I’m old enough to remember when the media was saying Aaron Rodgers was an average quarterback now. I’m also old enough to remember when he gave an interview with Kyle Brandt that made everyone freak out, the one where he said that he drank four fingers of tequila after the Packers drafted Jordan Love and sounded resigned that they’d one day move on from him. Everyone complained that they didn’t take a receiver, forgetting of course that they already had a top five receiver in Davante Adams and a top five running back in Aaron Jones. As though adding a second receiver would be more valuable than the motivation it gave Rodgers.
It’s not revisionist history. I predicted at the time of the pick and the time of the interview that Rodgers would develop a chip on his shoulder, and I explained that his contract made it highly unlikely that Green Bay would get rid of him after this year. (Disclosure: I’m a die hard Packers fan.)
Now the Packers are 4-0. Even without his top two receivers, Adams and Allen Lazard, Rodgers was 27-33 for 327 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions against the Falcons. I get that the Falcons had unrecognizable names playing in their depleted secondary, but considering the number of players missing for the Packers, this was a supremely impressive performance.
Oh by the way, it turns out that the Packers had other weapons. Before getting hurt with a core injury, Allen Lazard caught six balls for 146 yards and a touchdown last week against the Saints. Tight end Robert Tonyan caught three touchdowns against the Falcons and won’t be available in any fantasy leagues after the Packers return from their bye in Week 6. Jamaal Williams caught eight balls for 95 yards out of the backfield tonight.
There were a lot of eyebrows raised when the Packers hired Matt LaFleur last year. On one hand, he knew Sean McVay, which at that point was a golden ticket to a coaching job. On the other, his Titans offense had been pedestrian in 2018. He’s proven all the doubters wrong. The Packers have gone 17-3 in his first 20 regular season games.
Remember all the air time spent pontificating about how Rodgers and LaFleur were at odds and would never coexist? They’re thriving.
NFL seasons have a way of twisting and turning. Maybe the tweaked knee Rodgers suffered towards the end of the game tonight winds up being a big hindrance, and maybe he just comes back down to Earth. But right now he’s playing like he did in 2011, the year after the Packers won the Super Bowl where they went 15-1 and he easily won MVP. He’s locked in, playing the game at a different speed, which Packers writer Jason Wilde once referred to as “the Matrix mode.” When Rodgers looks like this, watch out.