There are a few positions in football where the signing of a player at the same spot could likely mean the exit of another. Kicker, Punter, Long Snapper, and Quarterback. For the first three, there could be a competition in Training Camp. But by the time the season starts, there’s only room for one. For a QB, it could be 2 or 3, but the likelihood of seeing action as a backup could be slim to none. After signing Quarterback, Alex McGough on Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers now have four quarterbacks. So, what’s McGough’s shot at sticking around?
There’s a common term used for a Quarterback signed just before Training Camp begins. “Camp Arm.”
A Camp Arm is a Quarterback that’s brought in that’s not expected to last past training camp. They’re there to throw the ball to the many pass-catchers in attendance so the “real” QB’s aren’t overworked. They usually have very little, to no NFL experience. They’re given a watered-down version of the playbook so they can run a little bit of Offense in camp, but not a lot. Chances are, if they make it to Preseason, they’ll maybe see a drive or two of action. After that though, they’re likely to be released.
With only one combined NFL start under the belt of the entire Quarterback room, many felt the Packers would bring in a veteran NFL QB. Instead, this signing ends up being a former seventh round pick in 2018, Alex McGough.
Another Former MVP
McGough was drafted by the Seahawks in 2018. Since then, he has had short stints with Jacksonville, Houston, and then Seattle a second time, before being drafted to the USFL. McGough was drafted by the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL and went on to win two straight USFL Championships.
McGough was voted USFL MVP for the 2023 season after throwing for 2,104 yards and 20 touchdowns in 10 games. Even though he’s 27 years old, McGough was considered a hot commodity to sign before Training Camp. It’s all about finding the “diamond in the rough.” Perhaps his USFL experience shaped him into a decent backup QB option. With the backup to Jordan Love seemingly being up for grabs, we will have to find out.
It’s reasonable to think that perhaps McGough just wasn’t given the opportunity he needed in the NFL. Seattle, Houston, and Jacksonville the last five years haven’t exactly been Quarterback hotbeds. It may have seemed like he had the chance to make splash, but perhaps the coaching staff wasn’t quite there.
Packers Quarterback coach Tom Clements has been known to be a QB-whisperer. Aaron Rodgers has credited a lot of his success to Clements’ teachings. Jordan Love also has been said to have grown exponentially under Clements. It’s safe to say McGough could finally have the coaching he needs.
But what about Danny Etling and Sean Clifford?
Are Clifford or Etling on the hot seat?
Let’s get it over with. It is absolute pure blasphemy to think that this signing means anything negative for Jordan Love. If you think that, you’re likely someone hungry for a click-grabbing headline, you’re a troll, or your football IQ is in the negative. If anything, this could be a positive for Love. It shows instead of bringing in an NFL veteran as a just in case, they have the confidence to just keep bringing in project QB’s. But what does this mean for fellow QB’s Danny Etling and Sean Clifford?
Danny Etling had a similar route to Alex McGough. Drafted in 2018, he bounced around camps before landing in Green Bay. He had a fun camp in 2022 which earned him a spot on the Practice squad for the season duration. He had several exciting moments that deemed him worthy of a green and gold jersey. Sean Clifford was drafted in the 5th round of the 2023 draft and is considered a good leader with winning experience. Both are presumably battling for the backup position.
You bring in McGough, suddenly it’s a whole new ballgame. McGough has just as much NFL regular season experience as the other two. Zero. Sean Clifford though, I believe, has a leg up.
Brian Gutekunst loves his draft picks. Much like his predecessor, Ted Thompson, Gutekunst is known to give his draft picks as many chances as they need. In 2019, all eight draft picks made the roster. In 2021, all nine draft picks made the roster. Guess what, in 2022, all 11 draft picks made the roster as well. It’s safe to assume a 5th round pick probably has a good chance of making it unless he royally messes up.
So, who could be on the hot seat? Danny Etling.
Danny Etling, please step up
Between Clifford and Etling, I believe Danny Etling is feeling the pressure.
Let’s say Sean Clifford doesn’t perform well in camp. Well, that means either the Packers carry three Quarterbacks to enter 2023, or Clifford is held to the Practice squad. I see no way they flat out release him. That means the backup to Jordan Love is currently between Etling and McGough.
Let’s say Clifford does perform well and earns that number two spot. That likely means a practice squad position is up for grabs between Etling and McGough.
Outside of his scrambling abilities, Danny Etling was basically average last year as a passer. This is where McGough could have a leg up on Etling. While Etling was kind of floating around practice duties, McGough was playing games. Etling hasn’t started a game since college. McGough started over ten a few months ago.
So, this Alex McGough signing may seem like nothing. But the current status of the Packers QB room could either place him at number 2, or nowhere at all. In a way, it’s up to Danny Etling to show us.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.