Back, Back, Back It Up

McCarthyBackups (1)By Jordan Huenink

For the last two decades, the term “backup quarterback” was foreign to the Green Bay Packers community. If you were to mention names like Doug Pederson, Ty Detmer or Craig Nall, fans would either have no idea who you were talking about, or joke about how well they held a clipboard or wore a headset.

From the time a young Brett Favre took the reins from an injured Don Majkowski against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 of the 1992 season, to the start of last season, the Green and Gold only saw three different QBs start a game. In the meantime, we took great pleasure in watching the Bears, Lions and Vikings repeatedly struggle to find consistency at the position.

But Week 9 of the 2013 season happened, and it was not only a roundhouse kick of reality to the midsection, but a glaring indication of how important it is to have a competent signal caller backing up #12. The Packers are obviously going to make sure they don’t overlook this position heading into 2014, but what will happen to the current backups?

Right away, let’s take Seneca Wallace out of the equation. After five quarters of sub-par play (16-24, 139 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) and a season-ending groin injury, it’s safe to say that the Seneca Wallace experiment was a bust. He clearly was the lowest on the backup QB totem pole when all was said and done, and his age (33) isn’t doing him any favors either. While it wouldn’t too cost much to re-sign him to another split veteran minimum salary, it’s very unlikely he’ll stay in Green Bay.

Other than Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien is the only other quarterback under contract heading into 2014. After being signed to the practice squad last September and getting promoted in November following “the injury,” the former Wisconsin Badgers QB  showed flashes of arm strength and accuracy against the Giants in Week 11 (24-34, 339 yards), but also tossed five interceptions in the three games he played. (Editor's note: he also provided one of the best Packers gifs of 2013) Hopefully his decision-making is something that will improve with a full off-season in Coach Mike McCarthy’s quarterback school. His growth will be something to watch in 2014.

Matt Flynn was brought in last season when Wallace and Tolzien failed to adequately fill in for Rodgers, and he did just enough to keep the Packers alive in the playoff hunt. While he had great comeback performances against the Vikings and Cowboys, he also showed brutal stretches of inconsistency. His arm strength has clearly diminished since his last stint with the Packers and his lack of pocket presence resulted in four lost fumbles and far too many sacks.

While Flynn is one of the Top 9 free agent quarterbacks heading in to 2014, his value may be low enough across the league that he can be resigned for the veteran’s minimum. If he wasn’t able to hold roster spots in Oakland and Buffalo, I don’t foresee many teams knocking on his door. Bringing Flynn back would be a smart, safe move for the Packers if they can get him for the right price. He’s clearly someone who is familiar with the playbook, and would be a solid backup if the injury bug strikes again.

McCarthy has also stated that he hopes the Packers are able to draft a quarterback in May’s NFL Draft and head into training camp with four QBs. San Jose State’s David Fales may be towards the top of his list after meeting with the Packers at the combine, and his college experience in the West Coast, no-huddle offense could fit very well in the Packers’ increasingly up-tempo attack.

Whatever happens, the Packers don’t want to find themselves in the same situation they were in at the end of last summer when Vince Young, Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman failed to win the backup job. Hopefully Tolzien and Flynn won’t get their number called in 2014, but just in case, it looks like the Packers will be better prepared this time around