Examining the 2011 Green Bay Packers: Quarterbacks

This is the first in a series of articles that the APC writers will be working on that examine the members of the Super Bowl XLV Champion Green Bay Packers with an eye on the 2011 season. We'll go through the roster position-by-position to examine each player and his potential impact on the team in the future. We'll then examine how much emphasis Ted Thompson and company should place on that position during this off-season. Much of this analysis will be performed assuming that the free agency and draft systems of the past will still be in place, and obviously, this may or may not be the case with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement still very much up in the air.

The quarterback is generally accepted as the most important position in football, if not in all of sports. While teams without a very good one occasionally win championships (I'm looking at you, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson), the vast majority of NFL Champions have a top-level player under center. With Aaron Rodgers winning the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award, there's no question that the Packers have an elite player leading the offense, but regardless, it's worth examining the position as a whole.

Quarterbacks (3): Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell

#12 Aaron Rodgers

Player Progression (progress/stagnate/regress from 2010): progress
Team Standing (expanded/same/diminshed role): same role
Likelihood of Long-Term Retention: high

What needs to be said about Rodgers? He's coming off a Super Bowl MVP peformance, he's the focal point of the offense, and he's signed through 2014. With weapons like Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant returning from injury next year, he'll be poised for an even better season, and quite possibly a run at the NFL MVP. The knock that he can't win the big games is gone now, and we see no reason that he can't improve on his 3,922-yard, 28-TD passing performance in 2011. While his national profile will almost certainly grow, his perceived role in the offense might take a dip if the running game gets re-established. Regardless, he'll be just as crucial to the Packers' success next year as he was in 2010. 

#10 Matt Flynn

Player Progression: progress
Team Standing: same role
Likelihood of Long-Term Retention: average to low

"Flynn It to Win It" proved against the Patriots that with proper preparation, he can be an effective NFL quarterback, even against that young, playmaking secondary. Another year of experience in preseason and with this coaching staff and he should improve even further. The question we have instead is how long he'll be around in Green Bay. With the offensive line still looked at as a weaker unit on the team, having a solid backup behind Rodgers would be a great insurance policy. However, we can see Ted Thompson making a similar move with Flynn as what happened with Matt Hasselbeck a decade ago: while his stock is high, trade him for some draft picks to a team desperate for a QB. If the right offer comes along, I definitely think Ted will pull the trigger.

#6 Graham Harrell

Player Progression: some progress 
Team Standing: same role
Likelihood of Long-Term Retention: average to low

Harrell has been with the team all season, yet little is really known about him. He was on the practice squad for most of the year as the Packers only kept two QBs on the roster, and was only signed to the active roster when Rodgers got a concussion and had to sit out the New England game. He had a remarkable college career at Texas Tech in a spread offense, and apparently has adjusted to the pro game well enough to find a decent job as a clipboard carrier in the NFL. The book on Harrell coming out of college was that he had a fairly accurate, but not particularly strong arm, and had poor footwork as a result of taking all his snaps out of the shotgun. Time will tell if he can become a dependable backup, but he may be asked to take on a bigger role if Flynn finds a new home.

Overall, what does this mean for the front office? We think that it should be an area of slight importance, depending on whether Thompson receives tempting trade offers for Flynn (and depending on whether a new CBA is done before the draft and player-for-draft pick trades are allowed). In that case, a veteran backup might make sense to bridge the gap until Harrell is truly ready for the #2 job. I could also see the Packers picking up a young QB with some upside in the late rounds of the draft to serve as the #3. Basically it all comes down to the CBA and the interest in Flynn.

Let us know your thoughts on the Packers' QBs in the poll and the comments below, and keep an eye out for Kevin's look at the Running Backs coming up soon.

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