Aaron Rodgers takes advantage of free plays like no other quarterback

Michael David Smith

Every quarterback knows that when the defense jumps offside or gets caught with a 12th man trying to run off the field as the ball is snapped, that’s a free play: The defense has committed a penalty, so the quarterback should take a chance. If something goes wrong they can take the penalty, and if something goes right they can decline the penalty.

But only one quarterback really gets the most out of those opportunities: Aaron Rodgers.

According to the NFL’s Football Operations, since 2006 Rodgers has thrown 84 passes on free plays, and has thrown those passes much farther downfield than any other quarterback: Rodgers throws on those free plays, on average, 25 yards downfield.

Since 2006 Rodgers has thrown nearly 2,000 yards downfield on all those free plays: Ben Roethlisberger has just barely topped 1,000 yards downfield on free plays; he’s a distant second behind Rodgers.

At the other end of the spectrum from Rodgers is Kirk Cousins, who has thrown only 13 passes on free plays in his career, and only a combined 87 yards downfield. Rodgers routinely gets more yards on free plays in a season than Cousins has in his career.

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