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The Jury Is Still Out on Brett Hundley

Analyzing Brett Hundley is probably of little long-term use to Green Bay Packers fans. Playoff hopes are virtually gone for this year, and next year Hundley could be with some other team. Still, he’s an intriguing riddle, and he’s still the Packers’ starter for the next several games.

The good Hundley has surfaced in the 2015 preseason (129.6 passer rating), the Bears game, and now in the Steelers game. The bad Hundley showed up in the losses to the Vikings, Saints, and Ravens. In those three losses, we saw passer ratings of 39.6, 39.9, and 43.6, and he threw for two touchdowns and five interceptions. Versus the Lions, Brett was average: passer rating of 86, no TDs or INTs, 245 passing yards.

Against the Bears and the Steelers, Brett had ratings of 110.7 and 134.3. He had four TDs and no INTs. Though he only threw for 212 and 245 yards in the two games, coach Mike McCarthy largely kept him under wraps, as he attempted only 25 and 26 passes in the two contests.

When scrutinizing Hundley, you’ve got to pretty much throw win-and-loss stats out the window. You can’t expect to win against precision gunners like Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, and Ben Roethlisberger without a pass rush. Against this threesome, the Packers totaled three sacks, one in each game. All three quarterbacks could be Hall of Famers. On Sunday, Big Ben suffered all of two quarterback hits. He probably didn’t even have to shower after the game.

Accuracy is not an endemic problem for Hundley. He’s proved that during preseasons. I don’t buy that in the preseason he’s playing against inferior guys, because he’s also playing with inferior guys. Those inferior guys have more incentive to play well — trying to make an NFL roster — than do your veteran players during a long regular season, especially those on non-playoff-bound teams.

We’ve come to see that Hundley has plenty of arm strength – he lofts some beautiful deep throws. But while he can throw 60-plus yards, he seldom zips the ball out on a rope on his mid-range passes. His release is also slow.

Against the Bears in the first half, he twice had receivers wide open for mid-range tosses, but each time he nearly threw an interception due to a slow release and throwing a ball with too much loft and too little steam. I think he can improve on the zip, but not on the slow release.

It took about four games for a consensus to emerge that Brett either lacks vision, or timing, or rapid decision making – or maybe all three – when he’s looking to throw.

Normally, I would think this is part of his DNA, irreversible, and rendering him a marginal NFL starter. But I hesitate to reach that conclusion, because Aaron Rodgers exhibited the identical symptoms during the first half of 2015, as he faced the year without top wideout Jordy Nelson. He slowly came out of it, however, and reeled off six wins in a row to slip into the playoffs.

Everyone in football had Rodgers under a microscope back in 2015. I and many others came to the conclusion that the problem lay within the quarterback more than due to external factors. His pass protection was adequate and his receivers were getting open sufficiently – he just became unable to pull the trigger. Maybe Brett can work his way out of it just like Aaron did.

The predominant speculation for Rodgers’ half-season slump was that the loss of Jordy caused him to lack confidence in completing the plays – partly out of self-doubt, partly due to worrying about pass protection, and very much due to a lack of confidence in his receivers.

In 2015 here’s what Aaron had to work with: Davante Adams had a series of nagging injuries, and wound up with fewer than 500 receiving yards on the year; Richard Rodgers at tight end actually outgained him; Ty Montgomery, then a receiver, and also riddled by injuries, started only three games and gained only 136 yards; running back Eddie Lacy only had 188 yards through the air, but James Starks became a go-to guy with 43 catches out of 53 attempts; Randall Cobb had a down year compared to 2014, catching 79 of 129 for 829 yards – he was targeted more than in 2014, but gained 458 fewer yards; James Jones, released by the Giants days before the start of the season, got the Packers into the playoffs with his 50 catches for 890 yards.

Hundley obviously believes in Davante Adams and seldom displays any hesitancy when he looks to him. I think Randall Cobb is playing well this year. He’s been healthy and his 43 catches in 56 targets is a fine completion percentage, but he’s not getting enough looks – and mostly he’s hanging out around the line of scrimmage.

There’s little to talk about concerning tight ends, and I won’t even mention the traitor’s name. Two weeks ago the two tight ends produced eight yards in two catches. On Sunday it was down to one catch for Richard Rodgers. In fact, only five players were targeted all game by Hundley.

The running backs have contributed very little to the passing game this year. That 54-yard screen to Jamaal Williams, however, was a welcome change – and a thing of beauty.

Which brings us to Jordy Nelson. Talk about not getting looks! His production in the five games Hundley has started: 13, 35, 20, 24, and now 11 yards. This has to be the most incredible Packers statistic of the season. How can the coaches not find a way to fix this?

Hundley’s Future

For the remainder of this season, it’s apparent Hundley is still learning, and he’s got some serious flaws to correct. Unlike Rodgers, I think he needs to concentrate on his first progression, not start thinking maybe the second or third option will be more inviting. This would also reduce the sacks, which have dogged Hundley back to his college days.

He also needs to start spreading the ball around to more targets.

On his biggest play of the game, a 4th-and-6 with under three minutes left, Hundley had but one play in his mind: Adams faking inside and going outside. He threw it as Adams was breaking and, though the coverage was excellent, the pass was decisive, timed perfectly, and right on the money. First down and touchdown on the next play.

It was the same thing earlier on that pretty 46-yard stop-and-go route to Adams. No hesitation, no looking for another receiver, total commitment to the play and the player. By the way, this was on a 3rd-and-3, so the unexpected call for the deep ball was what made this play so simple and successful. McCarthy finally showed some trust in his young QB.

Other than that, Hundley needs to put more zip, and less loft, on many of his mid-range passes.

A fifth-round pick in 2015, Hundley has another year left on his four-year rookie contract. His trade value prior to becoming a free agent in 2019 has gone down, but another game or two like he had on Sunday would reverse that direction. In any event, I no longer see a trade happening – and I do anticipate Hundley spending a fourth year as a backup to Rodgers in 2018.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Deepsky November 28, 2017

    Hundley definitely has a slow release. I think McCarthy might be able to improve this as he did with Rodgers. Rodgers had kind of a hitch in his throw and McCarthy fixed that.

    Hundley is less accurate than you give him credit for. He is certainly not very accurate on the run, not like Favre or Rodgers. There are very few throws where he has threaded the needle. This might improve a bit as he see playing time.

    Hundley also needs to step up in the pocket instead of taking off running. The problem is that he was a running QB in college, he ran for about as many yards a season as Vick in college. I think this is going to take a long time break him of this habit, if he can be broken from it at all.

    The thing I don’t think McCarthy and I don’t think even playing time can help is his ability to make quick reads. This is something that can’t be measured when quarterbacks play in college and really is only discovered when the player takes the field in a real, regular season NFL game. How many top quarterbacks have failed because the game is just too fast for them?

    I also don’t think Hundley is what I’ll call a ‘gamer’. Rodgers, Favre and Majkowski had it. It’s the need to make a play regardless of the situation as stuff is falling apart around you. Hundley seems to take off running just to avoid contact, not make plays. Here again, I think this is a case of either the quarterback has it or they don’t.

    1. PF4L November 28, 2017

      Rodgers changed his mechanics, just because McCarthy was the head coach, doesn’t mean McCarthy changed it. It was more likely the QB coach, or even possibly Tom Clements.

      The rest of your post just described Colin Kaepernick.

  2. PF4L November 28, 2017

    Rob, reading your article, i don’t think we watched the same Packer games back in 2015, but ok.

    You noted that maybe Hundley can work his way out of this like Rodgers did in 2015. That’s entertaining.
    Doesn’t Hundley have to become something first, before he can work his way out of it? This guy had a handful of nice passes in a couple games that gained him some passing yards and td’s, A wide open, WIDE open Cobb, A nice pass to Davante, a short 4 yard pass for a 54 yard td by Williams. Also a couple of sweet passes to Adams in previous games, enabling him to get his passing yards into the 200’s in a couple games. But otherwise you see a raw QB, dumping off short safe passes, who doesn’t have the mental capacity to evaluate, process, and react to defenses in the NFL.

    Not to mention he has one of the best wide receivers in the league and barely looks his way, Jordy Nelson’s role in this offense is now to add run block support…..seriously McCarthy? Some say it’s because Nelson has lost a step…lol. Funny thing is, if he lost a step, it was sometime during the Minnesota game. Those of us that think a bit deeper realize that Nelson was on pace to score 15+ td’s this season, as he had 6 td’s in his first 5 games. If that’s losing a step, we could take a few more slow receivers like him. I’ll guarantee you when a healthy Rodgers comes back, Jordy will be doing what he does best, catching passes, moving the chains, and scoring td’s.

    Compared to Rodgers on a NFL football field, Hundley is like a child. As a matter of fact, i’d be very, very surprised if Hundley even reaches the stat line that Kaepernick has reached in his career, and we know what most people think of him as a NFL pocket QB, not much.

    I don’t hate, or dislike Hundley, i just don’t think he’s what he thinks he is. Not even close.

  3. Gort November 28, 2017

    Hundley has been in the system long enough to show more. I give him a “pass” on poor performance coming off the bench, but since then there have been more bad plays than good. He still looks like he is playing in slow motion and everyone else is at full speed. Don’t know if it is skill level or coaching, but most likely some of both. There were 2 full weeks to prepare for the Lions! He appears to not be the “field general” he needs to be. I think the final drive at Pittsburgh shows that. When in the huddle calling the 2nd down screen pass, he should have reminded his rookie RB of the game situation and what to do AFTER he catches the ball – stay in bounds unless the gain is a first down. Maybe he got his bell rung on the previous play. Maybe he said that to Williams. There are plenty of other problems with his performance and not an apparent movement towards consistent and improving performance.

  4. MJ November 28, 2017

    “In any event, I no longer see a trade happening – and I do anticipate Hundley spending a fourth year as a backup to Rodgers in 2018.”
    Agreed. Unless some crazy team throws a 2nd rd pick at us, it doesn’t make sense to let him go, IF he keeps playing as he played @PIT. But if he bounces back to the BAL-game level, we are surely not getting any trade offers and this becomes a moot point.

  5. PF4L November 29, 2017

    It seems to me, if a trade, or at least a decent trade offer doesn’t present itself, that tells you all you need to know.