Coming Up Brown - Cleveland: 35 Green Bay 10
Regardless of any positives that might have come out of Thursday's debacle in Green Bay, the collective Packer consciousness is seemingly focused on nothing more than a lackluster performance by second string quarterback Graham Harrell. Harrell certainly didn't do much to avoid criticism. He completed only half his passes (12/24), accumulated only 100 yards through the air (just over four yards per attempt, not adjusted for sack yardage), and tossed two interceptions. He even threw more touchdowns to Browns players (1) than Packer players (0), not including another pick-six that was called back due to a penalty.
Whenever a backup quarterback struggles as badly as Harrell has through the first two games on the preseason, inevitably the calls will come for the team to sign a "veteran backup" who will be able to ride in to the rescue if the starter goes down. The reasoning makes sense in theory, but in practice it's never been shown to be particularly effective.
Dating back to the 1997 season, only two teams have won a Super Bowl when a backup quarterback started the majority of the team's games. Those two teams (the 1999 Rams and the 2001 Patriots) had the benefit of having previously unknown Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks (Kurt Warner and Tom Brady) riding the pine when their starters went down. How many teams can you name that have backups we'll see in Canton some day? (Probably none, considering that even Warner and Brady were relative unknowns at the time, but I digress.)
To be fair, another example of good backup play may be more applicable here. In 2005, Pittsburgh Steelers starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was injured and missed four games, veteran backups Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox were able to step in and keep the seat warm until Roethlisberger was able to return. But both Batch and Maddox were established veterans with starting experience under their belts. Maddox was even the former MVP of the XFL!
At any rate, my point is that pinning a team's hopes on its backup is a fool's errand, no matter how experienced that veteran might be. Let's consider what would happen if Aaron Rodgers went down for an extended period of time. Clearly Graham Harrell can't get the job done, so who is this mysterious veteran the Packers would bring in? Byron Leftwich? Kerry Collins? Vinny Testaverde? Brett Favre? (No seriously...) Which of those guys would be able to replicate anything close to what Rodgers has produced the last two seasons?
To bring this discussion full circle, last night's performance by Graham Harrell should help us remember what a rare commodity we have in Aaron Rodgers. His level of play is inimitable and irreplaceable, and our only concern should be about keeping him healthy at all costs. As Graham Harrell has astutely proved, the season is lost if Rodgers goes down, and history shows the myth of the "veteran backup" won't save us.