How Much Blame Does Aaron Rodgers Deserve For Packers' Early Playoff Exit?

Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers suffered yet another heartbreaking postseason defeat on Saturday evening. The one-seed Packers were largely viewed as favorites to host next weekend's NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field but a shocking upset by the San Francisco 49ers brought a swift and merciless end to those hopes and dreams. It represents yet another quick and disappointing playoff exit for an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team that continues to fail to meet postseason expectations year in year out. 

Packers faithful have plenty of areas to point their finger at when playing the blame game. A special teams unit that was incredibly poor throughout the regular season unfortunately carried that form into the playoff debacle we witnessed on Saturday. A blocked field goal prevented the Packers from extending their lead before halftime. A blocked punt in their own territory was later returned for a scoop-and-score, an occurrence that undeniably qualifies as a game-changing play. Head coach Matt LaFleur may make a change at special teams coordinator for the second consecutive season.

While the blame may be shared across various entities, there's no denying that Rodgers' rather pedestrian performance is extremely culpable for yet another haunting playoff loss. The likely MVP winner, Rodgers' path to a Super Bowl set itself up beautifully. No franchise reigned victorious in more regular-season games than the 13-win Packers (the Buccaneers matched that total). A first-round bye and home-field advantage (at the perceived fortress that is Lambeau Field, no less) throughout the NFC playoffs set the Packers up favorably. A divisional-round contest against a surprising 49ers team that lacks the quarterback play necessary to go toe-to-toe with Rodgers was a more ideal opponent than Rodgers and the Packers could have asked for. 

Yet here we are discussing, analyzing, and nitpicking yet another Packers playoff failure. It qualifies as a massive wasted opportunity for Green Bay. Rodgers was extremely average in Saturday's loss, completing 20-of-29 passing attempts for 225 yards and zero scores. It marked just the third contest throughout 2021 in which Rodgers failed to throw a touchdown. One of those occurrences materialized in Green Bay's Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Rodgers was sacked five times by an energetic 49ers defense that executed their game plan to perfection (h/t to defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans). The sacks brought Green Bay's net passing totals to just 196 yards. All in all, the Packers accumulated a measly 263 yards of total offense and 10 pathetic points.

General manager Brian Gutekunst deserves some criticism as well. The Packers have been routinely scrutinized for failing to surround Rodgers with more legitimate weapons in the passing game. The lack of a true WR2, TE1, and even WR3 showed up in a major way on Saturday. An astounding 21 of Rodgers' 29 passing attempts were thrown in the direction of Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones. The uninspiring quartet of Marcedes Lewis, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Josiah Deguara received one target each while doing their part to reflect a lack of diversity in Green Bay's pass-catching department. Gutekunst will undoubtedly feel pressured to upgrade this unit throughout the offseason.

Although the finger can be pointed at a horrid special teams unit or a general manager that neglected a crucial area of their roster, Rodgers simply had to be better than this. He wasn't.

Written By:

Justin Melo

Staff Writer

Justin Melo is an NFL draft analyst that cut his teeth at The Draft Breakdown and USA Today's Draft Wire. He specializes in interviewing prospects, but also produces big boards, mock drafts, and scouting reports. He also covers the Tennessee Titans nationally for Broadway Sports Media and SB Nation.