A Secret for Aaron Rodgers, Who Wants Paid What He Deserves, but Also for the Packers to Be Competitive

By Warren Sharp

{This article contains excerpts from the Amazon bestseller, Warren Sharp’s 2018 Football Preview. Get a copy of the 252-page full color book from Amazon or the PDF here.}

Aaron Rodgers wants to get paid, but in a way where the Packers can still be competitive.  He wants his team to be competitive so he can win another ring, which his talent should have already won by now.  This logic won’t ruffle any feathers.  It’s a positive, wishful, hopeful thought process.  But it’s difficult.  How can he guarantee himself the money he deserves while still taking below market value to field a fully competitive roster?

The last six QBs to win a Super Bowl did so by playing well below their true value.  Three were QBs on rookie deals (Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz), which, particularly at the QB position, underpays rookies for 4 years.  The other three took below-market deals to ensure competitive rosters (based on cap hits, Tom Brady was QB11 in 2014, Peyton Manning was QB6 in 2015 and Brady was QB18 in 2016).

What would be easier, for both Rodgers and the Packers, would be for Mike McCarthy to simply embrace an open mind toward calling more efficient plays.  One way would be to call more RB-passes.  The last three years, the Packers targeted their RBs on just 15% of early down passes, the lowest rate in the league (NFL average is 21%).  Powerful offenses of the Saints and Patriots are tops in the league in RB-target rate on early downs.

On first-and-10, RB targets produce a 58% success rate, which was 2% more successful than WR targets (56%) over the past two years. The strategy behind RB passes is a brilliant one.  It gets the ball into one of the team’s best all-around athletes, who is capable of speed, power, and vision in open space.  It takes advantage of the upside of any pass play, which is different for run plays.  Instead of starting in front of 11 defenders running downhill at the ball carrier, trying to get through your own line and past the 11 defenders, on pass plays the defensive line is ostensibly eliminated from the play.  And very few LBs are running downhill to attempt a tackle.  Instead, these players are racing to cut off a RB at the perimeter, and are therefore more subject to missed tackles.

Another way the Packers could be improving their efficiency is with more rushing on second-and-short.  Second-and-short run plays are the easiest way to gain first downs in the NFL. The 2016 Packers ran on just 50% of second-and-short plays – third lowest rate in the league – and in 2017 Green Bay ran on just 52% of second-and-short plays, second lowest. Even with Rodgers injured and Hundley at quarterback for nearly ten games, the Packers passed on second-and-short plays well above league average. When Green Bay ran the ball on second-and-short plays in 2016, they produced an 81% first-down rate compared to a 53% first-down rate when passing. In Rodgers’ seven 2017 starts, the Packers produced a 71% first-down rate when running on second and short versus a 0% first-down rate when passing.

The Packers have a massive, multi-year split between running and passing on second and short, yet chose to be the league’s pass-heaviest team on second and short. It’s like pulling up for a mid-range jumper on a breakaway instead of dunking.

Finally, the Packers need to do better with personnel grouping usage inside the five-yard-line.  The last two years, when the Packers used two wide receivers or fewer on first-down plays inside the five-yard line, they had a 100% Success Rate and 100% TD rate, nearly double the league averages of 53% and 51%. The NFL uses groupings of two receivers or fewer on 45% of first-down snaps inside the five, and these groupings are much more successful than passing with three or more receivers on near-goal-line plays. But the Packers used three or more receivers on over 90% of their first-down snaps inside the five, producing a 58% Success Rate and 58% TD rate, nearly the league-average.

All too often, Mike McCarthy and the Packers depend on Aaron Rodgers’ brilliance as opposed to designing an offense to exploit NFL edges.  Rodgers has been insanely good, yet the Packers have made it to the NFC Championship game twice in seven years. And they haven’t returned to the Super Bowl since winning the Lombardi Trophy in 2010.  Tweaking these little edges to increase efficiency dramatically will be huge for the Packers, because the NFC is loaded in 2018.

Of the nine teams with better than 20-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, seven play in the NFC. Of the seven highest Win Total teams, five play in the NFC. If the Packers are going to have a shot this year, they can’t let Rodgers do it all himself again. They need Pettine to rescue the defense and Mike McCarthy to make more analytically-sound decisions on offense.

Check out the 2018 Football Preview book now at Amazon or in PDF to see more ways for the Packers to improve their efficiency, dive into my outlook for their 2018 season, and to check out the player Evan Silva thinks has the best fantasy outlook in 2018.

“There are so many preseason NFL previews available that offer fans insight into the season, however, few dig as deep as Warren Sharp’s Football Preview, with a unique view of what really matters during the season.  Sharp’s detailed approach is a must read for any football fan–and it’s one of my main summer reads.”

– Michael Lombardi, 3-time Super Bowl Champion, working with Bill Belichick, Bill Walsh & Al Davis

 

“Warren’s preview exemplifies the use of analytics and information in a way that should be interesting to any fan.  It is more in depth than many teams in the NFL are using today. Every GM and coach would serve themselves well to read the analysis of their team. They would both learn something and immediately appreciate the benefit of the information. Some still live in a world where they don’t know what they don’t know. This has become a crowded field, but no one presents it better, and breaks down what it means better than Warren.”

– Joe Banner, Longtime Philadelphia Eagles President and former Cleveland Browns CEO

“Warren Sharp’s Football Preview is the only book that will have something for everyone. It has illustrations and graphics for the visual person. It covers the analytical part of the game in many ways differently than I have seen. It has trends for people who like to bet the games, as well as philosophical thoughts on things that have happened in the past and how they might affect the future of the game. This book breaks down each team by every category imaginable and describes exactly what they did in every situation. If you coach any level of football, from youth to the NFL, you will assuredly receive valuable information… You won’t want to put it down.”

– Kevin Kelley, Head Football Coach & 7-time State Champion at Pulaski Academy

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