Have at It: Rodgers' share of the blame

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

You brought up some good points this week while discussing the extent to which Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers should share responsibility for his NFL-high 20 sacks. Most of you suggested multiple culprits but weren’t willing to let Rodgers completely off the hook.

Most of you, that is. Neilyn88 noted that, technically, “Every sack in the NFL could be avoided if the quarterback simply got rid of the ball,” thus making the argument moot. Steinjj represented a minority of people who put it all on the Packers’ offensive line:

Ben Roethlisberger holds the ball longer than anyone I've ever seen and is considered by many as one of the top QB's in the league. Fact is all QB's need some type of time to at least get your feet set. Many times Rodgers can't even plant his feet on a 3 step drop ... Can't believe Seifert took the time to write 7 paragraphs on an issue that takes one headline. It all starts with the o-line.

If only it were that easy. Tmonson78, who said he played offensive line in college, wrote: “There are times when Rodgers just holds on to the ball too long waiting for the deep man to be open. He needs to know that after about three seconds in the NFL, if no one is open, get rid of the ball.”

Indeed, Minnesota offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Thursday -- speaking about the Vikings offense -- that there is rarely a play called in which a quarterback should still have the ball after four seconds. Given that both teams run a version of the West Coast offense, I would say a similar figure would apply to the Packers.

At best, most of you preached moderation when assigning blame to Rodgers. Wrote LambeauOrWrigley: “The issue I have with the question above is ‘significant share.’ NO WAY. … Call it what you want, but the line is easily 75 percent of the problem.”

Some of you would have preferred more options for answering. Loregnum wrote:

My stand is simple -- everyone is to blame. Rodgers does seem to hold onto the ball a bit too long at times, the OL does seem to have protection issues and the coaching obviously is partly responsible as well for both those problems since it is their job to correct the mistakes, not try and blame the QB when he is getting killed back there. It is silly to imply it is just an OL issue or a Rodgers issue.

Marcopo44 took it a step further, assessing blame to general manager Ted Thompson for entering the season with Chad Clifton at left tackle with Daryn Colledge and T.J. Lang as backups:

Fault, the real culprits: Thompson, et al., failed to get an experienced swing tackle, knowing Clifton was 34. They kept 3 "projects" on the roster, none of whom they felt could play. Ironically, one of them, Lang, did every bit as good as Colledge, who is a guard and NOT a tackle. Moving him around weakened three positions. Dumb. This problem was foreseeable this summer, so no excuse.

Like many others, GB Arodge12 suggested Rodgers is holding the ball at times because the Packers have been so successful at hitting deep passes over the last two seasons: “Rodgers might be holding on the ball too long because he seems like he is always looking to throw that bomb deep down the field. … He does throw one of the prettier deep balls in the league, don't get me wrong... but when it becomes a pyrrhic victory for your team, you need to pride yourself on a different type of pass.”

(Note to readers: Anyone who uses “Pyrrhic victory” in a comment is darn-near an automatic inclusion in the follow-up post. Attaboy, GB.)

My take? My instinct tells me to follow the old cliché: It all starts up front. The issue of a quarterback holding the ball is minimal if he gets consistent protection. In fact, it’s considered an attribute because he is allowing plays to develop downfield. So I firmly believe we wouldn’t be having this discussion if the Packers’ offensive line was playing better.

But it’s only fair to look back at Rodgers’ body of work. You might recall that last season, Rodgers took the seventh-most sacks (34) in the NFL. So in his first 20 NFL starts, Rodgers has been sacked 54 times. That’s more than all but two other quarterbacks over that span: Kansas City’s Matt Cassel (57) and Roethlisberger (56).

That’s pretty close to a trend that could soon become a permanent part of Rodgers’ NFL résumé. Again, this wouldn’t be an issue if the Packers got more consistency from their offensive line. But if Rodgers doesn’t adjust soon to the level of protection he’s getting, he’ll soon be known as an excellent passer who takes too many sacks.