Muted no longer, Jordan Rodgers speaks.
On Wednesday night, Vanderbilt’s senior quarterback talked to reporters for the first time in six weeks. Coach James Franklin had kept Rodgers and all other quarterbacks off limits in hopes of squashing a quarterback controversy.
Since Rodgers last spoke to the media on Sept. 5 — the Wednesday before the Commodores’ second game against Northwestern — he was benched in favor of Austyn Carta-Samuels, regained his starting job a week later and has a 1-3 record as a starter.
Going into Saturday’s game against visiting Auburn, the savvy Rodgers said he missed chatting with the press but didn’t see his media ban as a penalty.
“It’s great any time you can just focus on your play, focus on us as a team,” Rodgers said. “I can’t ask for a better situation. I’m excited about this week with Auburn. We’ve got a great chance, them coming in here, they’re a talented team. We’re going to have to bring it. We’re going to have to jump out early, which is something we’ve done at times but we’ve struggled with overall.”
Before Rodgers was benched for the Presbyterian game, he had completed 53.5 percent of his passes (30-of-56) for two touchdowns but had committed three turnovers, including two in the red zone.
In his last three games, he has completed 56 percent of his passes (44 of 78) for 637 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a fumble. Franklin believed now was a good time to let Rodgers talk because he has separated himself from Carta-Samuels once again.
“I think he’s doing what we ask him to do pretty consistently,” Franklin said. “He is doing the same thing in practice pretty consistently. We’re moving the ball and doing some better things offensively. I think it has died down. I think his focus has been real good and at some point we were going to make [the quarterbacks] available to you.”
Other topics Rodgers addressed:
• On getting benched for the Presbyterian game: “I’m going to get the opportunities I deserve. That’s all I really have to say. I’m excited about this week.”
• On bouncing back and regaining his starting job: “It is my job to be consistent week in and week out. We’re still working towards that. We’re working toward that as a team. I’ve got a lot of good guys around me. I’ve got a lot of talent around me. We’re showing that to teams. [Wide receivers] Chris Boyd, Jordan Matthews have been huge this season. [Running back] Zac Stacy has been huge. My O-line, I think, has played great. As a team we need to be consistent. We’re getting there. We’re not quite there. But we’re getting there. When we put that all together we’re going to be pretty tough to beat when we’re consistent through four quarters.”
• On keeping his starting job: “I just need to be consistent. It is only going to be your job as long as you’re producing. That’s with any job. That is with anybody on the field. I just need to be consistent. I need to help this team make plays. I really need to just to get the ball out of my hand and make smart decisions. Whether that is in the checks before the play or whether that is my reads. I think we’re taking good strides to get to where we need to be.”
• On areas of improvement: “I just think I’m seeing the field a lot better. I think sometimes you watch on field what a defense is doing you get out there under center and you’re not seeing it exactly the way you saw it on film. That happens to all of us but consistently I’m seeing exactly what I thought I’d see. I’m making my reads. I’m predicting what the defense is going to do. I’m not perfect — obviously. I’m not doing that every play but I’m getting to where I’m seeing the field a lot better pre- and post-snap.”
• On Vanderbilt's red zone efficiency, which ranks 105th out of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision: “We’ve got to improve in the red zone. That’s going to be critical from here on out in the season. It has showed to be critical in all our games. If we punch it in a few more times some games can end up differently. So we’ve got to find a way to not change what we’re doing just because we’re inside the 20. Coach says when you’re backed up the field isn’t uphill. When you’re in the 20 it’s not downhill. Everything’s the same we got to be consistent whether we’re on the 50-yard line, the opposite 30-yard line or the 20-yard line. We’ve got to get consistent positive plays and we’ll get in the red zone. We got to get better at finishing drives off for touchdowns in the red zone, not just field goals or nothing.”
• On adjusting his risk-taking tendencies: “I don’t think I’ve adjusted it. I’m going to — and [Franklin] knows this — take my shots when I feel it is in the best situation for the team. I think last year that was a problem. We’d have a third-and-two and I’d see press coverage and I’d take a shot. Well that’s not the most high percentage play we can do. When I’m seeing opportunities on first and second down I’m going to take them. I think that is good for our offense. But I’m not going to take risks that are outside of what I’m coached to do.”