Brett Hundley and the Packers struggled to convert on third down to keep their drives moving against New Orleans. There was plenty of instant reactions to the game, mostly siding against the coaching staff’s gameplan, and the young quarterback’s ability to lead the team to their ninth consecutive playoff appearance. As the Packers have proven again and again under Mike McCarthy, they deserve patience to figure it out.
When Aaron Rodgers took over the team after the retirement of Brett Favre, he was in a very similar boat to Hundley. Aaron, as well as the organization, was facing a ton of pressure from the fanbase. (Joe Rogan voice): The POWERFUL Lori Nickel of the Journal Sentinel digs into the mess back in 2010. Great interview with Rodgers from the offseason before the Super Bowl run.
Rodgers was finally the Packers guy after three seasons of backing up Favre. The future MVP and Super Bowl winner may be the best quarterback I’ve ever seen play, but even he wasn’t ready to leap off the starting block after watching for three seasons. Charlie Murphy watched Eddie Murphy do stand up for years, but he wasn’t ready to headline the first time he stepped on stage.
Rodgers had an impressive statistical first season as the starter, completing 63.6 percent of his passes, and throwing for 4,038 yards, 28 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions. However, the team finished the season 6-10, and Rodgers had two three interception games. Needless to say, he had a lot of talent, but even after watching a great quarterback for years, he was still raw on the field. He needed time to get his feet wet, get hit, lead the team back after falling behind, etc. etc.
Possibly the most gifted quarterback ever, needed game action to put it all together. Brett Hundley needs the same opportunity. If Aaron couldn’t lead a talented Packers roster to the post season instantly, it’s impossible to write off Hundley’s ability to start in this league after one start, where he was handcuffed. Keep in mind that Packer fans are still booing Rodgers after nine years of dominant quarterback play. The instant noise and reactions aren’t going to matter much. The same people writing Hundley off, thought the Packers were dead last season.
Against New Orleans, Hundley went 12 or 25 for 87 yards, with one interception and a rushing touchdown. In Rodgers fourth career start, he faced Tampa Bay, throwing 14 of 27 for 165 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Obviously, Rodgers fourth career start doesn’t affect him much anymore. Hundley gets to move past his first career start like anybody else.
The backlash from the New Orleans gameplan was an overreaction. Green Bay was a third down conversion or two away from having a real chance at winning the game. John Fox and the Bears also think limiting potential mistakes is the best route to steal wins behind their inexperience quarterback. John Fox, Mike McCarthy, three Super Bowl trips. *Shrug*
I trust that Mike McCarthy is better off with the headset and play sheet than me. I expect him to make adjustments over the bye week despite saying the gameplan, “frankly, it will get smaller” in his weekly press conference. That statement received the attention, but he followed by saying, “We need to be more creative, and make sure that we’re giving him (Hundley) the things he needs to do, but you have to be in tuned where his training is, and what he’s done. At the end of the day, when you call a football game, you have to get the ball to your playmakers, and we didn’t get that done yesterday.”
That gives me confidence the gameplan will look to help Hundley make plays instead of limiting his potential mistakes. It may remain simple, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hundley made a few plays against the Saints that gives me confidence in his talent. He showed he can be a real threat with his legs. Not just running for the touchdown or his 22 yard run, but also throwing on the move. He broke away from the disintegrating pocket, and found Jordy Nelson on the sideline for a first down strike. He also hit Martellus Bennet for a first down on a simple over the middle ten yard pass. Both passes needed to be right where Hundley threw it, he has arm talent.
Green Bay gave Rodgers time to develop, and it led to eight consecutive playoff appearances and a championship. Hundley may need the entire season to be ready to start in the NFL. Perhaps that results in the Packers missing the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean Hundley can’t start in the NFL, or that the coaching staff failed. It’s part of the development of a NFL quarterback.