A once-in-a-generation quarterback. That’s what was said about former Green Bay Packers long-time starter Brett Favre. As it turned out, the man drafted to back up and eventually replace Favre proved to be equally capable of delivering a Super Bowl to Titletown.
Now that Aaron Rodgers is firmly established as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Packers fans and quarterback aficionados rightfully turn their attention toward the Packers’ reserve quarterbacks. The Packers have an impressive history of grooming quarterbacks.
Ever since ex Texas Tech pass slinger Graham Harrell became Rodgers’ primary backup, the question has been asked: Can Harrell be the next former Packers understudy to ascend to a starting role (a la Matt Flynn, Rodgers, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks, Doug Pederson and Mark Brunell)? The answer is still unknown.
Rodgers is at the top of his game and in the prime of his career. Opportunities for a Packers backup quarterback are rare and usually confined to preseason games.
For that reason, Harrell and second-year quarterback B.J. Coleman will continue to be largely unknown quantities for as long as they remain Green Bay Packers. Undrafted rookie free agent Matt Brown does not figure to be a factor in the 2013 Packers backup derby. If the Packers continue with their recent trend of keeping only two quarterbacks on the regular season roster, this may work in Harrell’s favor as Coleman still has practice squad eligibility.
Among the two, Harrell is most like Rodgers in terms of physical stature/size (6-foot-2). Rodgers outweighs Harrell by about 10 pounds, but Coleman is the largest of the three at 6-foot-3, 231 pounds.
Physical differences aside, Coleman’s year under the tutelage of Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy, Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements and Quarterbacks Coach Ben McAdoo should provide him with the necessary improved fundamentals and increased knowledge of the offense to allow him a realistic shot to compete for the No. 2 role.
McCarthy has praised Harrell in the past for his command of the offense. If Coleman has been able to close the gap in this regard, it will be an interesting competition indeed among the two. Watch for how many opportunities each gets in the Packers’ four preseason games. With Rodgers likely to be used sparingly, both young quarterbacks will have ample opportunity to establish rapport with their receivers throughout training camp and the exhibition season.
Some reports have ranked Harrell the NFL’s worst backup quarterback. In reality, he’s just an unknown quantity, like Flynn and Rodgers were through their first two seasons on Green Bay’s roster. The question for Harrell is how much improvement can he show in the preseason, as Flynn and Rodgers did in their third roster seasons? If the jump isn’t remarkable, Coleman has a chance to become Green Bay’s No. 2.
If either or both quarterbacks aspire to be a regular NFL starter, their chances probably lie elsewhere. You can scratch this team off the list.