Rod Marinelli, like a lot of defensive coordinators, hasn’t had much success beating Aaron Rodgers.
“That quarterback is something else. He’s unique,” Marinelli said of Rodgers. “I look forward to it every time because he’s such a great competitor. Competing against a competitor like that is why you’re in pro football.”
Rodgers is 13-2 against defenses Marinelli has coached in Detroit, where he was the head coach, and as an assistant in Chicago and Dallas.
He’s 3-0 in the playoffs against Marinelli, including playoff wins over the Cowboys in 2014 and 2016.
Rodgers will attempt to improve his record to 14-2 on Sunday at AT&T Stadium, when Green Bay plays the Cowboys.
Marinelli must spend this week decide whether to attack with blitzing - a tactic he doesn’t like — or whether he uses a variety of schemes with five and six defensive backs to control Rodgers.
Not that it matters all that much.
Rodgers has a career passer rating of 104.0 with 307 touchdowns and 75 interceptions; against the blitz he has a passer rating of 105.8 with 94 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
Actually, Marinelli has spent this week preaching to his defensive linemen the importance of rushing the passer with discipline and maintaining the integrity of their rushing lanes.
Do that, and it’s possible to keep Rodgers in the pocket, where teams have a chance to contain him. Now, that’s much easier said than done.
But what makes Rodgers special is that he’s lethal when he’s on the move.
“He has an unbelievable feel in the pocket. You just don’t see guys like that,” Marinelli said. “You see scramblers, but in the pocket he has the feel to step up or move back or squirt out left or right.
“He can run, and when he breaks outside the pocket you might as well chalk it up as a completion and get ready to play the next down.”
Look no further than how Rodgers wrecked the Cowboys’ season in an NFC Divisional playoff game at AT&T Stadium last January as proof of the damage he can do outside the pocket.
On third-and-20 with 12 seconds left, Rodgers rolled left on a designed play against a two-deep zone with six defensive backs.
He threw a perfect pass to tight end Jared Cook who made a 36-yard sliding catch along the sideline that set up a game-winning 51-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the Packers to a 34-31 win.
Just so you know, it wasn’t a lucky play. Rodgers had literally prepared a lifetime to make that play.
“We had good schemes when, I was growing up with a lot of boots and actions where you’re getting outside the pocket and learning how to throw on the run,” Rodgers said. “You know it’s working on that stuff in the offseason as I grew older and got to work in the quarterback school, do a lot of drills where you’re working on throwing outside of the pocket and moving at a high rate of speed.
“Then you’re just trying to be smart about listening to your body and how your movement affects the ball and you just try to lock away that muscle memory, so you remember how to be accurate when you’re running at full speed left or right — or almost full speed left or right — and trying to be as accurate as possible.”
Against Marinelli’s defenses, Rodgers is 347 of 516 for 4,252 yards with 29 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 104.7.
Eleven times, Rodgers has had a passer rating of more than 90.0, including six of more than 100.0. Five times, he’s thrown more than three touchdowns.
"We've had success in general over the years here but Rod is a fantastic coach, I have a ton of respect for him," Rodgers said. "I wouldn't say we've ever had it easy against them.
"It's always been battles going up against Coach Marinelli and I always look forward to the challenge."
The feeling is mutual.