The Green Bay Packers and the Question of Brett Hundley

Why would the Aaron Rodgers’ led Green Bay Packers draft Brett Hundley, a QB, in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL draft?  That’s the question that many of us were asking ourselves back in May.  And it wasn’t just because the team has arguably the greatest player in the NFL, MVP Aaron Rodgers, manning the helm.  It was everything else.  Sure, the team needs someone who can back-up Rodgers and compete at an NFL level in case the unthinkable occurs, but isn’t that Scott Tolzien?  Isn’t that the young player from Wisconsin who showed resiliency and growth when forced into action early in his development due to Rodgers’ broken clavicle?  Wasn’t that the same Tolzien who, by next preseason, seemed to have surpassed Matt Flynn in production, even though just 9 months earlier Flynn had been brought in as a sort of semi-savior for the team?

And maybe Tolzien isn’t the future of the team, but with Rodgers only 30 and wanting to play as long as his body allows, the team won’t be looking for a real replacement for at least another few seasons.  So why draft Hundley now?

Moreover, how would taking a development project as a middle round draft pick help the roster overall?  Most of us feared that this would simply lead to the loss of a spot for a young player at a real position of need who could contribute right away.  In some ways, that worry is warranted.  Come September, a player like Jared Abbrederis, Demtri Goodson, or Bruce Gaston may be on the street whereas they would have squeaked onto the final roster had the Packers not taken a relatively high-profile QB who could not be stashed on the practice squad for another season.

Hundley’s story with the Packers had its first paragraph written on Thursday night against the Patriots.  While many were surprised to see him jog onto the field before the more experienced Matt Blanchard, Hundley was able to, if not silence, at least quiet some of the critics.  Six pass attempts is a small sample size, and while Hundley is far from justifying his 5th round pedigree, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have reasonably expected him to play as well as he did.

Going 4 for 6 for 60 yards with a TD and no INTs was a good start.  Hundley lead the way among all 4 competing QBs on Thursday with a QB rating of 138.9.  Statistics like that tend to be skewed by such a limited output, but Hundley’s promise shows on the film.

Hundley had a nice 15 yard zip over the middle to Ty Montgomery in his first drive, a 31 yard strike to a wide open Larry Pinkard, and a 10 yard TD pass to John Crockett.  But what is even more interesting than these plays are the ones that did not go as well.  Hundley showed a great deal of comfort, poise, and athleticism for a rookie playing in his first ever preseason game.  Add in some shoddy line play, especially from tackle Don Barclay, and Hundley’s surprisingly natural and composed play really jumps out.

Below is one such illustration.  On this play, Hundley has pressure from New England’s Rufus Johnson in his face immediately after completing his drop, but he hangs in the pocket seeing that Pinkard has his man beat deep.  He misses the throw, but not by a mile.  Is this what you want to see out of your starting QB?  Not exactly, but it’s a very encouraging throw for one’s first NFL action.

In the play below, Hundley once again finds himself under pressure from both sides.  Some nimble footwork (and a bit of a Barclay hold) allow Hundley to escape and make a terrific throw to Ty Montgomery on the sidelines.  As you can see, Montgomery does not make the catch, but that’s on him.  Had Hundley been throwing to sideline warrior Jordy Nelson or any of the other first team receivers, this would have been the sort of nifty play that you see multiple times a game from Rodgers.

Finally, on the play below, Hundley makes another great throw to Montgomery on the sidelines.  This time Montgomery is double covered, but Hundley shows great ball placement, putting the throw just over the heads of the defensive backs and into Montgomery’s range.  Again, Montgomery did not come down with the catch, but it was through no fault of Hundley’s.

  

It will be interesting to see if Hundley’s performance will merit his receiving a few more reps against the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday.  Certainly a more extended look, something more than just 6 or 7 drop backs, will allow for the coaching staff to get a better grasp of Hundley and how he will play within the rhythm of the professional game.  But with the first analysis in, Hundley has shown real promise.  It remains to be seen how he fits into the scheme of this offense now and in the future, but if he can continue to stack performances like this one, he may be the strong safety net that Packers fans have been hoping for.  If Rodgers really wants to play another 9 or 10 years, the Packers are going to need a solid arm to lean on in those inevitable times of injury to an aging body.  With just 6 pass attempts in the books, there is, surprisingly, some hint of real hope that Hundley could be that player.  Perhaps learning behind Rodgers just might help.  And perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad for a 5th round pick.

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Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.

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8 thoughts on “The Green Bay Packers and the Question of Brett Hundley

  1. Get some money or a pick out of him after he’s got some experience. He’s NOT gonna sit on the bench till Rodgers retires, he’ll be GONE after his rookie contract’s up. He’s not gonna re-sign as a backup with opportunities to start available and Thompson’s not gonna give him starter’s pay to sit 4 more years. I’m a little disappointed a very good player will NOT have a roster spot to keep some one who will never be a long term player for GB. Can’t stash him on PS, so trade him before the final roster, if they need a third QB Matt Blanchard can be stashed on PS till they need him if they don’t keep 3 on active roster.

    1. Trading him now means you will get nowhere near his true value.Also, Tolzein is on a one year contract and has shown enough to earn a shot elsewhere. So keep Hundley, he becomes #2 nest season and then in another year or two, you trade him and get much better value (assuming the Packers have another suitable backup at that time).

      1. Jersey Al, I don’t think Thompson’s gonna let Tolzien leave to keep a QB like Hundley–he’s gotta prove he can succeed in this system and prove that value and most covering camp say Blanchard’s outplaying him. I didn’t see much Thurs nite to prove he can be THAT backup and don’t see this as any different than the past years when they traded away Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselback and Mark Brunell. Hate to see a backup outplaying him get the call from the Turk to keep a guy they know will never be the starter here short of an injury to both Rodgers and Tolzien.

        1. I liked what Hundley did on Thursday, especially with his poise and he has a ton of talent. He has also been getting better and better with each practice. Throw in McCarthy’s track record with quarterbacks with actual talent (not BJ Coleman and Graham Harrell), and you have the potential for one of the top backups in the league and a future legitimate starter. There is a reason why he was a first round prospect before the 2014-15 season at UCLA.

        2. I wasn’t talking about this year but rather next year. Trading a few years down the road down the road is what happened with those other QBs you mention.

    2. While Hundley certain shows legitimate starter potential, my main consideration in this article was the possibility that he could back-up Rodgers for a considerable amount of time. He’s under contract for 4 years. It’s possible that he shows himself to be a very reliable back-up but never garners a lot of starting talk from another team. If that’s the case, the Packers could sign him again even if he costs slightly more than your average back-up. If Flynn had never thrown for 6 TDs against the Lions, would he have been as difficult for the Packers to keep?

      Given Hundley’s potential and ceiling, however, it’s not hard to imagine him playing well enough to get attention from other teams. If that’s the case, you keep him this year, let him become #2 next year, and then you could even give him another year to back-up Rodgers and increase his value. Then you trade him before his contract/4th year, as Al said. Trading him now would be a waste not only of his future trade value but also of what he can offer the team in the meantime.

  2. Hundley has a reputation for being a fast learner. As none of us can predict the future, we don’t really know if Rodgers won’t be sidelined for a significant time again. He can be Tolzien’s back-up. But it’s hard to tell what the Packers intend to do with him long term. And I can think of quite a few teams that are suffering from the eternal “quarterback migraines”. But I do think Ted has a plan for him, albeit, not for the short term.

  3. For now, he’s franchise insurance…. a guy that maybe can possibly become your franchise guy if the unspeakable happens… just take a look at the Jets and the Browns… without franchise insurance we could be them again (like we were from ’69 to ’91).

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