For the first time since 2008, the Packers will enter training camp with a different set of faces throwing beside reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers. While not as thrilling as the battle at safety, the situation at backup quarterback is still very relevant. To see why, let’s briefly recap the Aaron Rodgers era in terms of who was sitting behind him on the depth chart.
Four years ago, it was Louisville product Brian Brohm who was viewed as “insurance” behind Rodgers, as No.12 entered his first season as a starter. However, as early as the preseason, it was clear that rookie seventh round pick Matt Flynn was the more serviceable of the two backup quarterbacks. Brohm quickly amounted to nothing and the Packers had no choice but to trust the inexperienced Flynn as their only option after Rodgers.
Flynn wasn’t a life saver right from the get-go; he couldn’t do much in the Packers’ Week 4 game against Tampa Bay, which they went on to lose. This had fans nervous about the chance of losing Rodgers for an extended period of time. Amongst the skeptical was me, who pushed for the Packers to sign a veteran quarterback heading into the 2010 season.
It only took one Sunday night performance in 2010 to make Matt Flynn the highest regarded backup QB in the NFL. He solidified that label in the 2011 season finale against Detroit, throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns in wintery conditions. From this experience, I’ve adopted a different mentality regarding backup quarterbacks in Green Bay – at least in Mike McCarthy’s system.
Some might point to Flynn’s fundamentally strong management skills as a driver of success. However, the reality is this: the top-notch Packers coaching staff and the talent surrounding the quarterback position on the Packers’ offense can make a number of average quarterbacks look good in their system. The next prospect is Graham Harrell, who has had the chance to develop behind the scenes for two years.
This conversation doesn’t need to be about Flynn vs. Harrell. Like 2008, I believe the Packers will keep three quarterbacks on the roster, partially for insurance and partially for development. If Harrell’s development thus far doesn’t materialize on game day, the Packers can tap seventh round pick B.J. Coleman, who should have roughly the same draft-defined ability as Flynn in 2008.
How can the Harrell/Coleman combo be any scarier than the dual-rookie combo of Brohm/Flynn? Some experts have made their doubts clear. Several point to Browns QB Colt McCoy as a target for Thompson and the Packers this offseason. While the prospect of McCarthy working with McCoy is intriguing, it doesn’t make much sense to pay up for that opportunity when the Packers could have the answers right in front of them.
I’m not promising that Graham Harrell is as capable as Matt Flynn. Harrell went undrafted out of college and poses major concerns on arm strength. However, it looks as though Ted Thompson is confident enough in his two youngsters to put a season without Rodgers on the line. The Packers’ take-them-as-they-come approach to obstacles has worked in the past and should continue to work in the future.