Packers Had a Historic Season Near the Goal Line in 2023

In last July’s publication of my 519-page Football Preview Book (you can and should pre-order the 2024 Football Preview NOW so you’re one of the first to read it as soon it’s released), I noted the struggles from the 2023 Packers in goal-to-go situations:

“To get the Jordan Love tenure off to a good start, the Packers’ young players must step up quickly to aid their inexperienced QB. But their coaching staff also needs to come out with a smarter strategy, better plays, and be willing to adjust quickly in-season.

the Packers had a 50% TD rate last year in goal-to-go situations. That’s coaching and execution. And it was the NFL’s worst rate since 2019.

That cannot happen in 2023. Things that can be drilled on and improved must be as close to perfect as possible.

Otherwise, the Packers will see Love start his career like Rodgers did, going 6-10 in his first season as a starter. That said, the schedule is easy enough for this Packers offense (#1 easiest schedule next season) that such a struggle is hard to believe.”

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I followed that July observation with a prediction in August, listing the Packers as one of my top-7 teams most likely to improve inside the red zone in 2023.

The staff knew they needed to improve in the red zone. But they no longer had a savvy, grizzled vet in Aaron Rodgers.

Often, such veteran QBs have seen goal line coverages hundreds of times with live bullets flying, know the right plays to audible into (or out of), and can execute with players they’ve established familiarity with while operating behind an offensive line they’ve dropped back behind thousands of times.

They had first-year starter Jordan Love and the NFL’s youngest offense.

So how much better did the Packers do at the goal line in 2023 compared to the NFL-worst 50% TD rate in 2022?

In 2023, the Packers scored touchdowns on a staggering 95% of goal-to-go drives.

That not only ranked #1 in 2023 (the next closest team was 83%)…but it ranked #1 for any team in goal-to-go database history! (since 2000 via TruMedia)

And jumping from 50% to 95% also represents the biggest year-over-year improvement in database history.

Executing near the end zone is a total team effort, and that comes from the play calling, quarterback, his protection, and the execution of his receivers or running backs.

A lot was required for the Packers to show such substantial improvement in goal-to-go situations last year.

Running back performance was certainly one factor.

Examine year-over-year performance by RBs in goal-to-go situations:

  • 2022: 30% success, -0.34 EPA/att, 3 TDs, 1.6 YPC, 25% stuff rate
  • 2023: 41% success, -0.10 EPA/att, 4 TDs, 1.2 YPC, 32% stuff rate

But the most notable performance improvement came at the quarterback position.

Before we look at goal-to-go performance, examine JordanLove vs Aaron Rodgers in non-goal-to-go situations, over the remainder of the field:

  • 2022 Rodgers: 44% success, 65% comp, 7.1 YPA, 19:10 TD:INT, -0.02 EPA/att
  • 2023 Love: 44% success, 64% comp, 7.3 YPA, 21:11 TD:INT, +0.10 EPA/att

The numbers outside of EPA were staggeringly similar.

But in goal-to-go situations, Rodgers’ veteran experience and familiarity with the offense didn’t help him perform. Meanwhile, Love was absolutely outstanding.

  • 2022 Rodgers: 32% success, 54% comp, 1.8 YPA, 7:2 TD:INT, -0.75 EPA/att
  • 2023 Love: 61% success, 61% comp, 3.3 YPA, 11:0 TD:INT, +0.80 EPA/att

Among 31 qualifying QBs in goal-to-go situations last year, Love ranked:

  • #1 in success rate (61%, average = 38%)
  • #1 in EPA/att (+0.80, average = -0.09)
  • #1 in TD rate (61%, average = 33%)
  • #1 in sack + INT rate (0%, average = 8%)

He threw the #5 most TDs of any QB in goal-to-go situations last year (11) while delivering league-leading efficiency.

It was an extremely special season for Love in goal-to-go situations.

Unfortunately, it is highly likely the Packers will regress in goal-to-goal situations in 2024 due to simple regression.

But part of the reason for the Packers’ exciting and unexpected playoff run was their turnaround in goal-to-go production, which was the best in modern history, and was led by first-year starter Love’s league-leading efficiency.