The Disaster That Awaits – Packers Backup Quarterback
When the Green Bay Packers drafted Brian Brohm in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, I was excited. Not only did the Packers seem to have a solid future backup and potential trade bait, but they got a guy who was once considered a sure-fire top 10 pick in the second round. I envisioned Brohm as someone who could put pressure on Aaron Rodgers for the Packers’ starting quarterback job, once he got his NFL bearings.
Visions of Joe Montana and Steve Young slugging it out every year during the San Francisco 49ers’ training camp were dancing in my head.
And then Brohm not only fell short of expectations during the preseason, he fell off the map, eventually being demoted to third on the Packers’ depth chart behind seventh-round pick, Matt Flynn. Brohm was abysmal during the preseason, going 19-for-42 (45.2 percent) for 155 yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception, a 45.2 rating. Worse, he looked like he didn’t even belong on an NFL field.
The thought of Brohm, or later Flynn (27-of-42 (64.3 percent) for 209 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, for a 100.2 rating), leading the Packers anywhere if Rodgers succumbed to injury was so nauseating, that I repeatedly called for the team to pick up a veteran signal caller, like Chris Simms.
The Packers made no such move, and luckily, Rodgers stayed healthy for a full season.
When training camp rolls around this August, the Packers will again go with the combo of Flynn and Brohm as the backups to Rodgers. And… unfortunately, it doesn’t look much better than last season.
Neither quarterback has demonstrated much improvement and their list of doubters is long.
Green Bay Press Gazette Packers beat writer Mike Vandermause:
If Rodgers goes down early in the season, I think the Packers would be hard-pressed to have a winning season with either Flynn or Brohm at QB. It takes time to become an effective QB in this league. I know there are exceptions, but I wouldn’t feel confident with either of them starting at this point. I was surprised the Packers took such a big risk last season having two rookies as reserves. I suppose there weren’t, and still aren’t, many alternatives in terms of effective veteran backups.
Railbird Central’s Brian Carriveau calls Brohm the Packers’ player most likely to fail:
After a disappointing ’08 campaign that saw him drafted in the second round and then demoted to third on the depth chart, Brohm has yet to give reason he’ll turn things around. Things could change quickly in training camp. And I’m not buying the excuse that he’s throwing to third string wide receivers. They know how to catch.
… I can’t say I was impressed with either him (Flynn) or Brohm during minicamp. Every time I looked up, Flynn was scrambling instead of throwing the ball in team drills. That’s generally not a good thing — in practice.
I didn’t keep an exact count, but Flynn took off routinely in the drills I watched over two days. I wouldn’t pretend that every busted play was his fault. But all you had to do is watch how much smoother the passing game worked with Rodgers to realize that, at times, Flynn was having trouble running the offense.
And Seifert expects Flynn to beat out Brohm. Not good!
Like Seifert, most prognosticators expect the Packers’ quarterback depth chart to remain the same.
From Fox Sports:
The pecking order on the depth chart remains the same, unless Brohm does a complete 180 in the preseason with his accuracy and numbers to wrest the No. 2 job that he frittered away as a second-round draft pick last year. Flynn, a seventh-round choice in 2008, makes up for an adequate arm with headiness and leadership.
What’s obvious is the Packers need to see a lot of improvement from Flynn and Brohm.
From ESPN’s NFC North training camp preview:
Camp will be a downer if one of the Packers’ two backup quarterbacks doesn’t demonstrate substantial improvement. Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm got rookie exceptions last year, but neither ran the offense smoothly during minicamp last month.
Brohm’s case is especially interesting. He flopped last summer after the Packers made him a second-round pick, by default leaving the No. 2 job to Flynn. If Brohm wants to restore his track as the Packers’ top backup and a future starter (for another team), he’ll have to get it turned around in camp this summer. Otherwise, he’ll be buried on the depth chart for another year.
For his part, Brohm – the guy everyone expects to be the Packers No. 2 guy – is saying and doing the right things.
Brohm told the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Wilde last year’s bad start ultimately contributed to him losing his confidence.
“Myself, I went out there and did something negative right away — threw an interception — and it kind of steamrolled,” Brohm said. “I started to take a little something off my throws and playing a little bit (tentative) and thinking a little bit more before I made each throw. And if you do that up here, it’s not going to work. And that’s what happened.”
A quarterback without confidence isn’t going to play well on any level, but the Packers and Brohm have worked hard during the offseason to help rebuild that confidence – it’s something that made Brohm the Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2003, and the MVP of the 2007 Orange Bowl during a standout career at Louisville.
“You always want to learn from past mistakes, and I think I realize what happened. And I know that this year, it’s not going to happen,” Brohm said. “You have to play with the confidence. Every time you’re out there as the quarterback, on the field, you need to portray that you’re ‘the guy,’ display that confidence. I think every quarterback needs the same mind-set.”
Although I think it would be tough for Ted Thompson to part ways with a second-round pick in only his second season, Brohm told the Louisville Courier Journal he expects to enter training camp in more than a battle for the No. 2 quarterback spot.
“Some guys take a lot of this month (July) off,” Brohm said. “I need to be pretty much peaking at the beginning of training camp. I need to be at my very best in August for these preseason games. I’m fighting for a job.”
That’s probably the mentality both Brohm and Flynn need to have. While the coaching staff has said the pair have improved somewhat, no one has offered a ringing endorsement of either.
Joe Philbin thought about it for a moment, perhaps remembering the adage that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
When he finally was ready to answer the question about the progress of the Green Bay Packers’ pair of second-year backup quarterbacks, the offensive coordinator offered this: “Well, certainly they’re better than they’ve been,” Philbin said.
That comes from the Green Bay Press Gazette’s Rob Demovsky, who clearly hasn’t seen much on the field from Flynn or Brohm, either.
If both quarterbacks performance remains the same during the preseason, as most expect, the Packers have to seriously look at acquiring a veteran backup and releasing one of their second-year signal callers.
Unfortunately, the market for quarterbacks is pretty slim right now.
Dare I suggest it? Michael Vick?
Although, he’s probably a long way from being reinstated to the NFL, Vick, at this point, is clearly a better option than Flynn or Brohm. Look at who else is on the market right now (and these are the best of the crop) – Brooks Bollinger, Trent Green, Brian Griese, Cleo Lemon, and J.P. Losman.
Out of that bunch, there isn’t one guy who can realistically win a game for you. While there might be a couple who can manage a game, would they really be an improvement over Brohm and Flynn – two other guys who would be asked to do nothing more than manage a game?
So are the Packers screwed if their current backups don’t show improvement? Not exactly.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers always have too many quarterbacks, and this year they enter training camp with four – Byron Leftwich, Luke McCown, Josh Johnson and rookie Josh Freeman.
Freeman is the team’s quarterback of the future, so there is a real possibility that either McCown or Leftwich, both of which make a good deal of money, might become available after the preseason. Both quarterbacks have shown they can win games, and either would be an upgrade over the current situation.
The Oakland Raiders have six quarterbacks on their roster, several with starting experience – Andrew Walter, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, Danny Southwick, JaMarcus Russell and Jeff Garcia.
Russell and Garcia will enter camp in a competition for the starting job. However, Garcia, who is approaching retirement, won’t be happy being a backup in Oakland. If Garcia doesn’t win the job, he may ask for his release, which would put a playoff-tested QB on the market. Alternatively, the Raiders could decide to give up on Russell, a former No. 1 overall pick, if Garcia outperforms him handily. Either player would be an intriguing option, although Garcia isn’t one for the long-term. I’d also have to think both Frye and Gradkowski would be of some interest if and when they became available. Whichever way it plays out, the Raiders can’t afford to keep more than three quarterbacks, so at least two guys with starting experience will be available.
And lastly, there are our friends (not really) over in Minnesota. Once Brett Favre finally decides to sign with the Vikings, the team will have five quarterbacks. While rookie Sean Glennon will probably be released once Favre walks in the door, the Vikings will have to choose between releasing or trading one of the following at the end of the preseason – Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels and John David Booty.
Rosenfels’ release is unlikely, since the Vikings traded a fourth-round draft choice and signed him to a contract extension this offseason, which brings us to Jackson and Booty. As much as I’ve ragged on him in the past, Jackson does have some athletic ability, and is still learning to play quarterback at the NFL level. Booty, on the other hand, hasn’t seen a lot of playing time, but is a USC guy who played under Pete Carroll, which is enough for me and most of the NFL. In either case, an upgrade over the current situation with some future potential.
Like the Packers coaches, I’m willing to see how Brohm and Flynn play during the preseason before calling for their heads, and I hope they play well. However, if they don’t, Ted Thompson better be taking a hard look around the NFL for a backup.
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Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.