How Could Aaron Rodgers Grade Out Poorly When He Threw Five Touchdown Passes?

At first glance, Aaron Rodgers had another typical Aaron Rodgers-like performance on Monday Night Football, throwing for 333 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions while leading his team to a 38-28 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. When looking at his typical raw stats, it was a nearly flawless performance, as evidenced by his final passer rating of 138.5. So, why is it that, according to Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus, he graded out as slightly worse than average?

If you’re not familiar with that online publication, they have analysts who break down individual players on every single snap that they’re on the field, and each play is then graded accordingly. So, when looking at the overall picture and grading Rodgers on a play-by-play basis, the writer’s final grade on Rodgers showed that he was merely average on Monday.

The story of what takes Rodgers’ grade [to -0.8, with zero being average] are two plays that you aren’t likely to see mentioned anywhere else today:

1. Rodgers had a fumble, which displayed poor pocket management, with 8:39 remaining in the second quarter. That play earned a negative grade.

2. With 12:58 remaining in the third quarter, Rodgers forced a pass that Josh Mauga could and possibly should have been returned for six points for Kansas City. If Mauga makes this interception, it would have tacked an ugly interception onto Rodgers’ stat line. Instead, Rodgers maintained his interception-less streak at Lambeau field, but it is a negatively graded play regardless. These are poor plays on Rodgers’ part that bring his game grade down that won’t show up on any widely quoted statistical analysis of his performance.

Stockwell admitted that context is important when looking at Rodgers’ overall grade. He made the throws he had to make, and as evidenced by the final score, he did what he had to for his team to win. However, what Rodgers did well on Monday isn’t what Pro Football Focus necessarily cares about, and certainly not something that’s measurable.

The greatness of Rodgers’ performance last night was in the intangibles. Recognizing the blitz, drawing the defense offsides, catching the Chiefs in bad situations and exploiting those scenarios with simple passes to open receivers. But you cannot — and we do not try to — quantify intangibles, or what comes pre-snap. Our system grades what can be graded — the execution of the play post-snap — and in that regard Rodgers did not stand out in the same way that his statistics did.

So, essentially, by grading each play on its own merit, with a touchdown pass being weighed on the same scale as a near-miss interception, Rodgers was merely average on Monday. At least, according to one publication. Then again, I’m sure the Chiefs defensive backs might disagree.

Also, tangentially related:

(Via Pro Football Focus)