Down eight points and with just over two minutes remaining in the NFC Championship Game, Packers head coach Matt Lafleur opted to kick a field goal instead of going for the tie. The entire NFL world collectively scratched their heads and muttered, “Huh?” at the sight of the NFL’s MVP, Aaron Rodgers, walking off the field when his team needed a touchdown.
It was the most questionable call of the playoffs. The second most questionable call might have come one play earlier, on third down, when Rodgers opted to force a throw to Adams rather than run to a seemingly open corner of the endzone.
That’s a lot of space. You could put a $1,300 California studio apartment in all that space, but Rodgers tried to make a throw instead. Rodgers received some mild criticism for that decision. Some people believed Rodgers choked, while others believed he would have never made it to the goal line.
Well, after a race yesterday between a few of the NFL’s young stars, I can now say with certainty — yeah, Rodgers wouldn’t have even gotten close!
In case you aren’t aware of what happened yesterday, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman and Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III had a fun little back-and-forth on Twitter regarding who was faster. If you couldn’t tell by the final hashtag at the end there, this whole thing was put on by Bounty as a marketing stunt. Nevertheless, soon after this tweet was sent out, Vikings star wide receiver (and rightful 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year) Justin Jefferson joined along with Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White.
Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking “What in the world is Devin White thinking? He’s a linebacker. He’s going to get flat out embarrassed by these receivers.”
Everybody knows that if linebackers were as fast as wide receivers, cornerbacks wouldn’t be necessary. Just put the bigger guy on the wideout, and that receiver would get out-muscled every time. Sure, White had a decent 40 time at the 2019 combine, but it was still a far cry from what guys like Ruggs, Hardman, and Jefferson are capable of, right?
WRONG. Dead wrong. Turns out Devin White is insanely fast, and definitely capable of holding his own against some of the fastest men in the NFL. After a week of minimal prep work for the race, White posted an unofficial 4.37. To put that in perspective, the fastest 40 time ever for a linebacker is 4.38 — by Shaquem Griffin in 2018. White even beat one of the receivers — Jefferson — by over one-tenth of a second!
All this goes to say… “Do you really think Rodgers would’ve made it to the endzone?” Because I’m pretty sure that White would’ve chased him down before he got anywhere close. If you take a look at that play again, you’ll see that White — number 45 — is already moving in the direction that Rodgers is heading, and even though there’s a receiver in White’s path, it’s unlikely that he would’ve been a serious hindrance to White. Not to mention, a different camera angle shows just far ahead the Bucs’ defenders were when Rodgers chose to make the throw.
Rodgers’ fastest ever recorded 40 was a 4.66 according to the man himself. And now, over a decade and a half later, Rodgers is 37 and probably not as spry as he once was. He can still move in the pocket, but he’s not going to burn anyone down the sideline on a quarterback scramble.
Ultimately, Rodgers did what he believed gave his team the best chance at winning. He has also stated that he felt he was being chased down from behind...by a defensive lineman. If “Mr. Discount Double Check” doesn’t think he can outrun a 300-pound D-lineman, why on Earth would he be able to outrun one of the fastest linebackers ever. Rodgers made the right choice by throwing the ball, and if you had any doubt before, I hope this cleared it up.