The Benjaminites and the Followers of Aaron

Aaron Rodgers NFC Championship LossPackernation knows that our team and/or season rides on the health of Aaron Rodgers. With a returning offensive line and veteran running backs who know their protection schemes the Packers should be in a position to do whatever they can to keep our star quarterback upright. But I think Aaron is going to have an even better season than last season for one particular reason that no one is talking about. 

Aaron Rodgers is the best player in football. Forget the “Top 100” list, forget the fact that we didn’t win it all this year. Rodgers is the very best at the most complicated position (he has to know what every player on the field is doing) he throws the best ball and can run when needed. So how can the best get better?

He can enter the 2015 season coming off an injury.

Reader: Wuh?…OK this guy’s lost his mind!

Wait a minute…bear with me. Aaron Rodgers injury last season, seeing him walk off the field during the week 17 matchup against the Lions, was heartbreaking. Contrast that to the roar of the crowds and the hope that leapt in the hearts of Packernation when Rodgers came back to lead the team to victory and a home playoff game. The Lions game was just a gutsy performance (cue the mic: “Aaron is a warrior”) but the Dallas and Seattle games were something different altogether.

When Aaron injured his calf in the Lions game, the team had no time to game plan for a non-mobile Aaron Rodgers. In the two successive games, the Packers coaching staff, offensive line, and quarterback took steps to insure that the team could be successful even if Aaron was unable to break contain and run for a first down after if no receivers came open. I give great credit to Mike McCarthy for tweaking the Packers offense so that it could still be successful up against the stiffest defenses of the year, when Aaron was limited. What a feat!

Reader: OK, OK that’s all well and good but how does all this make Aaron Rodgers better? 

I’m almost there, but first a philosophical point, and I will say this as simply as possible. “When you’re elite, getting better is only incremental.” Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the game, therefore there is less about his game that can improve than anybody else in the league. Just to be an elite player means all the low-lying fruit has been picked. If you’re elite, your already big, fast, and strong and you already know the playbook and other teams’ tendencies. When you are the best of the best, improvements are even smaller and often imperceptible to observers who don’t have a deep knowledge of the sport. So how can the best of the best make improvements when there is so little left to improve upon?

Let me make an analogy (and this is just an analogy, not a theological treatise or claim that warriors on the battlefield are the same as “warriors” on the gridiron):

In the Bible, the tribe of Benjamin was a tribe known for its warriors. But in particular its left-handed warriors including Ehud the Judge who destroyed the Moabite king Eglon in Judges 3:15-22, and 700 left handed warriors of Benjamin (which itself, ironically means “son of my right hand”) in Judges 20:14-16. These were known as the best of the best. The Benjaminites to beat all Benjaminites. This is all well and good but what is really interesting is how they got to be the best of the best. You see, the reference to “left-handed” doesn’t say “left-handed” at all. It is a Hebrew idiom that means “bound in the right hand”. So how did these elite soldiers become the best of the best? They were bound or had their right hand restricted so that their left handed fighting skills developed. So one of the best ways to achieve greatness is to take away the strengths that we have a tendency to fall back on, in this case, the dominant right hand.

Reader: Thank goodness! I had my sermon yesterday!


Here’s the point. When Aaron Rodgers injured his calf, it in effect tied off his ability to break contain andarod run when receivers were not open. Rodgers is a great pocket passer and has (to me) the perfect balance of throwing over the rush and outrunning it. But I truly believe he got even better as a pocket passer when the ability to run was taken away. I imagine he had to change his thinking a bit, but when he got out on the field and was forced to perform against the toughest competition and had to stand in the pocket or just make fine-tuned, precise moves to get the ball to a receiver, he excelled. This is why I can’t wait to see Aaron Rodgers play this season!

Add to that the adjustments that the line made, knowing that their quarterback could not just run for his life and that they had be be even tougher, smarter, and more precise than they had been in the preceding games. Restricting Aaron Rodgers restricts the offensive line…and they too responded, having less sacks in week 17 and the playoffs than they did all season.

And finally, formations like the pistol formation (more on that later) will likely resurface and would likely not have been seen if it were not for Aaron’s restrictions. The coaching staff had to think harder and more broadly in light of the restriction on Aaron’s calf. I think this brought a very dangerous (pistol) set to the forefront and I think we may see more of it this year. Just think how dangerous it will be when Aaron has his mobility? Scary, if you are any defense playing the Packers.

So while I, along with everyone else in Packernation, felt a twinge knowing that Aaron Rodgers had to go into the playoffs less than healthy, I think the payoff is at hand. I truly believe Aaron’s best season is right in front of him and if that is the case…defenses beware!

Go Pack!


The Benjaminites and the Followers of Aaron
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3 thoughts on “The Benjaminites and the Followers of Aaron

  • July 13, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Brady, I think there’s more room for improvement than you’re implying. Rodgers and McCarthy have always struggled against good Ds, period. In fact, many lesser QBs have done better against top 5 Ds than Rodgers.

    Rodgers’ best performance vs a top D was NE, at GB. He struggled with Detroit twice, Seattle twice, Buffalo, and Miami. He performed just well enough vs Detroit in week 17, though nothing to brag about (226 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs). He played better vs Dallas, and their D wasn’t top 10 (316 yards, 3TDs, 0 INTs).

    But take away the last drive when Seattle was in prevent in the NFC Championship Game, and he passed for under 200 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs, which wasn’t good enough for a win. When you get 3 more turnovers than the other team, it should be a lopsided win. Some of that has to fall on Rodgers as stats don’t lie. I will say that his stats may have been better and the outcome may have changed if McCarthy hadn’t called runs for 5 out of the 6 plays inside the 5 yard line (our O-line is great at protecting Rodgers, but below average in the run game). But Rodgers did miss an open Nelson on his only pass attempt, so maybe not.

    It’s hard to see where Rodgers’ game improved much with the bum ankle. Without his ability to run, he’s comparable to Brady and Peyton Manning – still very good but not the best player in the NFL. When he can run, he can be the best player in the NFL, but he still has plenty of room for improvement for consistency against top Ds. :) Go Pack go!

    • July 13, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Actually I agree with you David that Rodgers games with the bum calf were not as good. The point of this post is that I predict Rodgers will have his best career season because he is coming back from being forced to play without leaning on his scrambling ability in the last three games of last year. The offensive line certainly improved in the last three games, giving up only 1.3 sacks per…best of their year. Plus, the fact that we used the pistol extensively allowed the team to see some of the potential in that set.

      Where we averaged 30+ points a game last season (amped up by big time performances against poor D’s) we will now score mid to upper 20’s versus those top defenses and drop 50 burgers on the weak.

      Thanks for your comments and GO Pack!

      • July 15, 2015 at 9:22 pm

        It’s all good. Go Pack go! :)


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