I’ve had about enough. After reading Football Outsider’s NFC North installment of their “Four Downs” series, it’s finally time to make known this humble blogger’s opinion regarding the backup quarterback situation in Green Bay. In a word, they’ll be “fine.”
For some reason, though, there are a good number of writers out there sounding the alarm. Perhaps they haven’t seen enough of Graham Harrell to put a lot of faith in him. (Of course, no one outside of the coaching staff really has.) Or perhaps they’re still clinging to the annual call for a veteran backup.
Whatever the case, it just needs to stop.
And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’ve read some of the comments at Football Outsiders and our fellow Packers blog CheeseheadTV, and there seem to be a good number of people who all share the same opinion I do.
Look, I get it. Harrell, despite being in his third year with the team, is unproven. He’s never played a down outside of the preseason, and last year’s lockout kept him from developing in Mike McCarthy’s annual quarterback school. Now with the release of Nick Hill, seventh-round draft pick B.J. Coleman remains as the only other backup.
It’s not unreasonable to be dubious of a two-year practice squad player and a rookie. But it’s just crying wolf to say the Packers’ season might be in jeopardy without a more competent backup.
The truth of the matter is that if Aaron Rodgers goes down for the season, it’s probably over anyway. Even if you were to bring in a veteran quarterback, there’s not going to be anyone who will be able to pick up and run the Packer’s offensive system adequately. And spending a higher draft pick for someone other than B.J. Coleman is no more of a guarantee. Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm are proof enough of that.
There is little chance that anyone could carry the offense through the playoffs and to the Super Bowl other than Rodgers himself. When we get right down to it, isn’t that all that matters?
“But wait!” you might say. “What if having a backup in causes them to miss the playoffs, even if Rodgers returns from an injury?”
Well, if that’s the case, then they probably shouldn’t have been in the running to begin with. To prove my point, here’s a list of the last seven seasons’ backup quarterbacks. With each year, I’ve included any games where the backup saw significant playing time or playing time due to injury. After that, you’ll see how the Packers fared in the playoffs that year. Take a look:
2011: Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell
– Week 17 vs. Lions, W 45-41
* Record: 15-1, Lost in Divisional Round
2010: Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell
– Week 14 vs. Lions, L 3-7
– Week 15 vs. Patriots, L 27-31
* Record: 10-6, Won Super Bowl
2009: Matt Flynn, Chris Pizzotti
– No significant time
* Record: 11-5, Lost in Wild Card Round
2008: Matt Flynn, Brian Brohm
– Week 4 vs. Buccaneers, L 21-30
* Record: 6-10, No Playoffs
2007: Aaron Rodgers, Craig Nall
– Week 13 vs. Cowboys, L 27-37
* Record, 13-3, Lost NFC Championship Game
2006: Aaron Rodgers (Todd Bouman), Ingle Martin
– Week 11 vs. Patriots, L 0-35
* Record: 8-8, No Playoffs
2005: Aaron Rodgers, Craig Nall
– Week 15 vs. Ravens, L 3-48
* Record: 4-12, No Playoffs
So firs thing’s first. The only time a backup quarterback won a game for the Packers in the past seven years was last season when Matt Flynn beat the Lions in Week 17, giving Rodgers a rest for the playoff run. While it was an amazing performance by Flynn, it had zero bearing on the Packers’ playoff seed.
As for the losses, none of them really seemed to matter. Sure, Flynn might have improved the Packers’ seeding in 2010 with wins against the Lions and Patriots, but they still went on to win the Super Bowl, and neither loss cost them their playoff berth (however close it might have been).
Similarly, Aaron Rodger’s inability to rally the Packers against the Cowboys in 2007 had nothing to do with that year’s playoff run or their loss in the NFC Championship game.
In fact, the Green Bay Packers never really had a “veteran” quarterback as a backup since Rodgers was drafted. They’ve all been developed from within.
That’s not to say that something won’t go wrong this year. This list is definitely not exhaustive, and strange things happen. But if we’re going to let the threat of a long-term injury dictate roster moves, then managing the team becomes a real challenge.
Besides, Harrell and/or Coleman might just surprise us.
Backup quarterbacks are meant to close out the occasional blowout games and fill in for temporary injuries. The expectation of having them lead a team to a Super Bowl victory is a bit much, if you ask me. As I said before, if you have to bank on a backup winning a couple games to make the playoffs, then what was the team doing the rest of the season?
Yes, it’s a tough league, and one or two games can make all the difference. Still, the “draft and develop” philosophy has served Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy well. If they feel confident in their backup quarterbacks, then I’m not going to be worrying about it.
If you ask me, everything will be just “fine.”