Sunday, January 9, 2022

Rodgers Surpasses Baugh in Loss to Lions

 By Eric Goska

For an NFL record sixth time, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’
interception percentage has been the lowest in the league.
(screen capture from NFL Game Pass)

Aaron Rodgers has an avoidance issue so acute it has left him without peer.

Rodgers started the regular-season finale against the Lions Sunday despite his Packers having already nailed down the top seed in the NFC playoffs. He played the opening two quarters in Green Bay’s 37-30 loss and, as he has done far more often than not, he threw no interceptions.

Rodgers’ desire to steer clear of picks became obvious to this author early on. “Aaron Rodgers avoids the interception like some people avoid dentists,” was how I led off my column following his 20th regular-season start early in the 2009 season.

In the time since his prowess in this regard has become legendary. He holds the NFL record for the lowest percentage of passes intercepted in a season (0.34 in 2018) and in a career (1.31).

What mountain was left to climb? How about bumping aside the incomparable Sammy Baugh?

Baugh played 16 seasons (1937-1952) for Washington. The Hall of Famer lead the league in lowest percentage of passes intercepted five times, a record that stood for nearly 75 years.

That mark now belongs to Rodgers. As the only player in 2021 to have an interception percentage below one percent (0.75), old No. 12 moved ahead of Slinging Sammy.

We all know turnovers can impact a game. Detroit safeties C.J. Moore and Tracy Walker III demonstrated that when each picked off Jordan Love in the final two minutes to end Green Bay’s comeback hopes.

Rodgers’ record provides further evidence. Since 2008, he is 105-29-1 (.781) in regular-season starts in which he throws no picks. He’s an unimpressive 34-37 (.479) when he tosses at least one.

That he has been interception-free in almost two-thirds (135 of 206) of his starts is remarkable.

From the outside looking in, this aversion of his appears to have rubbed off on the team. According to Pro Football Reference, since 2008 the Packers have turned the ball over 238 times, the fewest of any team other than the Patriots (231).

Green Bay (145-78-2) and New England (163-62) have the best regular-season records over that span.

With Matt LaFleur as coach, Rodgers has only gotten better at cutting back on errant throws. His record in games in which he is not picked is 32-5 (.865). He’s 7-4 (.636) otherwise.

That means in three seasons under LaFleur, he has been interception-free in more than three-fourths (37 of 48) of the games he has started. He has not been intercepted in his last 243 attempts.

The playoffs beckon. Protecting the football becomes paramount.

Rodgers is 9-1 in the postseason when he does not throw an interception. He is 2-8 when he does.

Now, more than ever, the Packers need Rodgers' avoidance issue to manifest itself in spades.

Flag on the Play

Fox Sports put up a graphic following Rodgers’ 29-yard touchdown pass to Allen Lazard. It was labeled “HIGHEST TD/INT RATIO SINGLE SEASON ALL-TIME.” Aaron Rodgers’ name occupied all six spots, with his 25 TD/2 INT performance in 2018 at the top.

To arrive at its list, Fox ramped up the minimum number of attempts to 500, more than double what the NFL requires for determining league leaders. By doing so, the network could then conveniently eliminate Tom Brady’s 28/2 in 2016 which was better than any of the six seasons shown. The penalty: 15 yards and loss of graphic.

Way to Go Low
Most seasons leading league, lowest percentage, passes had intercepted.

    No.    Player                                 Team                     Years
       6       Aaron Rodgers                  Packers                 2009, 2014, 2018-2021
       5       Sammy Baugh                   Redskins              1940, 1942, 1944-1945, 1947
       4       Tom Brady                         Patriots                2010, 2012, 2015-2016
       3       Charlie Conerly                 Giants                  1950, 1956, 1959
       3       Bart Starr                           Packers                1962, 1964, 1966
       3       Roger Staubach                 Cowboys             1971, 1977, 1979
       3       Ken Anderson                    Bengals               1972, 1981-1982
       3       Ken O’Brien                       Jets                     1985, 1987-1988

Source: 2021 NFL Record and Fact Book

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