Cowboys: How Aaron Rodgers beats Rod Marinelli every time

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15: Aaron Rodgers
ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15: Aaron Rodgers /

For the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Rod Marinelli must first find a way to stop giving Aaron Rodgers free plays

Some things are indefensible. There are a handful of things that Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers does that comfortably fit into that category: His heat-seeking “Hail Mary”, his unbreakable grip, his ability to buy time and create something out of virtually nothing. They all illustrate examples of his greatness.

But one Aaron Rodgers staple is actually stoppable. It’s the “free play” and unfortunately for the Cowboys, Rod Marinelli has been unable to figure it out.

Free Plays

A “free play” is a play that draws a flag but allows the offense to continue with the down. At the conclusion of said down, the offense has a choice whether to accept the penalty or to accept the outcome of the play.

What this essentially means is the offense has no consequences for its actions. The quarterback can throw a high risk pass and not have to worry about an interception because he can always just accept the penalty. It’s 100 percent reward with zero percent risk. You don’t have to be JPMorgan to see risk grade of 0 is pretty awesome thing for a quarterback.

It’s also the last thing you want to grant a playmaking QB like Rodgers.

Aaron Rodgers is the all-time master of the free play. He regularly victimizes the Cowboys with it, extending drives, and oftentimes, yielding big plays and stealing otherwise “unearned” points.

There’s no rocket science behind a free play but that doesn’t mean there’s not a trick to it either. There are two main ways Aaron Rodgers has perfected the art of the free play:

  1. He catches defenses substituting.
  2. He draws defenses offsides.

Those may sound like little things but Rodgers has gotten so good at it, and victimizes the Cowboys so frequently with it, it’s become nothing short of embarrassing.


This is probably the more painful of the two free plays because it’s a lazy penalty rather than an aggressive penalty.

Aaron Rodgers absolutely abuses Rod Marinelli’s defense with substitutions. Over the years he’s gotten to know Rod Marinelli quite well. He knows the Cowboys like to substitute early and often. And he waits for it.

Rod Marinelli knows Rodgers is waiting for it. Yet, he never seems to stop it.

I’m not saying fake an injury to get in substitutions but staying on the ground will enable a substitution without risk of getting caught. Just sayin…

While the Cowboys are chaotically cycling players in and out, Rodgers hustles his gents to the line and snaps the ball –catching the Cowboys mid-substitution and drawing a flag for too many men on the field.

Additionally, the Cowboys defenders are usually out of position since they’re mid-substitution, and subsequently unprepared to defend a pass.


The solution to this is simple. Rod Marinelli must alter his gameplan. He can’t cycle players at the same rate as normal. He needs to play his defenders for longer stretches. What this means is he has to lean on his best conditioned players because they can’t tap out when they get winded or else Rodgers will catch them.

They also can’t coast through the next couple downs on fumes because the Cowboys are going to need everyone playing at maximum effort to stop the Packer offense. The plan is easy. The execution may not be.

I’m not saying fake an injury to get in substitutions but staying on the ground will enable a substitution without risk of getting caught. Just sayin…


This penalty is every bit as dangerous as it yields the same result: a free play. It all starts with a hard count. Mixing up the rhythm, volume, and general cadence Rodgers catches the Cowboys every time, prompting them to jump in the neutral zone and offsides.

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That leaves it in the hands of the center. Jumping offsides doesn’t provide the free play alone, it’s snapping the ball while the opponent is offsides that gifts the consequence-free down. Rodgers and his offensive line must be prepared to snap the ball the moment their victim has been drawn. And they always are.

Next, it’s the play itself. The beauty of the “free play” is that it comes without consequence. If Rodgers throws an interception it won’t count because he can take the offsides penalty instead.  On any given down, deep balls are inherently more risky because the longer the ball is in flight the more time the defender has to intercept. But on a free play those risks are eliminated making a deep ball the obvious choice.


Watch the ball. Don’t listen to the voice. Come on guys.

No Consequence = Big Problem

As discussed in “Is Orlando Scandrick Helping or Hurting the Cowboys”, consequences are a big part in the decision-making process for an NFL QB. If there’s little-to-no risk involved, he’s gonna go for the big play every single time.

And that’s what Rodgers does to Rod Marinelli and the Cowboys. Every. Single. Time.

Next: Cowboys bring in the reinforcements this week

Every time the Cowboys face Rodgers, he catches them. He extends drives and scores points he otherwise wouldn’t have scored. He creates points and that’s something the Cowboys can ill afford given the state of their defense.