It is a moment every franchise dreads — losing your franchise quarterback to injury. This nightmare became a reality this past season for the Green Bay Packers, losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 9 to a collarbone injury that would sideline him for eight-straight games. From the onset of when Rodgers got injured to when he came back in Week 17 against the Chicago Bears, Ted Thompson‘s lack of activity with the free agent class of quarterbacks proved costly at first.
Seneca Wallace was widely ineffective, posting a career-low 15.2 QBR. Scott Tolzien looked like he was thrown into the fire too soon in his first season with the Packers and second year in the league. Matt Flynn was abysmal at times. During the eight-game stretch, the trio of quarterbacks averaged roughly 235 yards/game, which would have ranked 15th for the 2013-14 season. While it appeared from the naked eye that the quarterback play was the main contributor toward the team’s lackluster 2-5-1 record, the unit quietly progressed from game to game.
In the first extended game action of Tolzien’s career, the former Wisconsin quarterback proved he was a good young option at the position. His small stature, combined with his lack of mobility outside of the pocket, isn’t ideal (he posted one touchdown with five interceptions), but he showed he can throw the deep ball with precision successively — a cornerstone of head coach Mike McCarthy‘s West Coast offense. Tolzien’s reported strong work ethic also lends to the fact that he can be a reliable backup quarterback within the team’s most-valued position.
After Tolzien’s ineffectiveness, Thompson redeemed himself by signing Flynn, who threw for a then-team record for yards (480) and touchdowns (six) against the Detroit Lions in his last game as a Packer in 2012. The signing proved to be the fire that lit Green Bay toward their third-straight NFC North crown, as Flynn averaged 229.2 yards in four-and-half games in the absence of Rodgers and sparked the monumental 37-36 comeback win in Dallas. He threw for a season-high 299 yards and four touchdowns in the contest.
While the play of running backs Eddie Lacy and James Stark was the main reason for the resurgence of the offense, Tolzien and Flynn were adequate game managers that kept the team afloat in a critical juncture of the season.
As the saying goes — fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Thompson and the rest of the organization should still settle for what they have in-house and steer away from using one of their late-round picks on a quarterback.
It’s not to take anything away from this year’s quarterback class. While it is headlined by the big names of Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater, it is rather deep, as Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray will be steals in the third through fifth rounds. Beyond that, the cupboard is rather barren.
Plus, the defense was once again Green Bay’s Achilles heel, pointing to a greater emphasis of spending a better part of the team’s picks on potential defensive playmakers and role players in an attempt to get back to a championship level.