So in an effort to forget about the Packers dismal showing against the Giants, I instead decided to analyze something completely different, namely the first and only pass that one Graham Harrell has thrown in the National Football League. Some of you might know but Harrell was the only backup quarterback in the NFL who had never thrown a pass in a game (though it has to be said that Saint’s backup quarterback Chase Daniel had one pass under his name). Also throw in Harrell’s disastrous first outing where he fumbled a handoff to running back Cedric Benson in the red zone that resulted in a touchdown for ironically the Saints as well.
The situation: The Packers aren’t doing too well, down 38 to 10 with only a couple minutes left in the game. Head coach Mike McCarthy has already thrown in the towel by pulling out starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and has inserted his back up Graham Harrell. After a slew of running plays, McCarthy finally gives Harrell the green light to chuck the ball.
The formation: The Packers are in a 2-1-2 personel (2WR-1TE-2RB) in a classic I-formation with WR James Jones (89) split out wide to the left, WR Jordy Nelson (87) split out to the right and TE Tom Crabtree (83) inline with the right tackle. In the backfield, FB John Kuhn (30) is lined 5 yards directly behind the ball with RB James Starks (44) directly behind FB Kuhn. Under center is QB Graham Harrell (6), while the offensive line is composed of LT Marshall Newhouse (74), LG Evan Dietrich-Smith (62), C Jeff Saturday (63), RG Josh Sitton (71) and RT TJ Lang (70).
The Snap: QB Harrell play fakes the handoff to Starks while FB Kuhn initially goes behind the right tackle. After the fake, Starks shifts to his left to help out the LT while FB Kuhn goes to help out the right tackle and TE Crabtree, who has stayed behind to block. Both WR Jones and WR Nelson both run fade routes.
First read: QB Harrell’s first read immediately after the play fake is to WR Jones to his left.
Second read: QB Harrell decides against throwing to WR Jones resets, and shifts over to his right, looking at WR Nelson.
Third read: QB Harrell again decides against throwing to WR Nelson (again the correct decision as the Giants are playing a prevent defense), and finally ends up throwing to his safety valve, in this case FB John Kuhn, who has leaked out of his block on the left defensive end and has run a short wheel route. FB Kuhn catches the ball and gets run out of bounds, but not before gaining 11 yards and the first down.
Conclusion: The good news is that Mike McCarthy seems to think Graham Harrell can handle the full playbook as he asks Harrell not only to run a run fake, but to also go through his full list of progressions (with Starks, Crabtree staying in to block, Nelson, Jones and Kuhn are the only real options), and perhaps even more importantly, McCarthy hasn’t cut the field in half by design or by rolling Harrell out; every passing option is available for Harrell. This is actually a rather important concept, there are rumors that Carolina starting quarterback Cam Newton is still locked into a half field read (not to mention the whole option pass play thing they should really get away from) and New York Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez has also had issues working with the whole field. Simply put, in terms of quarterback progression and development, Harrell might be better off that some starters in the league, like Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez, Brandon Weedon and Blaine Gabbert.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.