After the recent OTAs, you would think the Green Bay Packers had drafted a new starting quarterback. Needless to say, I was surprised by the hype that fifth round pick Brett Hundley generated since donning a red quarterback practice jersey. Yes, yes, a fresh face that was on the (albeit regional) cover of Sports Illustrated last August with all the hype and drama as a newly-minted Heisman candidate.
But after the dust settled the trophy went to someone else, and he didn’t get a single vote. That flash in the pan was brief, and Hundley was drafted four rounds after Mariota and Winston. Of course armchair quarterbacks have expressed opinions regarding him that span both sides of the fence. There are the truly delusional that think he will give Aaron Rodgers a run for his money, and then there some that think general manager Ted Thompson completely wasted a trade to move up to grab him.
Where will he fit into the Packers’ offensive plan? Let’s look at the possibilities.
He was drafted as the Heir Apparent to Rodgers.
First of all, that’s absurd. Aaron Rodgers is only 31 years old, and is several years away from actually retiring.* That said, even if the Packers follow the same model with his successor and draft that college quarterback to eventually take over the franchise three years before Rodgers steps down, we’re still looking at another 3-5 years before that decision will need to be made before the Packers are even looking for a replacement.
After all, Brett Favre was 36 during Aaron’s first season as an understudy. If Rodgers can stay healthy (sacrifices my tuna fish sandwich to the football gods), and the Packers follow the same game plan, that would mean they would be shopping for a new face of the franchise sometime around the 2018 or 2019 draft. That successor is still a fresh face in high school.
That said, while Hundley has the hype and flash, his drop in the draft was deeper than Rodgers. While talented, he is not remotely considered a top-tier quarterback like Rodgers was as he entered the 2005 draft. It’s like comparing apples to hippopotamuses. Different skill set with two different arms.
He was drafted to give Scott Tolzien a run for his money.
Also doubtful. If you read between the lines after head coach Mike McCarthy’s recent press conference, he is very impressed with Tolzien’s progression as a Packers QB2 and still considers Hundley to be greener than green.
As McCarthy said last week, “”I think Scott’s made great strides. Scott is definitely one of the quarterbacks that I’ve seen over the years make big changes to his throwing motion, his fundamentals. You can see his footwork is intact and now he’s been able to tie all of that to his knowledge and understanding of the offense and getting timing with the players that he’s been here with in the past and creating it now with the young players.”
In other words, Tolzien is no longer the deer in the headlights player who was thrust into the starting position after Rodgers went down with a clavicle injury
and Seneca Wallace played all of thirty seconds in the 2013 season. He understands the Packers’ offense, has improved his mechanics and already has chemistry with the players on the team. McCarthy gave a pretty strong endorsement for his QB2. Looking back, I don’t think McCarthy ever heaped that much praise on Matt Flynn when he was Rodgers’ understudy.
And at $1.35 Million this year, the Packers have put their money where there mouth is. Matt Flynn never even hit the $500,000 mark in either of his two stints in Green Bay. When a contract is as large as Tolzien’s, there is no way the Packers would gamble that much in cap money if there was a chance he’d get cut or demoted to the practice squad.
But even without considering Tolzien’s seven-figure contract, the contrast between what McCarthy had to say about Scott and what he has said thus far regarding Hundley are night and day. As McCarthy was heaping praise on his back up QB, he had the following to say about Brett Hundley, “He’s doing well. The last two days, he’s taken a step. Missed some time out in L.A. He’s soaking everything in he can. Working with Aaron and Scott’s been a big help. I think he’s off to a good start.”
In other words, Hundley is a rookie quarterback in every sense of the word. He’s not ready for prime time, but he’s starting down the path to becoming an NFL quarterback. Whereas Tolzien has already had two seasons to absorb the nuances of the offensive system, it is still a fairly new concept for the rookie. There is still a steep learning curve for Hundley.
Hundley is one trade away from being another team’s franchise quarterback.
Yes, people have actually said that. A little premature of a prediction if you ask me. And yes, there is no doubt that the Packers have a history of drafting a quarterback and trading him to other teams. There was Mark Brunell in 1993, Matt Hasselback in 1998 and Aaron Brooks in 1999. But let’s face it, It’s been 16 year since the Packers have made a move like that nature. That’s not exactly an overwhelming precedence.
It’s easy to get dazzled by the Sports Illustrated cover from last fall and to recall the fervor as he headed into his last season at UCLA. But at the end of the day, he is still a rookie quarterback that has yet to truly go through the growing pains of transitioning from a classic college zone quarterback and become an NFL star. He has never played a down of football outside of college and he is still very much a blank slate.
Sure, he could progress to the point where he could be a valuable trade. Or he could turn out like Brian Brohm that never amounted to the hype. But as of right now, he’s a rookie QB that 31 one other teams passed over four times each before Green Bay moved up in the draft and selected him.
Brett Hundley will have time to develop as an NFL quarterback as the Packers’ scout team QB.
This is the most likely scenario. He may not be the second on the depth chart this season, but that’s not to say he won’t excel in a role as QB3. While Rodgers wasn’t a third string back-up, he did run the scout team offense his rookie year. While it isn’t the same game day reps, there is no doubt the scout team QB gets his hands on the ball early and often, mimicking the offensive schemes that the Packers defense would go up against during the season. It’s an invaluable time to improve the mechanics and understand the nuances of what it is like to be an NFL quarterback. Rodgers himself has said several times that the time he spent as the scout team QB truly did help him develop professionally into the player he is today.
And let’s face it, Hundley, while greener than green, is already ahead of former Whitewater quarterback Matt Blanchard. No one trades up in the draft for just an expendable camp arm. Blanchard, while he has experience with practice squads in Chicago and Carolina, has been plagued with injuries that usually place him on the injury reserve list. With that in mind, I don’t see Blanchard with the team beyond somewhere in August.
Brett Hundley is still a work in progress. Time will tell where his career will take him. Will he eventually become the understudy to Aaron Rodgers in another year or two, groomed to be a long haul back up until the heir apparent is drafted? Or is he a develop and trade prospect for future capital in the draft capital? Truth be told, the Magic 8 Ball says, “Ask again later.” But until that time, the scout team is the perfect place for this former college player to develop and hone is craft. Until then, he will likely be third on the depth chart.
*Kelly Hodgson (further know as “the writer”) takes no responsibility for including, but not limited to the following: cursing one Aaron Charles Rodgers (further referred to as “the QB”) of the Green Bay Packers for saying his health will remain good the rest of his career, placing the proverbial whammy on the QB for commenting on his state of health, and/or any resulting coups, revolts or juntas to displace the QB from the depth chart merely because she suggested he will be employed by the Green Bay Packers into his late thirties/early forties. The writer is merely commenting on the typical longevity of an elite quarterback’s health. The writer is very superstitious about these things and places said disclaimer to ward off the evil humors of football.--------------