Packers Must Move Forward at Quarterback
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has confirmed that Brett Hundley is the team’s new starting quarterback and Joe Callahan is his backup. No surprise there. Callahan, with the Packers for two years now, had been on the practice squad since the start of the regular season, but was instantly elevated to the active roster on Monday.
Big Mike refuses to talk about any other QB possibilities. But of course the team is in hot pursuit of a third QB. Whether on the active roster or the practice squad, you should have a third option, which for the Packers had been Callahan. That spot now has to be filled. There are a few teams that rely on only two, leaving them to simply to take the best unemployed QB out there if an injury hits – but that is pretty much conceding the season, which I trust the Packers won’t do.
The question becomes: what are the Packers looking for in the QB search: possible starter, backup, or practice squad guy – No. 1, 2, or 3?
I suspect what McCarthy says is partially true: they are comfortable going forward with Hundley. If they can come up with a quality veteran, or someone else who slipped through the cracks, however, that player would certainly be in the running for the number two spot, and perhaps even be a challenger to Hundley should he bomb out. The top spot would also be open if Hundley gets injured – a contingency that must be planned for. Callahan does as well as he can, but he doesn’t have a pro-level arm.
Politics aside, I would have thought Kaepernick’s stats were in a steep downward spiral. Not so. In starting all year in 2014, he went 8-8, with an 86.4 passer rating. In 2015, he went 2-6 on his starts, with a 78.5 rating. In 2016, he was back to a 90.7 rating, but went 1-10 in his starts. Still that rating, 17th best, exceeded that of Tyrod Taylor, Phillip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, Eli Manning, Trevor Siemian, Joe Flacco, Carson Wentz, Cam Newton, and so on – and he was on a truly rotten team.
His career passer rating in six years with the 49ers, is a commendable 88.9. That also bests most of the above QBs for their careers to date, as well as a guy named Favre (86.0).
Profiling Brett Hundley
Like most fans — and his teammates — I like Hundley. This is all based, of course, on two preseasons of work. He missed out on most of the 2016 preseason games due to an ankle injury.
While at UCLA from 2012 to 2014, Hundley also excelled. He is the school’s career leader in total offense and in touchdown throws.
In Hundley, you get a smart player, a strong arm, and decent accuracy. He’s shown a great work ethic as Rodgers’ backup. He has NFL size, at 6’3” and 226 pounds. You also get three years of learning Green Bay’s system and playbook, and that amount of time getting familiar with the team’s receivers – which might be his most valuable attribute of all.
Here’s where Hundley drew the league’s attention: in the 2015 preseason, he was the leagues’ highest-rated rookie passer, with a glowing 129.6 rating. He also led all QBs with 630 passing yards. Those trailing him included Marcus Mariota (102.9, the only other of 14 QBs in triple digits), Trevor Siemian (85.7), and Jameis Winston (52.7). Rookies simply aren’t supposed to achieve a rating like Hundley’s.
Normally, we don’t pay much attention to quarterbacks’ NFL Combine numbers, other than arm strength measures and the Wonderlic (intelligence) grade. My eyes tell me that Hundley is neither very fast nor quick on his feet. But guess what his combine numbers say: 4.63 dash time, 86th percentile (among QBs); 76th and 98th percentiles on the two agility tests; 90th percentile or higher on the two jump tests. My eyes were wrong, he’s plenty big, quick, shifty, and just a fine overall athlete.
What about that Wonderlic score? It’s 28 – solid, identical to that of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Blake Bortles, Mark Sanchez, and the like. In any event, there’s little relationship between these scores and success on the field.
Here’s a teaser for you: who has Hundley said is his favorite target? Big hint: he is Rodgers’ least favorite. The answer is Jeff Janis. In preseason games, about the only time either one gets to play on offense, the two have hooked up on a number of deep balls. It won’t matter to McCarthy, of course, but let the record show Hundley has great confidence in throwing to Green Bay’s forgotten receiver. The same can also be said for Joe Callahan.