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Pro Football Focus Gives Aaron Rodgers Negative Grade After 5-Touchdown Performance

BOSTON (CBS) -- In these parts, the website Pro Football Focus has drawn the ire of many local football fans, after analyst Sam Monson declared Tom Brady to no longer rank among the top five quarterbacks in the NFL.

Brady, of course, went on to throw 33 touchdowns and nine picks en route to earning Super Bowl MVP honors, so the fire and the fury among local fans certainly died down quite a bit.

Now, Patriots fans can find solace in the fact that PFF is an equal opportunity discreditor of future Hall of Famers.

On Monday night, Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 35 passes (68.6 percent) for 333 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He did this against the impressive Kansas City defense, which had given up an average of 277 yards over the first two weeks, allowing five touchdowns, making two interceptions and sacking the quarterback eight times. Rodgers rightfully had all of the ESPN analysts fawning over his abilities, because, let's face it -- he's 31 years and is the best quarterback in the league right now.

But not everybody was impressed. The folks at Pro Football Focus, who grade every single player on every single play on a scale from negative-2.0 to plus-2.0, ended up giving Rodgers a -0.8 rating on the night.

Yes, a negative grade.

Say what?

PFF's Ben Stockwell tried to explain.

Stockewell wrote that only two of Rodgers' touchdowns came after good throws.

"The other three touchdowns, however, were passes thrown short of the end zone on speed outs to Randall Cobb. Were they bad throws? No, they were expected throws with the credit going to Cobb for fighting through contact or defeating the coverage with speed to the edge. That makes these zero-graded throws: Three passes that have a massive effect on Rodgers' statistical performance but do not increase his grade," Stockwell wrote.

PFF also harshly graded Rodgers for a play on which he fumbled in the second quarter, as well as a third-quarter pass that should have been intercepted but wasn't.

In fact, much of the "criticism" of Rodgers sounds incredibly similar to what PFF said about Brady when the website ranked as the 33rd best player in the NFL for the 2010 season. (That 2010 season, you might remember, was the one when Brady became the first-ever player to win the MVP by a unanimous vote.)

Back in 2010, PFF wrote: "It's not that Brady (who isn't that far off from Drew Brees) isn't capable of making these [spectacular] plays, or isn't even making them, he's just not being asked to do it as regularly as Aaron Rodgers and others were. Consider it a compliment to the New England system that it doesn't put Brady in a situation where he has to constantly make breathtaking throws."

And today, PFF wrote of Rodgers: "Rodgers did his job last night, but his job was executing simple throws, putting the ball quickly in the hands of receivers like Randall Cobb in favorable matchups on short throws, and allowing others to do the heavy lifting."

(Brady, by the way, earned a 4.6 grade for his shredding of the Jaguars on Sunday.)

It is, to say the least, an interesting way of analyzing football. On the one hand, stats can be deceiving in many ways, and so viewing every play in a vacuum and placing a grade on it can definitely provide a unique perspective.

At the same time, the model essentially punishes quarterbacks who are smart enough to A) run the right play after reading the defense and B) make the smart play by hitting the open receiver instead of trying to launch a deep ball or squeeze a bullet into a tight window. To me, the most lethal quarterbacks are the ones who can beat you before the ball is snapped. But I don't have my own analytical website, so you'll have to take that opinion for what it's worth.

That's not to say Rodgers doesn't get his due from PFF. If you go to the homepage, the No. 1 quarterback on the season is Mr. Rodgers himself. (Drew Brees is curiously ranked No. 3, but that's probably a story for another day.)

Again, it's a worthwhile endeavor for PFF to force fans to think beyond the stat sheet. It's useful.  But ultimately, it's pretty much always just going to end up making football fans very angry.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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