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Friday, October 23, 2020

Can Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers Post An Interception-Free Season?

Aaron Rodgers is extremely bright, enormously risk-averse and remarkably talented.

Those qualities have helped Rodgers set the mark for lowest interception percentage in NFL history at 1.35%.

But Rodgers is taking it to new levels this year, which is raising an interesting question.

Through four games and 139 passes this season, Rodgers has yet to throw a single interception. And it has many wondering if Rodgers can go the entire season without throwing a pick?

“Oh, yeah, especially as long as we don’t tip the balls, you know,” Packers running back Jamaal Williams said. “As long as it’s not a tipped pass in our hand, and a tipped ball that goes to the defender, we’ll be good. Because A-Rod don’t do things like that.

“He don’t just throw it straight into the things like that, unless he knows we’re going to come down with it. And he puts us in position where we can be the only ones to go get it. So A-Rod is a great vet, a great teammate and just a great guy to play with. Because he always knows what he’s doing, and he’s just got a great mind out there, great IQ and really makes the game easier.”

The closest Rodgers has come to an interception-free season came when he threw two in 2018. Both of those interceptions came off tipped passes intended for tight end Jimmy Graham.

In Week 4 of that season, Rodgers tried hitting tight end Graham on a short pass over the middle. Buffalo linebacker Tremaine Edwards tipped the pass, it bounced off Graham’s left hand and was intercepted by Bills’ safety Jordan Poyer.

Then in Week 15, the Packers trailed host Chicago, 24-14, and Rodgers fired for Graham across the middle. Bears rookie linebacker Roquan Smith reached in with his left hand, tipped the pass and Chicago safety Eddie Jackson intercepted.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur was asked about the possibility of an interception-free season for Rodgers, and reminded people there are several factors at play every time his quarterback throws a pass.

“I think there’s so many other variables that play into whether or not a guy throws a pick,” LaFleur said. “It takes everybody on that field. It takes the offensive line providing great protection, which they have done. It takes our backs stepping up and picking up blitzes, which they have done. It takes receivers and tight ends being in the right place at the moment, which for the most part they’ve done a pretty good job with that.

“There’s just so many variables. It could be a defensive lineman getting his hands up at the right time. There’s just so much that goes into it, so to say can a guy go an entire season? I don’t know. Like I’ve said, we’re going to take it one game at a time, one play at a time and just do the best job that we can.”

Rodgers took over as Green Bay’s starter in 2008, and in the years since, he’s averaged 500.2 pass attempts per season. If you remove the 2013 and 2017 seasons when Rodgers missed half the year with injuries, he’s averaged 547.4 pass attempts per year.

Rodgers has posted eight seasons with 500-plus attempts and single-digit interceptions. Tom Brady is second in NFL history with six, Matt Ryan is third with three, Derek Carr and Alex Smith are tied for fourth with two.

The fewest number of interceptions in a season with a minimum of 500 attempts are:

Aaron Rodgers, 2018 — 2

Aaron Rodgers, 2019 — 4

Aaron Rodgers, 2014 — 5

Sam Bradford, 2016 — 5

Alex Smith, 2017 — 5

Russell Wilson, 2019 — 5

There have only been three instances of a quarterback having at least 200 pass attempts and either zero or one interception. They were:

Brian Hoyer, 2016 — 0 INTs on 200 attempts

Josh McCown, 2013 — 1 INT on 224 attempts

Damon Huard, 2006 — 1 INT on 244 attempts

 Rodgers has always prided himself of protecting the football, but has gotten even better in recent years. Since the start of the 2018 season, Rodgers has thrown just six interceptions in 1,305 passing attempts — 0.45%.

Rodgers is off to one of the best starts of his Hall of Fame career, throwing 13 touchdowns in four games without coming close to an interception. Rodgers has completed 70.5% of his passes, is averaging 8.7 yards per pass attempt and has a quarterback rating of 128.4.

“I do feel really good in the offense,” Rodgers said last week. “I feel like Matt (LaFleur) and I are really on the same page — not that we weren’t last year, I just feel like we’re doing so much more. The creativity and the aggressive nature has been really good. “We’ve known when to push, when to pull back.”

Whether that means Rodgers can go unscathed a full season remains to be seen.

“We’re going to take that one play at a time,” LaFleur said.

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