The Fall of 12

By Nick Murray

For the past 20 years the NFL has been dominated by the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game of football: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlesberger, and Eli Manning. These names all hold a future place in the hall of fame. Unfortunately, in recent years we have seen many of these quarterbacks fall behind and reach retirement. The last remaining of the most pass heavy era in NFL history: Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, the two greatest players to wear the number 12.

Tom Brady is the most decorated quarterback in NFL history with 7 super bowl rings, having appeared in 10 championships, in addition to his 15 Pro Bowl nominations and 3 MVPs. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers has only appeared in and won a single Super Bowl, but has added 10 Pro Bowls and 4 MVPs to his resume, second all-time in MVPs behind Peyton Manning. These two quarterbacks have dominated the league over the past 20 years with a combined record of 434 wins to just 171 losses. This past season however, both of these quarterbacks are 3-5 through week 8 and have taken a step back as individual passers as well. 

In the case of Aaron Rodgers, the team has struggled to find an identity due to a series of changes in the off-season. Since 2021, the Packers have lost All-Pro receiver Davante Adams and All-Pro outside linebacker Za’darius Smith, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback coach Luke Getsy. As a result, the offense has encountered serious struggles. Rodgers currently holds a passer rating of 94.5 nearly 10 below his career average of 104.1 and a touchdown percentage of 4.7 compared to his career average 6.3. As the Packers begin to find an identity on offense and their 2 rookie receivers acclimate to the team, one might expect to see improvement in the back to back defending MVP’s game but there is potential that we are beginning to see the decline of number 12 in Green Bay.

For Tom Brady, the story is a little different. Very little change has occurred in Tampa Bay over this past off-season outside of a small head coaching change. This season, Tom Brady enters his age 45 season, far older than any MVP caliber QB in NFL history. Last year, Brady led the league in passing touchdowns and passing yards and was second in MVP voting behind Rodgers. This season, Brady is second in passing yards but tied for 8th in passing touchdowns, behind 18 other quarterbacks. Brady is experiencing a far greater decline in efficiency than Rodgers this season with a touchdown percentage of 2.6 compared to his career average of 5.4, averaging 6.7 yards per attempt compared to his 7.4 career average. While Rodgers has the excuse of growing pains around the team, little can be said for Brady as he still has his two favorite receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as well as running back Leonard Fournette. The key argument for Brady would be the abysmal offensive-line protecting him. The offensive-line has almost entirely changed personnel since last season from arguably the best O-line in the league to one of the worst. Regardless, Brady’s decline in efficiency is obvious and the time must come when the 45 year old will take off the cleats one last time.