Aug 14, 2010; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Graham Harrell (7) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field. The Browns defeated the Packers 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Clipboard Kings: Assessing Backup QB Situations -- Green Bay Packers


We hear it every year at this time, the backup quarterback is one of the most important positions on the roster.  Whether it is or not is a debate for another time, but it’s under the microscope now more than ever as teams try to justify how many resources, or in some cases how few, they’ve committed to the position….and you hear reports of young QB’s who are just “killing it” in their mini-camps.

The position can either be rendered completely irrelevant: Jim Sorgi never getting his uniform dirty in meaningful situations backing up Peyton Manning from 2004 – 2010.  Or franchise altering: The Colts never addressing the position appropriately, team goes 2-14 without Manning in 2011, total housecleaning, first pick, Manning moves on, Andrew Luck now in place. 

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at every team’s backup situation.  These aren’t grades, just an overall look at the total sum of each team’s outlook if their starter were to go down.  I’ll consider the immediate situation and the longer-term picture.

I’ll go in order of my NFL Power Rankings 1.0, published May 10th.


Starter: Aaron Rogers.

Projected Backup:  Graham Harrell (6-2, 215)  Harrell is an interesting case.  He gained notoriety in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense during his 3 years as a starter at Texas Tech.  70% completions, 134 TD’s to 34 INT’s and nearly THREE MILES in passing yards.  But Harrell isn’t very big, doesn’t have a big arm, and had a bit of a busy delivery so he went undrafted in the 2009 draft.  A tryout with Cleveland netted nothing, as did 9 months in the Canadian Football League.

Here’s one take from a scout in the CFL:

Saskatchewan had several young QB candidates and the head coach stayed with one guy, so Harrell got a little antsy waiting for an opportunity.

He has also tried his hand at coaching in the off-season; he’s bright, smart on the field, good leader, not overly athletic or mobile, but shows some escapability in the pocket… can make most of the throws… deep ball can be accurate but a little wobbly on the spiral… best fit in a West Coast style offense.

Hate to compare him to someone like Ken Dorsey but I think that is fair, both in terms of physical and mental tools… might be a perfect #3 type but never really advance from that level.

So, in other words it’s no surprise that in 2010 he signed with the Packers right?  His college career and scouting report sound remarkably similar to Matt Flynn, who parlayed 4 years in the Packers system, and their famed QB School, into a significant free agent contract and a likely starting job in Seattle this year.  Harrell has been impressive in preseason action, and head coach Mike McCarthy has raved about him.  His progress is one of the reasons the Packers let Flynn walk.

That being said, his ability to carry this team should Rodgers go down is a huge question mark.  His development is promising, but Packer fans are surely hoping it never comes to that.

Projected 3rd QB: B.J. Coleman (6-3, 231)   Coleman is a really interesting prospect, was one of my favorite sleeper candidates in the draft, and when the Packers selected him in the 7th round out of Tennessee-Chattanooga this year I thought… “Yeah, that makes a ton of sense.”  Of COURSE the Packers would use a 7th round pick on a guy who has a ton of NFL potential.

Coleman has a strong arm, is accurate, and is reportedly an insane gym and film rat.  His release, however, is methodical and mechanical.  But one of the things the Packers do best is rework a QB’s throwing motion.  They did it with Rodgers, with Flynn, and with Harrell.  If they can harness Coleman’s physical gifts and get the same kind of development out of him, he…… not Harrell, will be Rodgers primary backup.  Perhaps as early as 2013.  He has the potential to someday be a starter in this league.

The rich……. get richer.

Other contenders: None, at this time there are no other QB’s listed on the Packers roster.  Other arms will be brought to camp, but it’s doubtful any of them would have a chance to unseat Harrell or Coleman.

Tags: Aaron Rodgers B.J. Coleman Graham Harrell Green Bay Packers

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