Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 11 at New York Giants All Green Bay Packers All the Time

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


  • Oppy

    That’s an awful lot to take away from one passing play and the supportive comments of a coach, Thomas, but it’s a great example of good, deductive play analysis!

    You clearly put some thought into your study. Good stuff.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I will say that having 3 reads is a lot different from having 5 reads, though its hard to say if McCarthy called a play with less reads because of Harrell or just based on the situation. Regardless of whether Harrell ends up being a good or bad quarterback (and I don’t think his couple of snaps really says all that much), it does look like McCarthy is really going to use the whole playbook with him

  • PatMc

    Great analysis! I agree with Oppy that it is just one play but very good analysis. Harrell has improved and that is good news. I think this also points out the Pack needs to create 1st downs and not always look for the bomb plays.

    The Pack started with 8 blockers against 4 d linemen. One blocker released (Kuhn). He picks up a first down.

    I wonder if next time (Giants or even this weekend against the VikQueens) we see this same play with ARod double pumping..Fake to Kuhn and then back to Stark (or RB). Looking on the left the 2 d lineman (98-99) are already in pursuit and Stark has 3 blockers in front with no D people in site. There is probably LB about 10 yards or more downfield but no CB or S help. 1,000 pounds of mean, pissed off OL coming at the LB will be fun to watch.

    I imagine Kuhn getting the ball for 1st half and then in the second half go through the 3 progressions but fake pump. With Saturday watching the D Line men (Allen) he hollers RED or something funky and Arod pulls the ball down and fires over to RB. Lets see if it happens.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Well one thing that you have to take in consideration is that the Giants are likely play a full prevent defense, i.e. safeties are deep, linebackers are probably in coverage and the corners are bailing out quickly. So just because Kuhn was wide open in this play probably doesn’t mean much. However, it is nice to see Harrell diagnose the play correctly, see that he wasn’t going to get the ball to Jones or Nelson and dump it off to Kuhn to see what he could get.

  • Bearmeat

    Is this some actual good news from last Sunday’s debacle? I’ll take it!

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Haha, well I thought the Packers self-bashing had been written to death, so I figured I would write about something I haven’t really seen in the news.

  • Dan

    And NFL history is made, Graham Harrells first pass completion. It’s going to be nice seeing Greg Jennings lining up wide in the next video breakdown

  • Tundraboy

    How funny . Seemed like the only time all game that the QB had some separation. Begs the question about play calling.

    • Chad Toporski

      At that point in the game, I don’t think the Giants were putting forth a big effort on defense or their play calling. I think everyone just wanted the clock to keep running down. The last series for the Packers really can’t tell us anything about the rest of the game.