Aaron Rodgers announced earlier this week that he will be returning to the Green Bay Packers for at least the 2022 season. Rodgers’ new extension has yet to be signed and the details have yet to be made public.
The move means that Packers GM Brian Gutekunst is gambling that Rodgers has a better chance of leading the Packers to a Super Bowl title during the remainder of his time in Green Bay than Jordan Love or a new quarterback would have after a retooling/rebuild.
Rodgers is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and is a sure fire Hall of Famer after he retires. But he has struggled in his five NFC Championship Game appearances.
Rodgers has a career quarterback rating of 104.5 during the regular season but in five NFC Championship Game appearances, his quarterback rating is a very average 83.7. His record in those games is 1-4.
Here is a look back at the five NFC title games that Rodgers started with the Packers, his statistics in those games and the story beyond the numbers from each game.
2010: Packers 21, Bears 14, Rodgers 17-of-30, 244 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs QB Rating 55.4
The Packers never trailed in this game and jumped out to an early 14-0 lead on touchdown runs by Rodgers and James Starks. The Packers third touchdown came on the famous interception return by nose tackle B.J. Raji midway through the fourth quarter that put the game away.
Rodgers’ numbers were not great, but in his defense, the weather conditions were a factor as it was just 20 degrees outside with 14 mph winds and a wind chill of seven degrees above zero for the game.
While his passing was average, Rodgers made one big play that was crucial to the win. With the Packers facing a 3rd-and-goal at the Chicago 6 early in the fourth quarter, Rodgers tried to find Donald Driver but Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher intercepted the pass and appeared to have a clear path to a pick-six. But Rodgers chased Urlacher and made a shoestring tackle that stopped him at the Chicago 45. Had Urlacher scored, the momentum of the game would have dramatically shifted and the outcome may have been different.
Overall, Rodgers was far from spectacular, but he did what was needed to win the game and led the Packers to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1997. Two weeks later, Rodgers was the Super Bowl MVP.
2014: Seahawks 28, Packers 22 (OT), Rodgers 19-of-34, 178 yards, 1 TDs, 2 INTs QB Rating 55.8
Rodgers threw his first touchdown pass in an NFC title game on the final play of the first quarter when he tossed a 13-yard scoring pass to Randall Cobb.
While Rodgers struggled statistically in this game, his biggest failures came early in the contest. On the Packers first drive, Green Bay reached the Seattle 29 when Rodgers was intercepted by Richard Sherman in the end zone.
The Packers intercepted Russell Wilson on the next drive and had the ball 2nd-and-goal at the Seahawks one-yard line. Two running plays failed to get the ball into the end zone and the Packers settled for an 18-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
The Seahawks fumbled the ensuring kickoff giving the Packers the ball at the Seattle 23 but despite having first-and-goal at the Seattle seven, Rodgers couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. Crosby booted a 19-yard field goal that made it 6-0 but the Packers easily could have been up 14-0 early.
The Packers led 16-0 at halftime and 19-7 late in the third quarter but the Packers offense stalled until Seattle took a 22-19 lead with 1:25 left in the fourth quarter.
To his credit, Rodgers led the Packers on a seven-play, 48-yard drive that tied the game on a 48-yard field goal by Crosby with 14 seconds left.
The game went to overtime but Seattle won the toss and scored without Rodgers even getting a chance to touch the ball.
2016: Falcons 44, Packers 21, Rodgers 27-of-45, 287 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INTs, QB Rating 91.6
Statistically, Rodgers seemed to play well in this game but most of his numbers came in the second half in a game the Packers trailed 24-0 at the break.
The Packers first two drives resulted in a missed field goal and a fumble deep in Atlanta territory by fullback Aaron Ripkowski.
Rodgers threw his only interception of the game in the second quarter and it gave the Falcons another score just before the half that made it 24-0 and all but put the game out of reach.
Rodgers had a good statistical second half but the Falcons were in prevent mode and willing to give up shorter passes underneath to help run out the clock. The Falcons also scored 20 more points in the second half so the game’s outcome was never in doubt.
2019: 49ers 37, Packers 20, Rodgers 31-of-39, 326 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, QB Rating 97.2
Again, statistically, Rodgers put up decent numbers if you look at the box score, but much of it came in the second half. The Packers trailed 27-0 at the intermission in this game and never got closer than 14 points back.
In the first half, Rodgers fumbled twice and the 49ers recovered one of those fumbles. He was also intercepted once in the first half and once late in the fourth quarter in a desperation attempt to get back into the game.
To be fair, Rodgers subpar performance was far from the only reason the Packers lost this game. The 49ers 285 yards rushing in this game and ran for four touchdowns. Once the Packers fell behind, there was no way to get back into the game if they couldn’t stop San Francisco from running at will.
2020: Buccaneers 31, Packers 26, Rodgers 33-of-48, 346 yards, 3TDs, 1 INTs, QB Rating 101.6
Again, statistically, Rodgers put up good numbers but the key to this game came in the second half. The Packers defense had some breakdowns late in the first half and Green Bay trailed 21-10 at halftime.
In the second half, the Green Bay defense intercepted Tom Brady three times. The Packers only scored once after those turnovers. The other two times, the Packers were unable to take advantage and they fell five points short.
Under no circumstances is Rodgers solely responsible for the Packers poor performance in the NFC Championship Game since 2010. There were plenty of other reasons that the team fell short in each of the following four games. But Rodgers is the team’s franchise quarterback and the fact is undeniable that he has not stepped up and played his best football in the four games that followed.
Gutekunst is taking a chance that Rodgers is still capable of leading the Packers to another Super Bowl. His performance during the last two regular seasons shows that is possible. But Rodgers and his teammates need to play to their potential in big games to make that happen. So far, they haven’t been able to do that.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
Click here for more great Packers coverage