Did Aaron Rodgers Benefit By Sitting On Bench Behind Favre?

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was considered to be one of the top two QB's in the 2005 NFL Draft and could have easily have been the #1 overall selection, coming out of the University of California. Instead, the San Francisco 49ers decided to pick Utah's Alex Smith with the first pick and left Rodgers on the board until the Green Bay Packers picked him with the 24th overall selection of the first round. Rodgers sat behind legendary Brett Favre for his first three years in the league, getting into a grand total of seven games, throwing only 59 passes, completing 35 for 329 yards, one TD and one interception.

Not much of a resume in the NFL over three years, but understandable considering who he was behind on the  depth chart. Three years ago, Brett Favre either retired, was released or whatever, but now was gone and Rodgers stepped into the starting role. Three years later, he is considered one of the top QB's in the game and is leading his team into the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The point is, he has played roughly the same amount of games in three starting season as the Baltimore Ravens' QB, Joe Flacco. Is the difference between the two attributable to his three year  "internship" behind Favre?

(Click on the 'Jump'to see the statistical comparison between Rodgers and Flacco)

In both QB's NFL regular season careers, Rodgers has played in 54 games while Flacco has started all 48 regular season games since being drafted by the Ravens in 2008. That's where the similarities between the two begin to split. However, the gap is not nearly as much as one might have expected, although Rodgers has clearly put up more prolific numbers over the course of his career.

Let's look at their career numbers:

Player        Games   ATT     COMP  PCT    Yards   TD  INT   Rating

Rodgers       54       1,611   1,038   64.4   12,723   87   32     98.4

Flacco           48       1,416      878   62.0   10,206   60   34     87.9

Take out those seven games that Rodgers played in over his first three years before becoming the full-time starter and the stats look like this:

Player        Games   ATT    COMP   PCT   Yards   TD   INT  

Rodgers       47       1,552   1,033    66.6  12,394   86   31 

Flacco           48       1,416      878    62.0  10,206   60   34

Now we see an even more similar comparison, with Rodgers stats still overshadowing Flacco's in all areas, however none more impressive than in the TD passes category. The stats bear out the difference between what at least was a run-first offense (Ravens) versus a pass-first mentality (Packers) over the course of their starting careers. Also significant is the fact that Rodgers threw 136 more passes, yet threw one less interception than Flacco.

Compare their 2010 regular season stats:

Player      Games   ATT    COMP    PCT   Yards   TD   INT    Rating

Rodgers     15        475      312       65.7   3,922    28   11      101.2

Flacco         16        489      306       62.6   3,622    25   10        93.6

Not a huge difference over the course of the year, other than the overall QB Rating. However, Flacco played the entire regular season while Rodgers missed one game, which most likely would have increased the separation between the two had he played like his "normal" self.

At this point, it's obviously ludicrous to even try to compare the two QB's as Aaron Rodgers is by far the more accomplished passer and is in this year's Super Bowl, although Joe Flacco has played in more career playoff games over the past three years. However, as stated in the title of this post, the question remains as to what benefit would Flacco have realized had he had the opportunity to stand on the sidelines and learn the system, speed and intangibles of the pro game behind a standout veteran QB, such as the late Steve McNair, had he continued to be a proficient QB into Flacco's early years?

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