Pack It In
Issue   |   Wed, 12/04/2013 - 00:07

Normally, with Week 13 of the NFL season in the rearview mirror, discussion mounts about Aaron Rodgers’ candidacy for Most Valuable Player. However, this year is different.

There is still chatter about Aaron Rodgers, but it surrounds the fractured collarbone he suffered in Week 9 against the Chicago Bears.

Rodgers, the 2011 NFL MVP and Superbowl XLV MVP, has become a co-poster-child for the NFL alongside quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

He is both respected as an elite performer and revered as the likeable face of the Green Bay Packer franchise. His durability has also been acclaimed. Prior to this season, Rodgers only missed two games due to injury. This year, he has already missed four.

With the Packers’ playoff aspirations dissipating after three losses and a tie since their quarterback’s injury, the Packers need to make the right decision regarding Aaron Rodgers.

They shouldn’t rush him back from injury. Rather, they should sit him for the remainder of the season in order to ensure a full recovery and preserve their Hall-of-Fame-bound franchise quarterback for the future.

As the Packers have noted, Rodgers suffered a serious injury and is not yet fully recovered. Originally, he was slotted to return two to four weeks after sustaining his injury, which would have meant a return right in time for the Thanksgiving Day game against division rival the Detroit Lions.

With his injury still of concern and a shortened week of practice due to a Thursday game time, Mike McCarthy, the Packers Head Coach, elected to sit Rodgers. It was for the best as the Lions defensive line dominated the Packers and sacked Aaron Rodgers’ replacement Matt Flyn seven times. Evidently, the injury has proven worse than originally expected and if handled incorrectly, could jeopardize his career.

Although his collarbone injury is on his non-throwing arm, it still plays a key role in his mechanics as a quarterback. Throwing a football is more than a simple one-armed jolt.

Rather, the task requires the full strength of both one’s arms and chest. As the collarbones play a vital role in the functionality, and thereby success of a quarterback, rushing Rodgers back won’t only impact how he plays this season but could also impact his future.

Premature return increases the probability of reinjuring the collarbone, which would result in extensive surgery and lingering pain in future seasons. In this way, rushing him back too quickly for success today could result in negative ramifications for tomorrow.

In 2010, the Cowboys made a smart decision in sitting Tony Romo after he suffered a similar injury. Romo’s injury occurred earlier in the season than Rodgers’, which proved even more difficult in resisting the urge to rush him back into the starting lineup.

He was diagnosed with a broken clavicle on his non-throwing arm side and the Cowboys elected to sit him the remainder of the season. This may have saved Romo’s career.

Alternatively, Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins’ quarterback, may have been rushed back too soon this season.
In the Wildcard Round of the playoffs last year, Head Coach Mike Shanahan elected to keep Robert Griffin III in the game against the Seattle Seahawks. RG3 was visibly limping around in pain and his mobility was restricted by an apparent knee injury.

Despite the fact that the Redskins had a serviceable backup quarterback in Kirk Cousins, they kept RG3 in the game, only to lose and learn after the game that he had a torn ACL. Shanahan clearly should have pulled his quarterback earlier to preserve his future.

Not only was RG3 kept in the game for too long despite an apparent injury, some argue he was rushed back too soon for after his offseason ACL surgery. He returned in less than eight months for Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season, but he hasn’t looked the same since.

He experiences trouble planting his foot while throwing and lacks the mobility he once had. Additionally, he looks hesitant and scared, which we might be able to attribute to his premature return from an injury.

RG3, who originally looked like a quarterback with superstar potential, now looks more like an everyday quarterback. And the Redskins are feeling the effects.

They are 3-9 despite being just a year removed from winning the competitive NFC East last year. The Packers can undoubtedly learn from the Redskins’ mistakes.

Furthermore, rushing Rodgers back wouldn’t guarantee a playoff spot for the Packers either. The Packers are in a hole, after falling to 5-6-1 following Rodger’s injury.

They also don’t “control their own destiny”, meaning they would need other teams to lose, namely division foes the Lions (7-5) and Bears (6-6). Who knows how a banged up Rodgers would even play? His return wouldn’t automatically result in four victories, as some difficult road games remain against the Cowboys in Week 15 and the Bears in Week 17.

At best, the Packers would end with a 9-5-1 record, likely not good enough for a Division title or a Wild Card berth. With another Super Bowl extremely unlikely, let alone a playoff berth, why even think about dressing Rodgers again this season?
At this point, the Packers need to make the right decision and sit Aaron Rodgers. With little to gain and a lot to lose this season, the Packers might as well surrender today, in lieu of a healthier Aaron Rodgers tomorrow.

If they are not going to make the playoffs, keeping Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines will put them in position for a higher draft pick for next year. With glaring needs on both sides of the ball, the Green Bay Packers could stand to benefit from a higher draft pick.

Although the Packers would not intentionally “throw” games, Rodgers’ backups Scott Tolzein and Matt Flynn haven’t exactly proven themselves to be elite. All signs would point to sidelining Rodgers, but this is the NFL after all. We’ve seen crazier things before.