Aaron Rodgers' place in the NFL quarterback pantheon is secured no matter what happens the rest of his career. A two-going-on-three-time MVP and Super Bowl champion, there's little debate against him being among the 10 best slingers of the pigskin in football history.
However, there is one glaring blemish on his resume that's currently impossible to ignore. The man has absolutely sucked in NFC Championship games throughout his career. Even the year the Packers made the Super Bowl with Rodgers, it was because his counterparts on the Bears sucked worse. Not because Rodgers pulled a trick using his magical hands.
This weekend against the Bucs, he could change that narrative and erase that blemish. However, it won't come easy against a Bucs defense that forces turnovers and doesn't give up many points. Considering Rodgers' history in this situation against defenses like that, it's no given.
Rodgers is currently 1-3 in four NFC Championship appearances. His quarterback rating in those four games is 78.0, over 25 points below his career average of 103.9. Overall he's completed 63.5 percent of his passes, averaged 258.7 passing yards per game and thrown 6 touchdowns against 7 interceptions and lost one fumble. Here are his full stats from each game.
CMP-ATT YDS AVG TD INT
2019: 31-39 326 79.5 2 2 FUMBLE
2016: 27-45 287 60.0 3 1
2014: 19-34 178 55.9 1 2
2010: 17-30 244 56.7 0 2
Last season was his worst performance. In the Packers' 37-20 loss to the 49ers, which had the No. 7 scoring defense and forced the fourth-most turnovers per game, Rodgers threw one interception and fumbled the ball in the first half as the Packers fell behind 27-0. He threw two TDs in the second half to salvage, on the stat sheet, what would have been arguably the worst playoff performance of his career. But he also threw another INT, giving him three turnovers in the game.
Before then his worst performance was the 2010 NFC Championship, the only championship-round game Rodgers won. Against the Bears, who gave up the fourth-fewest points and forced the fifth-most turnovers, he completed only 56.6 percent of his throws for 244 yards and two interceptions against zero touchdowns. Thankfully for the Packers, Jay Cutler was hurt, tried to grit through it, but was pulled after throwing an INT. His replacement, Caleb Hanie, threw two more INTs after that to hand the Packers the win.
In fairness to Rodgers, he faced a Top-5 defense in three of the four NFC Championship Games he's played in, the lone exception being the Falcons in 2016. He's also never played an NFC Championship at home prior to this year. Yet, that's the kind of opponent you're expected to face in the championship round. Rodgers will make no excuses for his past struggles.
This year, Rodgers is facing the No. 7 scoring defense and the No. 2 defense at forcing turnovers. The Bucs give up 22.1 points per game and average 1.7 takeaways per game. Neither of those stats bode well considering Rodgers' past.
Yet, this is Aaron Rodgers. He's going to win the MVP this season and there's a reason for it. He was impeccable, throwing 48 TDs to 5 INTs. If ever he was going to get over the hump again, this would be the year, at home following the best season of his career.
We'll see if Rodgers can overcome his past championship-round struggles against the Bucs on Sunday. If he does, and then wins a Super Bowl, the lone blemish on his resume will recede with time, as blemishes do. If he struggles again and never gets back to the big game, this blemish will turn into a permanent scar pointed at every time the debate about the best quarterbacks in NFL history is discussed.