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?
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.