Monday, November 26, 2012

According To The Atlantic, Aaron Rodgers May Be Over The Hill

Aaron Rodgers - 2012 passer rating leader as of Week 11, reigning MVP and Super Bowl XLV MVP - is apparently aging and potentially past his peak. So says the Atlantic, at least, which used this week's Packers-Giants matchup to determine (or maybe not) the future fate of the losing quarterback's career. It's a truly stunning piece of terrible sportswriting.

Fox News set the bar pretty for journalistic idiocy pretty low (high?) this weekend, running this op/ed about the War on Men (the last five paragraphs are so over the top, they read as subversive satire), but Allen Barra at the Atlantic definitely gave it a run for its money. "Sunday May Be the Beginning of the End for Eli Manning or Aaron Rodgers" called the headline of his Sunday Night Football game preview, in what I thought must be link-bait, but startlingly was not. That really is the article's thesis. 

From that sentence alone, I would be happy to tell you why this article is stupid (they've won the last two Super Bowls, just off the bat), but luckily, Barra supplies all of the reasons himself. Let's go through this, FJM-style.

Legacies are on the line for the Giants' and Packers' almost-legendary (and aging) QBs.

This is the article's sub-heading. We're already off to a terrible start. Now, I know Barra wants to sell this game's significance, but I highly doubt anyone's legacy is on the line in a Week 12 game between 7-3 and 6-4 teams. Also, Aaron Rodgers is 28 (for another week) and didn't play his first three years in the league, and Eli is 31. Considering Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are still two of the four best QBs in the league at 35 and 36 respectively, I'd hardly call Rodgers and Eli aging.

... The two teams, each excellent in recent seasons, have been surprisingly lackluster this time out. Both will be looking for a win Sunday to shore up their unexpectedly shaky shots at the playoffs this year.

Yes, the Packers went 15-1 last year, but no one expected them to replicate that. And as both these teams currently would make the playoffs if the season ended today, I wouldn't call their chances shaky. Rodgers, by the way, has been unquestionably the best QB in football the five weeks leading up to the Giants game and probably has a claim for the entire season. The Giants, for their part, are doing what they've done every season since 2007, starting off strong and then swooning around November. It would be a surprise if they dominated for an entire season, at this point. But by all means, continue.

But there's something more at stake: their quarterbacks' legacies. Both Rodgers and Manning are at the cusp of enduring greatness, but their quests to attain Hall-of-Fame status are only going to get tougher after this game.

Really? This is the game? In Week 12 of the 2012 season? We should get Cris Carter to unretire, because if he has a great game this week, he'll be a shoo-in for the Hall. That must be his issue.

Aaron Rodgers is probably the best QB in the NFL today. I say probably because a cloud still hangs over his reputation. Common wisdom holds that to be regarded as one of the all-time greats, a quarterback must win at least two Super Bowls. That's grossly unfair, especially since some of the best passers ever to play the game—such as Dan Marino—never won even one, at least partly because they played most of their careers for inferior teams. But that's the way it goes.

STRAW MAN ALERT STRAW MAN ALERT STRAW MAN ALERT. Let me list you three quarterbacks who have not won two Super Bowls and yet are still generally considered all-time greats: Marino, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning. By this logic John Elway wasn't an all-timer until his final game. Maybe your arbitrary definition of all-time great/elite is grossly unfair BECAUSE IT'S TOTALLY ARBITRARY. That's the way it goes, you say? Only to you, you prick.

After winning the Super Bowl for the 2010 season, Rodgers seemed to be on the verge of his second ring in 2011. He had put in one of the greatest QB performances ever, throwing 45 touchdown passes against just six interceptions, topping the league in the NFL's quarterback ratings at 122.5, and leading NFL passers in the most important of passing stats, yards per attempt, 9.2—roughly the equivalent of a hitter in baseball finishing with a .400 batting average.

Did Ted Williams hit over .400 in 1942? No? Did you really expect Rodgers to directly replicate THE GREATEST PASSING SEASON IN NFL HISTORY? What if Rodgers' stats this year are in line to a little better than his career numbers, which are statistically the best of all time by the way? Oh they are? That's interesting.

Then came the NFC Division playoff, in which the 15-1 Packers had to defeat the 9-7 Giants. Suddenly, Rodgers could not hit men wearing yellow helmets with consistency; his 26 completions in 46 attempts produced just 264 yards and an average of 5.7 yards a toss, 3.5 yards less than his average. It was his worst performance of the season. Eli Manning, who had a much inferior season, overall was uncanny, throwing 33 times for 330 yards and 3 TDs as the Giants beat the Packers by 17 points.

The year before, the 10-6 Packers knocked off four teams with better records en route to the Super Bowl. This is not unprecedented. In this specific game, one of Eli's touchdowns was a Hail Mary, and the other had about 60 yards after the catch. Packers receivers also dropped six passes, with a few others that could have massaged that number upward. Totally all Eli's doing.

In Super Bowl XLVI, Brady was 27-41 for 276 yards, with two touchdowns and a pick against this same defense. Maybe a slightly better line than Rodgers's, but not by much. But Brady's elite because he won three Super Bowls by 2005 (to be fair, he is elite, just not for that reason). Carry on, I like your analysis so far.

...Some of [Rodgers's] bad game against the Giants could certainly be credited to New York's fierce pass rush and confusing coverages, but those are things a great quarterback is supposed to be able to deal with. All afternoon, every time he set up in the pocket, Rodgers resembled like a Fox News analyst looking at the Electoral College map this past election night.


The irony, of course, is that the quarterback who went on to win his second Super Bowl ring was Manning. 

HOW IS THAT IRONIC? Let me try: the irony of this article is that it's written by a man who professes to be a journalist. See, just saying the word irony doesn't make something ironic.

In 2007, Eli had a good-but-not-great season, throwing 23 touchdowns but leading the league's passers with 20 interceptions. After finishing 10-6, Manning and the Giants caught fire and stormed through the playoffs to take the championship, beating the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, 17-14.

In 2011, the Giants, who had come very close to missing the playoffs altogether, did it again, rolling over the opposition for four straight wins as Manning, with laser-like efficiency, threw nine TD passes in four games with just one interception.

Maybe there's no irony, and Eli Manning is a good-but-not-great quarterback who's had two great postseason runs. But it's not like you just said that. /facepalms

Tangentially, this whole article came about because you decided that Eli's debatably elite because he won two Super Bowls and Rodgers may not be despite being better in every other category, right? Well, when Terry Bradshaw won his second Super Bowl in 1975 his career passer rating was 59.7. Seriously, you can look it up. This discussion is asinine.

But Eli has been terrible this season. The NFL ranks him just 22nd among the league's 32 starting QBs. He has thrown almost as many interceptions, 11, as TD passes, 12, and his 7.3 yards/pass average is his lowest in four seasons. If he loses on Sunday, it's very likely the Giants won't make the playoffs at all and Eli may find himself following in the footsteps of Jim Plunkett.

Well that looks more like slightly worse than average, not necessarily terrible. Also, isn't he good-but-not-great for his career? His career rating is 82.1. His rating this year is 81.8. WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU SAYING?

Plunkett, who played from 1971-1986, was an unspectacular QB during the regular season, but he had the golden touch when it came to the postseason, going 8-2 as a starter for the Raiders, including two Super Bowl victories. He is the only passer in league history to have two Super Bowl rings without being voted into the Hall of Fame. Manning, who is 9-3 in postseason play, could be headed for a similar legacy. Of course, if he wins a third Super Bowl, Hall of Fame voters likely won't care that he never led the NFL in passer rating.

Is Plunkett elite or not? I don't get it. I thought you said that "common wisdom holds that to be regarded as one of the all-time greats, a quarterback must win at least two Super Bowls." If that's the only thing you're willing to accept, how can you say a quarterback isn't an all-time great if he's met those exceedingly strange criteria?

You know none of this would be a problem if we didn't make everything into a referendum on nebulous terms like "elite" and "clutch." Maybe Manning should be remembered like Plunkett, because the two actually resemble one another. Plunkett's Rate+ (which is like ops+ for passer rating, and for which 100 is average) is 98. Manning's is 99. Hmmmmm. Rodgers: 126. Brady: 119. SORRY ARE MY NUMBERS RUINING YOUR NARRATIVE?

However boyish he looks in his many TV commercials, Eli Manning is no longer young for a football player. He is 31, and by the time the postseason starts he will have turned 32. Aaron Rodgers will be 29 next month and may soon be past his physical prime as well. Though he's the highest-rated passer in the league, his numbers overall are considerably down from the ones he posted in 2011, and the Packers have already lost two more games than they did in all of 2011. I'm not implying that this is the last hurrah for either Manning or Rodgers, but it is likely that the loser of Sunday night's game isn't going to win much of anything this season, and football won't be getting easier for either man as he gets older. (emphasis mine)

See what I said about Peyton Manning and Brady aging earlier. See also what YOU said about Manning being good-but-not-great and what I said about Rodgers regressing slightly earlier. Also, the Packers were 8-2 at this article's writing because, you see, they won that game in Seattle. Has EVERYONE forgotten this? Not even the Patriots can sustain the level of winning the Packers put up last year because... IT'S UNSUSTAINABLE.

And last thing, way to hedge you gutless idiot. If you're going to write such an absurd article which relies on basically no facts and uses narratives that aren't even really true, at least have the balls to stick up for your points. Manning and Rodgers have won three Super Bowls, never coming off a season with more than ten wins. You think a random regular season game matters to their legacies? Football won't be getting easier for either man as he gets older? Isn't that true of every game? They never get younger, do they?

I'm putting you on blast, Allen Barra. This is the worst piece of sportswriting (non-Mitch Albom category, and Albom's just actively trolling the internet now) I've read this year. Well, maybe not. But it doesn't speak well for the future of your sportswriting work. 

(See how annoying hedging is?)


  1. Killer piece. Make sure Barra and his editor see it.

  2. This is great! I hope he does see this

  3. Soooo Rodgers isn't going to win much of anything this season?