Aaron Rodgers changing play style would mean Packers changing offense

On Tuesday, Aaron Rodgers made it clear that he doesn’t plan to change his play style as a result of his two recent broken collarbones. If he wanted to do so, the Green Bay Packers would have to overhaul their offense.

In the acclaimed 1996 film Twister, storm chaser Bill “The Extreme” Harding, who has been out of the game for awhile, hesitates to drive toward a tornado.

“Have you lost your nerve?” asks Jo, his former storm chasing partner and ex-wife.

Laughing, Bill replies, “Tighten your seatbelt!” and guns his truck into a ditch toward the storm.

In football, it takes a pretty nervy quarterback to do what the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers does on a regular basis — roll out of the pocket, away from the protection of his offensive line, and open himself up to hits like the ones that have recently broken each of his collarbones.

So on Tuesday, when Rodgers met with the media following the portion of Packers OTA practices open to the media, he was basically asked if he had lost his nerve — specifically, if he would change his playing style this season to avoid those punishing hits and potential future injuries.

“Nope,” Rodgers replied — with his tell-tale, slightly devious, eye-crinkling smile.

The Packers offense is Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers is the Packers offense. This much became abundantly clear as the Packers limped along to a 3-6 record without him last season after a hard hit from the Minnesota Vikings’ Anthony Barr that broke his left collarbone.

No one would blame Rodgers if he wanted to play a more pocket-passing forward style of football through the remainder of his career. (Well, some likely would, but if it were their bodies on the line they would be signing a different tune.)

But it would certainly necessitate a big overhaul to the Packers offense.

Since 2008, Rodgers has thrown 62 touchdowns from outside the pocket, according to ESPN Stats & Information via Rob Demovsky — far and away leading the league. The Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan has thrown 35 in that same span, and the Detroit Lions’ Matt Stafford, 31.

In 2016, when he played a full 16 games, Aaron Rodgers was fourth among quarterbacks in rushing attempts, with 75 — behind Tyrod Taylor, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson.

Last season, Rodgers posted a 71.8 quarterback rating under pressure — the fourth-highest since 2009, per FiveThirtyEight.

Rodgers’ decision to keep his edge is well-supported by his coaching staff. New quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr. acknowledged Rodgers is “the best in the league at playing in the pocket and extending plays outside the pocket; that won’t change,” and that “moving forward, we’re going to expect Aaron to play the way he always has.”

Of course, Rodgers’ coaching staff would like to see him take hits in a way that doesn’t lead to injury, which is something the sometimes-reckless quarterback will need to prioritize. But even though he remains one of the league’s most scramble-happy signa-callers, Rodgers has cleaned up his game a lot in his 13-year career. For instance, he used to — cringe — dive headfirst at the conclusion of scrambles. Thankfully, he doesn’t do that much anymore.

For Rodgers to significantly limit his scrambling, bootlegs and read option plays would be for the Packers to, in many ways, retrofit their offensive system — which works pretty well. Thankfully, that doesn’t appear to be the plan at all.

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