Aaron Rodgers' guts, courage and interpersonal leadership continues to reach top levels as he reaches the midway point of his 11th season as starter of the Green Bay Packers.
However, his tangible performance since the game where he suffered a knee injury against the Chicago Bears in week one has been, by most NFL standards, ordinary.
And as has been proven since the should-have-been-a-Super-Bowl season of 2014, when Rodgers is less than his typical superhuman self, it means an ordinary record for a Packers team with many holes in performance over the past three and a half seasons.
In fact, the Packers' 3-4-1 mark after eight games is the worst at this point in the season in the Aaron Rodgers era.
This is no knock on Rodgers as a man, as a locker room leader, as someone who tries to inspire greatness in his teammates. This is no knock on his efforts to gut out some incredibly painful months of football on an obviously injured knee, trying to get every last possible ounce of performance out of himself at a time when the Packers truly need it. That is incredibly commendable on the part of Rodgers.
It's simply a realization that, based on the eye test and the numbers, he simply has not been able to physically do all the things he normally expects to do on the football field.
Rodgers has not been able to showcase the normal mobility outside the pocket that leads to spectacular throws and big plays. He's often been forced to remain as a pocket passer.
Rodgers was crap last night. There, I said it pic.twitter.com/5tLCZAKaeG— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) November 5, 2018
Yes, after Rodgers was injured in the first half of the Bears game to start the season, he was otherworldly. His 4th quarter comeback to lead the Packers to victory was one for the ages.
But since then, the numbers bear it out. He has gone 178-297 (59.9 percent completion rate) for 2,256 yards, 12 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Passer rating for weeks 2-9 (7 games and a bye): 95.7. That's 7.8 points below his average.
If that would be extrapolated over a season, that would place him 16th in the NFL among quarterbacks who have more than 25 attempts. That is the exact middle of the pack among 32 teams. In other words, his knee problem renders him - literally - average.
And when he is average, the Packers - with so many weaknesses in the last three and a half seasons that the otherworldly Rodgers can mask when he is 100 percent - are below average.
Since 2015, when he has thrown at least 10 passes in a game and his passer rating has been below 100, the Packers have gone 11-14-1.
In fact, 2015 was the only season since his first year as a starter (2008) where Rodgers played the whole year and had a passer rating under 100. That year, he also had knee issues that hampered his mobility, leading to postseason surgery.
It does not feel like attitudinal issues with Rodgers, or his relationships with his teammates or Coach Mike McCarthy that's leading to the issue. It seems much more that it simply is his knee not allowing him to be the full, true Aaron Rodgers.
For Green Bay to find a way to make the playoffs and save this 2018 season, six wins in the second half of the season are mandatory. Their schedule includes games against only two games against teams with losing records, and has road contests at Seattle on short rest and two critical divisional contests at Minnesota and Chicago.
Will Rodgers be able to raise his game the second half of the year? I'm no doctor, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I can't tell you if Rodgers' knee will improve or if he can find a way to compensate for his comparative lack of mobility.
But if he doesn't, and the Packers don't find some other way to compensate as a team, January will be without playoff football in Wisconsin for the second straight year.
To say all the problems with the Packers involve Rodgers' health and performance is, of course, incredibly myopic. But the solutions may need to come from the arm, and knee, of No. 12.