Thompson and McCarthy’s backup-QB experiment has failed
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
GREEN BAY~It’s time to admit the obvious. The Packers backup-quarterback experiment has failed, and it’s probably going to cost the Packers a playoff appearance.
Flying high at 5-2 and expecting to beat the Bears and move to 6-2, Ted Thompson’s worst nightmare became reality.
Now, just 13 days and three losses later, Thompson’s Packers have free-fallen to 5-5 and only ahead of one team in the NFC North, the 2-8 Minnesota Vikings.
How did it all happen?
Rodgers. Collar bone.
And Graham Harrell.
Thompson, and quarterback-guru Mike McCarthy, have tried to mold all of the above guys into NFL quarterbacks capable of winning. They spent years on Harrell, and for all the weeks of lip-service where they kept telling us that they” love the progress Harrell has made”, and that they “have confidence in him”, when push came to shove, they gave up on him.
Then they also gave up on Coleman, after more than a full year working with him, trying to turn him into something.
They finally went against Thompson’s grain and gave a shot to a player who had actually played for another NFL team, which Thompson intentionally tries to avoid, as the trend speaks for itself. Vince Young looked decent in the pre-season, until that final pre-season game at Kansas City, and he was shockingly released.
Interesting to note now that those same Kansas City Chiefs were the longest undefeated team of this season, and their defense has been record-setting. They didn’t allow more than 17 points in any game until this week against the record-setting Peyton Manning-led Broncos. They still held Denver to it’s season-low in offensive points, and held Manning to one touchdown pass, in a year he had thrown more than any QB thru 9 games had ever thrown.
But we’re often told to never question anything that Thompson and McCarthy do, because they always know best. Especially about quarterbacks. And you are just a fan and couldn’t possibly have an opinion different from them that would be right.
Well what’s happened when that was finally put to a test, and Rodgers finally went down?
That answer is obvious to everyone now. This team has lost three games since Rodgers broke his collar bone, and two of them were at home against teams the Packers were/would have been a 10+point favorite against with Rodgers. Barring rare upsets, those would have been wins.
Most likely, so would the game at the Giants have been. That would have put the Packers at 8-2, or 7-3 had they dropped one of those three games as a favorite.
How did we get there?
The quarterback-experiment failed, plain and simple.
Sure, the Packers are missing two extremely important targets in Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley. No other NFL team is missing a more important pair of targets than those two are.
But in Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin, the Packers still have a trio of receivers better than most. And Eddie Lacy had been running better than any NFL back over the past 4-5 games. Any back, Peterson, Gore, Forte, and McCoy included.
The defense has been terrible though, although some say this is partly due to the loss of Rodgers.
It’s true that the offense and their time of possession, turnovers, has a direct effect on the defense. But the defense has been atrocious, especially the back end which still misses Nick Collins and Charles Woodson. Again, Thompson and McCarthy went young & faith on Burnett, Jennings, and McMillian, instead of veterans like Woodson, or a Laron Landry type.
What should Thompson and McCarthy have done with the quarterback situation?
Well that depends.
At first, their goal always has seemed like trying to turn a rock into a diamond. They wanted to take a failure in Harrell, and “mold” him into a competent NFL quarterback. Maybe to show how great they are at turning a dud into a stud, finding a diamond in the rough.
I’ve still never been convinced why, with a young starter in Rodgers, you would want to do this. They don’t need to groom his replacement yet.
They should have been focusing on having a backup who is A) competent, B) smart, C) ready now.
That would mean a veteran who has shown that he can come in and keep the offense moving, not make young mistakes that cost ball games. Every single game in the NFL is huge as far as the W’s and L’s go.
Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien were not ready. Wallace had been out of football for a long time. And there were reasons for that. He never had a strong arm to begin with. Tolzien has a good arm, and has some potential perhaps, but he’s not ready. He still makes those learning mistakes, which cost ball games. This team, at 5-2 and built to go deep in the playoffs, should have not been relying on a QB who needs time to learn.
There were plenty of other options out there after last season, who with an off-season, could have learned this offense and been ready by that second drive versus Chicago.
Jason Campbell was the pick immediately after Aaron Rodgers in that 2005 NFL Draft. His career has not gone as planned, and he’s bounced around teams from Washington to Oakland and Chicago last year. This off-season, the Browns took him in. He’s been pressed into action with the Browns because of injuries and poor play, to Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer.
His first two starts, against those same tough Kansas City Chiefs, and the Baltimore Ravens, he threw for five touchdowns and zero interceptions.
That’s with the Browns cast of receivers and running backs. Numbers like that in his first two games for the Packers would have put this Packers team at seven wins at least, and in first place instead of second from last.
Matt Cassell, Matt Hasselbeck, and Matt Moore also would have been much more effective backups.
They’ve done it before, which is a factor that has been overlooked when relying on Harrell, Coleman, and Tolzien.
Potential means nothing now if they aren’t ready yet.
The three Matt’s have done it.
Cassell is 31, Moore is 29, while Hasselbeck is the old guy at 38. Of course, Hasselbeck was originally a Packer and would have loved to come back here to backup Rodgers instead of gone to Nashville.
As recently as the 2011 season (remember the season the Packers started 13-0, before getting beaten up at Kansas City), Hasselbeck provided some relief for the Titans, against the Baltimore Ravens. Remember, that was an offense without weapons like Nelson and Jones.
In the past two seasons with the Dolphins, Matt Moore has thrown 17 TD’s to 9 Int’s. Those aren’t Rodgers numbers, but they’re better than some good quarterbacks like Eli and Big Ben, and far better than Tolzien. I’ve always liked Moore, and he has a strong arm.
Cassel has had some serious struggles the past few seasons on a terrible Chiefs offense. But as recently as the Packer Super Bowl season of 2010, Cassel put up 27 TD’s to only 7 Int’s. That’s extremely efficient, and done so on a team without a system like the Packers have. This year, he landed in the cess-pool of Minnesota, where they don’t have a clue what they are doing with quarterbacks. You like that Greg Jennings?
Cassel was forced to start a game versus Pittsburgh, in London, and he responded with a win in which he had a passer rating of 123.4 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Again, it was just one game, but just one game like that would have the Packers at six wins minimum, as opposed to 5-5 current.
Lastly, the Packers could have been the team that gambled on Tim Tebow.
He’s not for everybody, and because A) he’s such a great, strong, religious person, B) he’s an awful thrower of the person and C) the media covers, rips him like no single person since Elvis probably, he’s a lightning-rod and a dangerous player to add to a team.
Belichick tried it this off-season in New England, but he didn’t make their final roster. They, however, have a backup quarterback in Ryan Mallett whom they really like, and who was considered a first-round talent when in college at Arkansas.
Tebow is a terrible passer of the football. But with talent around him, and a strong running game, he can and has still done this:
Tim Tebow’s arm beats defending champion Steelers in overtime
Look, his throwing motion is ugly and his arm strength is average at best. But he’s won games with clutch throws and runs, in college and in Denver. Unlike some like Young, he’s smart and studies the playbook hard. We don’t know what would have happened versus Chicago or Philly or the Giants, but I would bet money that had Tebow had the full off-season to work with McCarthy and this offense, that the team would have gotten at least one, maybe two, even all three wins.
This from WalterFootball about Tebow.
Dumb, homoclitic ESPN groupthink believes that Tim Tebow should either move to the tight end position or be relegated to the CFL. In reality, Tebow is a solid starting quarterback. He makes things happen on the football field (but not in practice, duh, Jets), inspires teammates and just wins football games. After all, leading a mediocre Denver team to the playoffs (after Kyle Orton’s horrific start with the same squad) and compiling 400 yards of offense against Dick LeBeau’s defense in a postseason victory is no fluke. Tebow still has room for growth. A coach with a great imagination could run a highly successful offense with the former Gator. The problem with Tebow has very little to do with what he does on the field. The media creates such a distraction with him that it can hurt the team. Tebow needs to go to a small-market organization to avoid that. The Jaguars make all the sense in the world, as Tebow would be a colossal upgrade over either Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne.