Comparing Aaron Rodgers To Another Quarterback Legend

Aaron Rodgers is the defending NFL MVP, throwing for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns with a 70.7 completion percentage. Leading the Packers to a 13-3 regular season record earning the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs (securing home field advantage throughout); Rodgers and the Packers lost the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who made the playoffs as a wild card. In the fourth quarter (with under two minutes to go in the game), after three straight incompletions, Green Bay facing fourth-and-goal from the eight, elected to kick a field goal to get within five, but when it mattered most, it seemed as though Packers head coach Matt LaFleur took the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers got the ball back and were able to run the clock out for the 31-26 win. Would Bill Walsh have done that to Joe Montana, Dan Reeves to John Elway or Don Shula to Dan Marino? Green Bay had entered the game as a 3-point home favorite with an over/under of 53.

Aaron Rodgers Modern Day Version of Dan Marino?

Green Bay PackersThroughout his career, the Dolphins struggled with giving Marino a strong running game.  In 1984, the season they made the Super Bowl, Miami’s leading rusher was Woody Bennett with 606 yards.  During Marino’s time with Miami, they had only one season with a 1,000-yard rusher, Karim Abdul-Jabbar in 1996.  That is absolutely mind-boggling.  If you look at all the teams that won, the Super Bowl from 1983-1999 only three of the 16 teams that won the championship did not have a 1,000-yard rusher.

Rodgers has had an average ground attack since becoming Green Bay’s full-time starter in 2008.  Aaron Jones, who’s been the starter at running back since 2019, has run for over 1,000 yards in his last two seasons (and on his way to it again in 2021).   He scored a league-leading 16 rushing touchdowns in 2019.  Prior to Jones’s first 1000-yard season in 2019, the last Packers running back to rush for 1,000 yards was Eddie Lacy in 2014.  Ryan Grant topped 1,000-yards in 2008 and 2009.  Rodgers has rushed for 3,318 yards, averaging five yards per carry, and scoring 33 touchdowns in his career.

Statistically, Marino’s three greatest season were 1984, 1985 and 1986.  During those seasons, he was the most dominant quarterback the league had ever seen.  In each of those three years, he led the league in completions, yards and touchdown passes.  His totals for those seasons were 1,076 completions, 13,967 yards and 122 touchdowns.  In 1984, he won the league MVP throwing for a still league record of 5,084 yards and a record 48 touchdown passes (which is now owned by Peyton Manning with 55): averaging 317.8 yards per game with a 108.9 quarterback rating. 

The league leader in touchdown passes the previous season (1983) was Lynn Dickey of the Green Bay Packers with 32.   Before his record performance the most touchdown passes thrown in a season was 36 by Y.A. Tittle of New York Giants in 1963; going into the 1984 season only six quarterbacks had thrown 30 or more touchdown passes in a season.  After leading in touchdown passes with 30 in 1985, Marino tossed 44 touchdowns in 1986; he would only have one other season in his career in which he threw 30 touchdown passes (1994).  I can remember him during those seasons backpedaling from center, patting the ball once and throwing an absolute laser to Mark Clayton or Mark Duper.

Aaron Rodgers has thrown at least 40 touchdown passes in a season three times (2011, 2016, 2020) and has won the league MVP three times (2011, 2014 and 2020).  In 2011, he won his first MVP award, throwing for 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns, with a completion percentage of 68.3 and a quarterback rating of 122.5.  He led the Packers to a 14-1 record and the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs; losing in the divisional round to the New York Giants.  The 2014 season, saw Rodgers win his second MVP award throwing for 4,381 yards, 38 touchdowns, five interceptions, with a completion percentage of 65.6 and a quarterback rating of 112.2. 

Green Bay won the NFC North with a 12-4 record, earing the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs: losing in the NFC Championship game to the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2020 at 37 years old, he had his best season of his career winning his third MVP award.  He threw for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns, five interceptions, with an incredible completion percentage of 70.7 and a quarterback rating of 121.5.  As mentioned earlier, the Packers had the #1 seed and lost the NFC Championship game at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leading to a winter of discontent between Rodgers and the Green Bay front office.

Incredibly, Rodgers has thrown over 10 interceptions in a season only twice in his career, both were in his first three seasons.  He’s the only player in league history to record at least 500 plus passing attempts and single-digit interceptions in three straight seasons, having done it twice in his career.  Rodgers is an aggressive and efficient quarterback; trusting his arm to get the ball to wherever it needs.  His 103.9 career passing ranks him third all-time.  Marino was similarly aggressive with a cannon for an arm but averaged 14.8 interceptions per season.  During the 80’s and 90’s, wide receivers could absolutely be mauled by defensive backs and rules were not in place like they are today protecting the quarterback.  The NFL’s recipe for winning during Marino’s career was run first and win with a dominant defense (think the New York Giants led by Bill Parcells).  If Rodgers and Marino swapped eras that’d be carbon copies of each other as passers.  

Aaron Rodgers has played in 21 playoff games, starting 20 and going 11-9 in those games.  He’s thrown for 5,669 yards, 45 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 100.5.  In those games he’s thrown 13 interceptions and been sacked 49 games; this could be attributed to Rodgers trying to extend the play.  Dan Marino played in 18 playoff games from 1983-1999, going 8-10 in those games.  In those contests he threw for 4,510 yards 32 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 77.1.  He was sacked 22 times and was picked off 24 times in those games; without a strong running game, the Dolphins had to win games through the air and that came at a risk.

Miami DolphinsRodgers and Marino each have played in the Super Bowl.  The Dolphins finished the 1984 season, 14-2, beating the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers by a combined score of 76-38 to reach Super Bowl XIX.  In that game, they faced one of the greatest teams of all-time the 15-1 San Francisco 49ers, led by the original G.O.A.T. Joe Montana.  The 49ers were a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 53.5.  Miami and Marino did not have enough to defeat San Francisco losing 38-16.  

The 1984 NFL MVP threw for 317 yards, a touchdown, but was sacked four times and threw an interception.  Aaron Rodgers and the Packers finished 10-6 entering the 2010 playoffs as a wild card, beating Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago in the NFC Championship game (at Soldier Field) to reach Super Bowl XLV to play the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Entering Super Bowl XLV, Green Bay was a three-point favorite with the over/under at 45 points.  The Packers won 31-25 and Rodgers was named the game’s MVP throwing for 304 yards, three touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 111.5.  This is Rodgers only Super Bowl victory in his career.  

In 1985 the Miami Dolphins, who were the #2 seed in the AFC Playoffs lost the AFC Championship at the Orange Bowl 31-14 to the New England Patriots, who made the playoffs as a wild card.  Miami had entered the game as a 5.5-point favorite with an over/under of 48.  This was a particularly tough and disappointing loss by Marino and the Dolphins.

The Patriots would go on to get demolished by the Chicago Bears 45-10 in Super Bowl XX.  

Dan Marino and the Dolphins were the only team to beat the famed 1985 Chicago Bears and keep them from an undefeated season.  In the highly anticipated matchup on Monday Night Football (Steve Fuller started in place of the injured Jim McMahon) in which the Bears were a 2-point favorite with an over/under of 43; Marino dominated Buddy Ryan’s phenomenal defense.  He was 18-27 for 270 yards, three touchdowns, and quarterback rating of 108.6.  Miami won the game 38-21 and was the only team to score 30 or more points vs. Chicago in 1985.   

Overrated or Underrated?

Does playoff success and championships define success in the NFL, I say no.  Football is truly a team game and despite having greatness at the most important position on the field, the Packers and Dolphins have/had their struggles in surrounding their franchise quarterback with either a strong running game, reliable/consistent receivers, retaining and/or signing players to enhance their roster.    

I’m of the opinion that Aaron Rodgers and Dan Marino are both underrated.  Rodgers is the better athlete of the two, Rodgers’ release is probably the closest to Marino out of any quarterback playing today.  Without these two legends, their teams wouldn’t even be able to compete and have competed for a playoff berth.  Rodgers is an extremely rare talent, who can make all the plays in the pocket, improvise to make a special play; that simply makes you say, “wow” and is deadly accurate, even on the run.   Marino is the best pure passer of all-time, but never had a consistent running game or defense, which kept him from hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.  

Scott has been a sports fan since he received a New York Mets jacket as a toddler. He’s been playing fantasy baseball and football for over 20 years, dating back to Frank Thomas being one of his first fantasy baseball picks. As a professional, he has covered the NFL, MLB, NCAAF, and NCAAB and is looked to as the go-to guy for fantasy sports amongst family, friends, and co-workers.

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