- Peter Keating
Putting up 307 yards and two touchdowns against a division opponent? Eh. Last week was just another day at the office for Aaron Rodgers, whose efficient dismantling of Detroit on Thanksgiving was overshadowed by Ndamukong Suh's hissy fit. Rodgers actually posted his second-worst game of the year Thursday, with a Total Quarterback Rating of 66.1. But he still has a QBR of 85.6 for the season, higher than Tom Brady's 84.9 in 2007, the top single-season score in our database. But forget QBR for a moment. Let's try to answer the question that has been popping up for a while now: Where does Rodgers' 2011 rank among the all-time greats?
Rodgers has been able to do pretty much whatever he wants on the field this season: he has completed 73.8 percent of his passes for 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions and is on pace to throw for more than 5,000 yards. His stats are ridiculously good however you slice them -- on passes short and long; first, second and third down, outside and inside the red zone. But three factors stand out as particular keys to Rodgers' success.
First, while Rodgers used to scramble for rushing yards -- he ran for more than 300 yards in both 2009 and 2010 -- now he's using his mobility to keep passing plays alive. As a rusher, he's down from 5.5 yards per carry over the past two years to 3.6 YPC in 2011. But as a passer, he's been remarkable when he's on the run. In the 15 percent of his passes when Rodgers has thrown from outside the pocket, his yards per attempt have actually gone up, to 11.6 -- 18 percent more than any other QB in the league -- with eight TDs and no INTs.
On a related note, Rodgers has been able to develop deeper receiving threats this season than he has ever enjoyed as a starter. Jordy Nelson, having a sensational breakout season, leads the NFL with 13.5 yards per target and has dropped just one pass. James Jones is averaging 18.8 yards a catch and caught a 65-yard bomb that broke open the Detroit game. And Randall Cobb, Jones and Nelson are among the league's top 10 wide receivers in yards after catch per reception. Result: Rodgers has maintained phenomenal proficiency throwing downfield, with 964 yards on just 34 attempts (28.4 YPA), nine TDs, only one INT and a perfect QBR of 100 on passes of 21 or more yards.
Peter Keating aims to put Aaron Rodgers' season in historical perspective. While he's having a great year, it isn't the best quarterbacking season of all time.