The Packers’ Backup Quarterback Derby Must Stop All Green Bay Packers All the Time
B.J. Coleman and Vince Young were sent packing in favor of Seneca Wallace.

If the Green Bay Packers had their way, no one else but Aaron Rodgers would take a snap at quarterback during the regular season except in mop up duty during a blowout victory.

That said, they need some kind of a Plan B behind the 2011 NFL MVP in case of a doomsday scenario in which Rodgers is out for multiple games (or perhaps even the duration of the season).  For the first few years Rodgers was the starter, they had a solid plan. Matt Flynn sat at the ready and Graham Harrell was on the practice squad learning the ropes. All was well.

Then came the 2011 regular season finale. The Packers were 14-1 and had home field advantage for the playoffs sewn up. There was no reason to risk an injury to Rodgers in a meaningless game, so Flynn got his second career NFL start.  What followed was a record setting performance by Flynn who finished with 480 passing yards and six touchdowns.

Flynn was scheduled to be a free agent after the season and with that performance plus his 2010 game against the Patriots, Flynn seemed destined for a starting job and could have his pick of any team that wanted him.

Flynn joined the Seahawks and then Russell Wilson came along. The rest is history.

The Packers, meanwhile, went through 2012 with Harrell as Rodgers’ backup after he was promoted off the practice squad in Flynn’s absence.  Harrell left much to be desired in the 2012 preseason and was likely headed towards being cut had he not performed well in the preseason finale.  So Harrell it was in 2012.

During last season’s regular season game against the New Orleans Saints, Rodgers got poked in the eye and Harrell came in for one play. He tripped and fumbled the ball one yard from a touchdown.

Not exactly the kind of performance that inspires confidence.

Coming into 2013, Harrell was expected to face competition from 2012 practice squad quarterback B.J.  Coleman.  When neither showed much in the preseason, the Packers brought in former Titans star Vince Young to compete.

Now all three are no longer Packers.

GM Ted Thompson has been playing backup quarterback roulette and it needs to stop.  With a revamped offensive line, Green Bay is hoping to significantly reduce the sacks Rodgers suffers in 2013 from the career high 51 he suffered last season.  More questions arose when Bryan Bulaga went down for the season with a knee injury.

The Packers are likely doomed without Rodgers anyway, but a competent backup would at least give the team a fighting chance. It seems Thompson recognizes this, but there are obviously strong doubts on whether or not Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien will be with the team for the duration of the season.

What Rodgers really needs is his own version of Doug Pederson, who backed up Brett Favre for years in Green Bay.  Keeping a backup long term is tricky in today’s NFL, and look no further than Flynn for proof. He played one good game (maybe two) and teams are salivating over him.  The fact that he sat behind Rodgers didn’t hurt either.

Now look at where Flynn is. He’s been beaten out two years in a row for a starting job. It’s not Flynn’s fault, it’s the teams who took a VERY limited sample of what he could do and then practically blindly gave him a shot.  Flynn has been paid a lot of money the past two years to sit on the bench, but he’d obviously rather be playing.

As for the Packers, they’re playing with dynamite right now.  Entering the season with no reliable backup is inexcusable.  Thompson took full blame for the Young release, saying he should have gotten the quarterback here much sooner.  It was also clear early in the preseason that Coleman was in over his head and that Harrell had not progressed the way the team had hoped.

In hindsight, the Packers probably should have held their nose and stayed with Harrell for the season and draft a mid-round (4th or 5th) quarterback next year to take the reins from there.   At that point in the draft, you’d still have solid quarterback that might need some fine tuning but is not a total project like Harrell and Coleman.  Flynn was a seventh round pick, but he at least was fundamentally sound. Those are rare that late in the draft.

Instead, Green Bay shuffled its quarterbacks on  the eve of the regular season.  Thompson is normally a cool customer, but this is one of the few moves he has made that just reeks of desperation.  Wallace is an upgrade, that much is true but he’s also 33. Plus, why now?  Why on the first full week of the regular season?

If not Wallace, others were out there earlier in the preseason.  Matt Leinart and Trent Edwards, for example.  This isn’t to say the Packers should have chosen those two over Wallace, it’s just saying there were backups there and the Packers chose to ride it out until it was almost too late.

With any luck, this whole debate will be a moot point and Rodgers will be healthy for all 16 games this season.  Then perhaps all of Packer Nation can exhale.

Until then, a Plan B is much better than a Plan E, F and G.


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and


23 thoughts on “The Packers’ Backup Quarterback Derby Must Stop

  1. How many teams would be successful if their qb1 was out for the season? Ill say none unless you already don’t have a good one in the first place. Are you suggesting spending a high draft pick on a backup? Few teams wanted Flynn last year (philbin in miami didn’t even want him) and he can’t even win the starting job in Oakland.

    Young doesn’t have the mental capability to grasp the playbook and harrell and coleman was brutal. Ill take wallace over any of those three if he had to step in week 1.

    1. Wallace was not the first or second choice, Young was ahead of him and so was Harrell. It is only when neither they nor B.J.Coleman worked out that Seneca was taken.

      The Packers went through the process of evaluation. when none of the plan A or B options worked out, they went with plan C. Perfectly reasonable in my opinion. You could say Young was signed too late (which Thompson admitted), but things don’t always work out in the optimal way.

  2. It sure is easy to complain at this point.
    You agreed that neither Coleman nor Harrell showed much in the preseason; then Young was given a shot. I admire TT for recognizing they needed a better backup and at this point Wallace fits the need. Matt Leinart and Trent Edwards may be younger … so what? Wallace has experience and can perform if needed now.
    if Rodgers needs to be replaced. Until another younger QB can be developed, what other solutions do you have? I thought so … Good job TT!

  3. I don’t think TT is telling us the whole story on Vince Young. To swap veteran backup QBs this late, I have to believe that TT and MM saw something professionally and/or personally about Vince Young that made them very uncomfortable and whatever that concern was they aren’t talking about it publicly.

    1. I agree. Mr Young did something to trigger his early release. Wallace is not better than Young. Both have the same experience and have been out for a year or so. Young has better running ability.

    2. What he did was to be way off target on simple throws and fumbling the ball. Those are fundamentals that cannot be corrected at this level. Harrell had the same problem and so did Coleman. Another major problem with those guys are inability to feel any rush. Maybe they just need a guy who can protect the football and has some control over what he’s doing.

      1. I agree, but as a veteran you would have hoped Young showed more capability (and willingness) to learn the offensive system instead of just a few plays. I think that had to factor in, too.

  4. If A-Rod go down and a backup has to play this season, the Packers will be up for a top 5 pick in next years draft. TT will be shown the door in the near future.

  5. Not many teams are going to have a backup who is going to carry the team for the rest of the season if their starter goes out. Most teams don’t have STARTERS that can carry them through the season successfully. The Packers need a guy who can go 2-2 against a 4 week schedule, until Rodgers comes back, and so not torpedo the season. I think Flynn could have done that. I don’t think Harrell could have, I don’t think Coleman could have, I had some reservations about Young, and who knows about Wallace. The long and the short of it, as a TT supporter, he hasn’t brought in a guy the last two years who could go 2-2. That’s his job and it’s not being done well. Also, the mystique surrounding MM’s “QB school” has taken a ding as well. Here’s to hoping for a healthy season for Rodgers.

    1. Well, it probably doesn’t help that QB school is now extremely truncated due to the new CBA, either.

      Less time to work with the young talent, so really, any advantage MM may have had is now null and void.

  6. Right on toolkien…back up QB needs to keep a team in the hunt by winning at least 50% until the starter gets back, I didnt see Colman, Harrell or young doing that…Colman and Harrell would probably go 2-14, and young maybe a little better, if they were full time starters. Now we got a wash up with no time in the system. …wah

  7. Even QB’s taken in the first round are a 50% crapshot for having success in the NFL. Easy here people! Green Bay addresses needs rather nicely and all things cannot be taken care of all of the time at the same time.

  8. Tee…eee…bow…Tee…bow. Upper Midwestern values. Great “team guy.” Hard worker. Big. Strong. Durable. Smart. Humble. Proven winner. Except for fumbling, protects the ball. Might flourish in McCarthy’s system. And AVAILABLE!

    1. One problem: He’s not a good NFL caliber QB.

      If the Packers wanted a full back or a TE, I’d be all for signing Tebow. But they don’t. They want a QB, so I’m not for it.

      However, I *do* remember MM stating a year or two ago that he’d love to work with Tebow- scarey thought.

  9. Turophile is correct. While theses events reek of desperation, we all know TT does not do desperation. No doubt there were contingency plans in place in case Harrell, Young, or even Coleman did not work out. It’s just difficult for most to imagine that one of those plans was: “If Harrell, Young, and Coleman all fail we’re putting in a call to Seneca Wallace”. The inner workings of TT’s mind.

    1. I don’t believe for a second that there was a defined plan for any of this, with exception to the “plan” that the Packers scouting and pro personnel dept. are continuously evaluating all available and soon-to-be available talent.

      I think you might be fooling yourself if you believe TT was thinking before training camp about who he was going to bring in if both of his back up QB’s failed royally, and then the third QB they brought in late also sucked..

      I think it’s more “rolling with the punches” than “Bobby Fischer”.

  10. Take a chill pill people. This is crazy but crazy like a fox. We are GB not the jets. This is for a backup QB, not a starter.

    TT & MM deserve respect not name calling or second guessing. Let the games unfold and determine what if anything at that point.

    Go PACK Go

    1. “Almost too late” is not the same as actually too late, and the selection of available backups was actually bigger over this past weekend than at any other time during the year.

      And as for needing time to ‘learn the system,’ Wallace already did that in Seattle, unlike Leinart, Edwards, or others who would have needed to start from scratch.

      Do you ever buy anything on sale? Is it better to pay full price, or 10% off, or wait for the 50% off markdown?

      1. I don’t see the correlation between Wallace having “learned the system” in Seattle and how it translates to a better understanding of the Packer’s offense.

        TT was a personnel guy in Seattle, VP of football operations, when Seneca was drafted, and Mike McCarthy’s offense bares little to no resemblance to Mike Holmgren’s offense.

        I’m not bashing the Wallace pick-up, but he’s really not in any advantaged situation when it comes to learning the system. He’s starting from scratch in MM’s offense just like any other QB.

  11. This is just a ploy by TT to keep peoples minds off the real problem… The Offensive Line…(rag tag piece meal 0-line to protect the best QB in the league) Yeah that makes sense. TT says,”We don’t need no stinkin offensive line”…

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