Brady is at just 3.6:1. Brees is way back at 2.69:1.)
In each season, Rodgers has led the NFL in touchdown percentage. His 9.0 percent mark in 2011 was the second best in the NFL since 1976 (9.9; Peyton Manning, 2004).
Among quarterbacks who have attempted 400 or more passes since 2011, Rodgers ranks 29th in total interceptions (or, six quarterbacks have fewer). Among those ahead of Rodgers are just two quarterbacks with over 500 total attempts (Manning, who missed the entire 2011 season, and Alex Smith, who has just 663 attempts over 25 starts), one 2012 rookie (Ryan Tannehill) and three backups (Tarvaris Jackson, Kevin Kolb and Colt McCoy).
Brandon Weeden, a 28-year-old rookie in 2012, threw 17 interceptions on 517 attempts. Chad Henne has just 420 attempts since 2011 but 15 interceptions. Rodgers has 14 picks on 1,054 attempts.
His two-year interception percentage of 1.3 led Brady by a wide margin. In fact, both of Rodgers' marks (1.2 percent in 2011, 1.3 in 2012) rank in the top 15 of NFL history for a single season.
A low interception percentage is one thing for a check-down passer; however, Rodgers' 9.2 yards per attempt in 2011 was the second-best single season mark since 1976 (9.9, Kurt Warner, 2000).
High touchdowns and low interceptions have helped equal unrivaled passer ratings. Rodgers' 122.5 in 2011 set a new single-season mark, while his NFL-leading 108.0 in 2012 was the 14th best mark ever. No other quarterback even comes close to Rodgers over a two-year span.
And really, just about any other statistical category related to passing the football will have Rodgers at or near the top since 2011.
He's second in completion percentage (67.7), trailing only Manning (68.6), despite his receivers dropping 85 total passes (second among quarterbacks). If we push out the time span to three years, Rodgers is the only quarterback in football to complete at least 65 percent of his passes in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Passing yards clocks Rodgers in at No. 5, but each of the four quarterbacks ahead of him have attempted at least 100 more passes than the Packers quarterback since 2011.
According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers has led the NFL in deep passing percentage in each of the last two seasons (24 touchdowns against three interceptions on passes traveling 20 or more yards). He also has just one interception against pressure since 2011, despite facing a hurry or hit on 350 dropbacks. That's the lowest percentage in the NFL.
While his passing numbers are out of this world, Rodgers is also third among quarterbacks in rushing since 2011. His 516 rushing yards trail only Cam Newton and Michael Vick, while only Newton, Brady and Mark Sanchez (huh?) have more rushing touchdowns than Rodgers' five.
At times, Rodgers is the only spark (tied for the team lead with two 20-yard rushes and two rushing touchdowns in 2012) for a Packers running game that has ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in each season. In neither year did the Packers have a running back go over 600 yards rushing (454 yards from Alex Green in 2012, 578 from James Starks in 2011).
Finding legitimate flaws in Rodgers over the last two seasons is a difficult endeavor.
Some may say Rodgers holds onto the football too long, which has then helped create the inflated number of sacks and lower interceptions. But for every sack he creates, Rodgers avoids three others with his mobility and pocket presence. And a sack is almost always better than a turnover.
Knock him for playoff losses to the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers in consecutive years, but also don't forget that those two teams ended up representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. He didn't lose to scrubs.
Rodgers is obviously an accomplished, well-respected (at least by 99 percent of the NFL population; there's one bitter former receiver now in Minnesota) and celebrated quarterback. But it's very easy to under appreciate the kind of historical greatness that Rodgers has provided over the last two seasons.
Soak it in, and don't easily forget it. Packers fans have had the pleasure of witnessing arguably the greatest stretch of quarterback play ever since 2011, and that's not even counting Rodgers' blazing run through the 2010-11 playoffs.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].
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