Ben McAdoo didn’t notice anything different about Aaron Rodgers when the Green Bay Packers quarterback returned from the bye week on Monday.
He hadn’t drastically altered his appearance, as safety Morgan Burnett had by shaving off his dreadlocks. His disposition didn’t seem any different than any other normal week. Now in his second year as Rodgers’ quarterbacks coach and his eighth on head coach Mike McCarthy’s staff, McAdoo knows Rodgers’ M.O. by now.
“When he doesn’t play as well as he’d like to play, I notice it the day after the game, but it doesn’t linger. He goes about his business and prepares for the next week,” McAdoo explained Thursday, as Rodgers and the Packers prepped for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. “He may use it as a source of motivation, (but) it’s not something I hear about or I notice. You know, he’s a highly motivated, an intrinsically motivated player. He’s not somebody, from what I’ve seen, who’s going to dwell on what has happened in the past. He’s always looking forward.”
What’s interesting about Rodgers, who freely admits that he hates losing more than he enjoys winning, is that – for whatever reason – he has almost always followed up a bad game with a sterling performance. Part of that, of course, is simply the law of averages. The three-time Pro Bowler and 2011 NFL MVP is the league’s all-time leader in career passer rating, so of course he’s going to play more good games than bad ones.
But perhaps it also speaks to his outlook on football in general.
“The joy of winning can’t always match the disappointment of losing. It’s a perfectionist mindset,” Rodgers explained. “It’s a mindset you have when you really care about something. You expect to win, and you love winning, but the high is not quite as high as the low of the losses.
“I can tell you because I care about it so much, I’m very competitive, it stings worse losing than it feels good to win.”
Whatever the reason, Rodgers has been particularly on point after his rare poor performances – and the Packers’ 34-30 pre-bye loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 22 was undoubtedly one of those. Rodgers himself said so – “I played poorly,” he said immediately after the game – and his numbers backed up that notion.
After going 41 consecutive regular-season games without throwing two interceptions in a game – the longest such streak since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger – Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions during the second half of that game and had his lowest passer rating (64.5) since the 2010 NFC Championship Game against Chicago. It marked only the seventh multi-interception game of his career, which includes 89 regular- and post-season starts. (Because you know you’re wondering: In 324 career regular- and post-season games, Brett Favre had 93 multi-interception games.)
For his career, Rodgers is 58-31 (including 5-3 in the playoffs) as a starter. In those 89 games, he has had a passer rating higher than 100.0 in 55 of them. He’s had a passer rating of 80.0 or higher in all but 10 of them.
And only once in his career has he followed a sub-80.0 passer rating with another such performance. That was in his first season as a starter, 2008, when he had a 76.7 passer rating in a loss at Tennessee and a 72.9 passer rating in a loss at Minnesota.
Rodgers has never had back-to-back multiple-interception games, and in the games immediately following games in which he threw two or more INTs, Rodgers has had a passer rating of 90.0 or better in all but one of them. For instance, when he threw two interceptions in the NFC title game at Chicago, Rodgers threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in his MVP performance in Super Bowl XLV.
And for Rodgers, a poor performance can be what other quarterbacks might view as OK. His worst game in 2011 was in the Packers’ only regular-season loss, at Kansas City on Dec. 18, when he didn’t throw an interception but had only 235 passing yards and one touchdown for an 80.1 rating. The next week, he completed 21 of 29 passes for 263 yards with five touchdowns and no picks for a 142.7 rating.
“If you’re a competitor, which he is, and you feel like you didn’t play the best you could play in one game, you look forward to rectifying the situation and redeeming yourself. That’s not just common to Aaron, it’s any competitor. But it’s certainly true with Aaron,” said Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements, who was Rodgers’ quarterbacks coach from 2006 through 2011. “If he doesn’t play up to what his standards are, he’s going to try to make sure the next game that he does.”
But that doesn’t mean Rodgers spends the days after his poor showing obsessing on all of his mistakes. Although he admitted to a restless night of sleep after getting home from Cincinnati and getting angry with himself while watching film of his performance the next day, he didn’t spend his bye week moping around and wasn’t grouchy or unapproachable this week in practice or meetings, his coaches said.
“Aaron’s very tough on himself, (but) that process is completed in my view,” McCarthy said. “He’s had a really good week of preparation. He spends a lot of extra time in the office early in the week, and he’s done that. We just want him to be himself, he just needs to go out and play the way he’s always played.”
Against the Bengals – a game that seems like eons ago because of the week off – Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions: One intended for James Jones on a slant on which Jones took responsibility for stopping the route, and a second on a pass down the sideline intended for Randall Cobb. On the first, Jones may have been to blame, but Rodgers could have gone elsewhere with the ball and avoided the turnover altogether; on the throw to Cobb, Rodgers made not only a poor throw but a poor decision going to the well-covered Cobb in the first place.
“Again, that game didn’t start the way we wanted, and we didn’t take care of the football the way we need to take care of the football at the end of the game. There were some signs of some good offense in that game,” McAdoo said. “We handle a couple decisions differently and place a couple throws differently and it’s a completely different game and we’re not even having this conversation. We had some things we needed to talk about, some things we needed to fix. We did that and we moved on.
“He came in the day after the game and watched the tape together, talked about some things we need to address and fix, and we moved on from there and he’s been the same this week, preparing as he always does, and looking for an advantage.”
Whether it’s an advantage for the Packers to have Rodgers coming off another rare poor performance remains to be seen, but after a week off for the bye, Rodgers is looking forward to playing another game.
“That’s the blessing of being pretty consistent over my time as a starter, that’s why it’s frustrating when you don’t play as well as you want to,” Rodgers said. “You’re replaying the stuff in your mind that you wish you’d have done, you’re thinking about some of the plays that didn’t go the way you wanted them to, but then you really need to start moving on, and that moving on process starts on Monday when you come in and watch the film and get graded. I’ve had multiple performances where I had a 100-plus quarterback rating and gotten a ‘minus’ performance, and then there’s also been games where maybe I haven’t played as well stats-wise and gotten a winning performance. That’s why it’s always good to look at the film because the film never lies. There’s things we can all clean up – myself, and the rest of the offense.
“I’m just used to – me personally and I know my teammates are – executing better as a whole on offense. It’s frustrating, a frustrating day, but as difficult as it is, it’s a good learning experience for us and hopefully we can take a lot from that experience and build on it here in the next 13 weeks.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.