Kolb is to McNabb as Rodgers was to Favre?

Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers

So in the pursuit of understanding the McNabb v. Kolb discussion, its always good to look for comparisons. One that’s been raised a lot has been the similarities in situation to Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. As John Clayton writes:

Favre is an interesting comparison. I don’t think Kolb is as talented as Aaron Rodgers, but you saw what happened to the Packers once Favre left. They fell to 6-10, even though Rodgers threw for more than 4,000 yards. First-year starting quarterbacks don’t win the close games, and the Eagles could drop to 6-10 or 7-9 with Kolb learning on the job.

So this raises a number of questions. Let’s go through the similarities first.

  • Oldish QB in Favre (who was 38 at the time) traded to make way for young early-pick QB in Rodgers who had been sitting patiently and quietly for 3 years.
  • No one really knew what Rodgers could do. The organization was high on him, but he had very limited playing experience.
  • Organizational inertia invested in Favre was great— i.e. the QB was synonymous with the team.
  • Favre was coming off one of his best seasons.
  • The team was good. (This can be questioned, especially considering relative performance, but both were playoff teams when the decision was made.)


  • McNabb is 33, not 38.
  • McNabb has never been loved by the media/public the way Favre was in Green Bay. (To the extent that public opinion mattered in either of these decisions, a topic to be explored at a later time.)
  • McNabb and Favre, while both West Coast Offensive QBs, are radically different players. The interception at the end of this year’s NFC Championship Game ought to prove that.
  • Kolb started 2 games this past year. That gives us a window into his potential that is much clearer than was Rodgers’s.

It’s easy to prove this helps your argument from either side. If you’re on Team McNabb, then Favre’s amazing year at age 40 proves the Eagles should keep him. Team Kolb cites Rodgers’s solid play and youth as evidence of a good decision.

Let’s take a look at the short term, Year 1 AD (After Decision) numbers.

Favre’s last year in Green Bay, Football Outsiders shows the team had a 16% weighted offensive DVOA (4th in the league). 2008, Rodgers’s first year, puts the Packers at 13% weighted offensive DVOA (10th). Rushing offense was essentially the same, so the dropoff was entirely in passing. Thus comes Clayton’s argument. Rodgers, despite solid numbers, wasn’t as good as Favre — especially in close games, and thus the Packers were worse.

The problem with this analysis is that it discounts other factors by placing all the weight for wins/losses on the QB. Another huge difference between the 2007 and 2008 teams: run defense. FO’s numbers show a drop from 12th to 28th in Rushing Defense DVOA (it looks even worse in the defensive line breakdown). Think the ability to prevent short yardage runs might have affected the team’s ability to win close games?

Rodgers’s play in his first year shows TEAM > QB. Yes, (by conventional and FO stats) Rodgers was worse in 2008 than Favre was in 2007. But he played comparatively better than Favre did with the NY Jets in 08 — and had to deal with a declining defense. The Packers would likely not have been better than 6-10 with Favre under center.

What can we learn from this? Well, a lot of that depends on whether you think Kolb is worse or better than Rodgers. If you assume similar performance, the drop off likely will not be significant enough to cost the Eagles a playoff spot. However, it also depends on your view of McNabb and Favre. Favre was 5 years older, but has shown this season an ability to still produce at a high level. If McNabb continues to play well, why risk a Kolb dropoff? On the other hand, while this was a great season for McNabb, he only graded out in the middle of the pack of starting QBs, according to FO. Maybe Kolb would perform similarly?

Plenty more to consider…