Scott Tolzien: The Green Bay Packers’ silver lining?


Scott Tolzien, the backup quarterback who was on the Packers’ practice squad two weeks ago, was thrust into action last Sunday when Seneca Wallace went down with a groin injury.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Dear fans of the Green Bay Packers,

Have you met Scott Tolzien?

Well, if you haven’t – don’t be alarmed. Not many have.

But, you’re going to. After all, he’s your guy this Sunday against the New York Giants.

He is a 26-year old kid who was a Wisconsin Badger just three short years ago. He didn’t garnish much attention out of high school or college; he came into the league in 2011 as an undrafted free agent. He was signed to the Seattle Seahawks and performed well in three of four preseason tilts. He was released with the final cut.

He was claimed by the San Francisco 49ers and remained on their roster as the third quarterback behind Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick through 2012. He was released and shortly thereafter, claimed by the Green Bay Packers at the start of the 2013 season.

His credentials are:

1. He has thrown the ball in the preseason

2. He knows how to hold a clipboard

3. He has worn an NFL jersey

Other than that, he’s about as green to real-time NFL action as they come.

Quarterback Seneca Wallace lasted one series last week for the Green Bay Packers.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Fast forward to week 10 of the 2013 season – when backup quarterback Seneca Wallace pulled a groin muscle on the opening drive. Tolzien was forced into action just six days after being promoted from the practice squad in light of Aaron Rodgers‘ injury. Packers Nation collectively grimaced as unfamiliar #16 trotted onto the field.

“Who’s that?!”

Analysts and commentators didn’t even know how to pronounce his name. That’s never a good sign.

In light of everything, Tolzien played like a capable backup quarterback. He finished 24-of-39 for 280 yards, 2 interceptions and 1 touchdown. He posted a quarterback rating of 70.1 in his first-ever NFL action. We saw him make some errant throws, some of his passes naturally sailed on him, some were a little shaky. But he played fearlessly, went through his progressions and found open receivers. Chalk it up to first time jitters.

For having NO previous experience with the first team unit – it wasn’t as noticeable as one might expect. He connected with Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Ryan Taylor, Andrew Quarless, James Jones. He showed that he is mobile in the pocket, he made plays with his legs. He extended drives and converted first downs. He showed that he can move on from adversity and still play at a respectable level, after throwing an interception in the end zone.

I liked what I saw from the three-year no-name, Scott Tolzien.

Scott Tolzien looks over the play chart with head coach Mike McCarthy.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

After a full week of reps with the first team unit – Tolzien will be even more comfortable in the offense. He already commanded it better than Seneca Wallace did or could have. I felt like Tolzien brought a little hope back to the huddle, after all the decimating injuries.

If the Packers are to scrounge their way into the playoffs this year, they are going to need to win some games without Aaron Rodgers. Of all the options I’ve seen, Tolzien seems to be the most viable. He has more talent and more to bring to the table than for what I believe people are giving him credit.

Could Wallace’s groin injury – leading to Tolzien – be a silver lining in all this mess?

I guess we will find out on Sunday … along with the New York Giants and the rest of the National Football League.