Green Bay Packers’ Citizen GM Looks Ahead: QB Battle …


Aaron Rodgers will return and play with a chip on his shoulder – literally and figuratively.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

… just kidding.

I think we all know that there is no such thing as a quarterback battle on an Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers team.

However, this week’s installment of Citizen GM — looks ahead to the QB depth chart coming into organized team activities.

Aaron Rodgers will be around for years to come, but will the window open wide enough for future success?

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Aaron Rodgers: rounding out a very tumultuous 2013 campaign, Rodgers did what he does best … he made plays. It was on the shoulders of healthy and reliable John Kuhn and a walking wounded team of Rodgers/Cobb that even got the Packers into the playoffs last season. Rodgers missed all of the contests between the Nov. 4 tilt with the Chicago Bears and the second dose of Bears rivalry in the season finale. He was knocked out on the first drive of the game that fateful November Monday night; and came back with a vengeance on the last play of the last Packers’ drive that glorious Sunday afternoon. Poetic justice, I suppose.

Here is what I am looking ahead to from Rodgers this season:

  1. Longevity — Packers’ faithful have been praying for Rodgers’ awareness since his second concussion in 2010. He has great pocket presence; he knows when to escape the rush, and he’s good at it. The concussion battles have made him quick(er) to slide and (almost) eliminated the headfirst dive for extra yardage that makes Packers Nation cringe. At least we can say that the man learns from his mistakes. Add this one to the list. No, it wasn’t Rodgers’ fault that the offensive line was leaky at times … but you have to be in the right head space when you move off your spot. I believe he will raise his awareness this season.
  2. Vengeance — I expect Rodgers to play with a chip on his shoulder this year, no pun intended. He missed nearly all of the season in 2013 and he knows that youth is desired in the National Football League. Rodgers celebrated his 29th birthday and isn’t getting any younger. I can guarantee that missing any amount of time in a career already deemed too short, is devastating. He will be playing for the time that he lost and he will be playing to cement his sentiments that another championship window is opening in Green Bay.
  3. Down-Field General — With the addition of Eddie Lacy and the success that he had last year (even in Rodgers’ absence), Rodgers is going to return to form when it comes to making throws down the field. With a healthy crop of wide receivers in Nelson, Cobb and Boykin, there is no limit to what Lacy’s big presence in the backfield can do for Rodgers and Co. It won’t be long before the long-bomb makes its reappearance in the offensive juggernaut that this Packers’ offense was in 2011; and there isn’t anything that defenses will be able to do to stop it.

Let’s keep Matt Flynn on the sidelines.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

The Packers went into this offseason still unsettled in the QB backfield. Matt Flynn was on a temporary contract last year, Scott Tolzien brought in after the preseason in 2013. To be honest, Flynn was a last resort. Ted Thompson admitted that he flubbed the QB situation in the offseason, putting way too much stock in Rodgers’ healthy career start. There was much speculation that Thompson would re-sign Flynn this free agency period, but nothing was set in stone. Well, it is now. Flynn agreed to terms with the Green Bay Packers to continue holding the backup QB position under Rodgers. Here’s what I look ahead to from Flynn in 2014:

  1.  Strengthened Clipboard Holding Skills — if Matt Flynn doesn’t play another snap for the Packers this season, it will still be too much. Flynn in the game can only mean that Rodgers isn’t … and that isn’t something that any Packers fan wants to endure; save the rare opportunity that Flynn plays game monitor when the Packers are up by five touchdowns. Flynn with a nice, clean, wrinkle-free uniform and a headset will be a welcome sight in 2014.
  2. Pocket Strength — with Rodgers back in the huddle, Flynn will get an opportunity to continue the education he was receiving before taking his big paycheck in Seattle. It will do him good to see what pocket presence really looks like. Matt is a capable backup QB but he lacks awareness in the pocket and doesn’t have the mobility that Rodgers possesses when the heat is turned up. McCarthy and Rodgers will help take him to another level; one that will be ready to step in and carry the team, if need be.

I don’t want to take anything away from Matt Flynn. He played a big role for the Packers when Rodgers went down and he probably helped salvage what was left of a doomed season. He made miraculous plays when he needed to and I am glad that they signed him back to a low-calorie contract this offseason; we need his veteran experience if we land ourselves in another pinch. However, I feel that Scott Tolzien is a better candidate for Rodgers’ backup in the future. He showed great promise but lacked the experience necessary to get the job done when his feet were held to the fire. But, I expect that will change. Here is what I am looking ahead to from Scott Tolzien in 2014:

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

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Harnessed Energy and Abilities — with a year under his belt in McCarthy’s offense, Tolzien will be better. Add onto that an offseason of work in his QB school and … you can bet that he will improve by leaps and bounds. This isn’t a Graham Harrell we are talking about here. Harrell didn’t have HALF of the raw talent that we saw from Tolzien in his short stint as QB for the Packers in 2013. Tolzien has a monster arm and accuracy when he isn’t in his own head. Sitting underneath Rodgers and Flynn, another year in the offensive playbook and tailored workouts will bring all of that out in him.

  • Confidence — the problem in Scott’s two games with the starting offense? Confidence. When things looked bleak in his first NFL start, at the helm of Aaron Rodgers’ offense, he got into his own head and starting making rookie mistakes. It’s alright … he’s green, he IS a rookie. As the preseason plays out and he sees playing time in August, he will gain confidence that he lacked last year.
  • Rhythm — Tolzien was on fire in his first appearance after Seneca Wallace‘s injury. He nearly got the job done! He hit on all five of his downfield attempts and this with NO practice with the first team offense, NO offseason workouts or studying the playbook and NO rapport with the receivers. This time around, he’s starting clean with the Green Bay Packers and I expect he will take full advantage of it.
  • The quarterback position is the most important position on the field. It was also the most exciting in recent Packers’ history in 2013, and not in the good way. We can build off of that experience, though and I am looking ahead to some concrete quarterback play in this upcoming year.