I haven't been the biggest supporter of Graham Harrell this preseason. While not going so far as to advocate cutting bait, I have said many times that an upgrade could be useful if the price was right. At the same time I was waiting on Harrell to prove me wrong and take control of the offense, showing just why Coach McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have so much faith in him. In the last preseason game it finally happened.
We could go on and on about stats, which were wonderful, but I want to focus on something else in this review of Harrell's play. I want to focus on something less tangible that came through the performance, in a word confidence. Harrell played with confidence tonight. It's not the first time that he has showed this sort of confidence this year. In the first preseason game against Chargers he found that confidence as the night went on, and especially in running the no huddle offense at the end of the half. His problem in that game was a slow start and bad first impression. It was only in the other two where things just looked all kinds of bad. In the last preseason game of the year though he stepped up to the challenged and got the second team offense to finally live up to its hype.
Unlike against the Chargers Harrell came out fast and led the Packers to scores on his first two possessions. Perhaps his whole night could be summed up on his first completion. That pass was a bullet placed just right for Jermichael Finley, who also made a great catch as well. From there Harrell got a deep ball to Gurley, a TD screen pass to Alex Green, and even a few make something out of nothing plays like the Brett Favre of old. Harrell's confidence and leadership got that second team offense which has struggled so badly so far this year to shine. It was long overdue.
What's interesting to me though is that a Harrell hater (which I'm not truly but I do like to play devil's advocate) could point out the same chicken or egg problem that the Harrell supporters have been going back to for the past month or so. Specifically it could be argued that it wasn't Harrell who looked good, but rather the supporting cast who finally put a good performance together and allowed Harrell to do what he did. Tonight was easily the best performance for the second string offensive line. There were some occasions where Harrell seemed to have enough time to take out a sack lunch, eat it, put everything neatly away, wait three or four seconds, and then throw the ball deep; the most notable example of this would be on his long completion to Tori Gurley. Which brings out the other part of chicken or egg facet, this was also the best night for the backup wide receivers. Gurley, Diondre Borel, and Dale Moss all had their best nights of the preseason. Jarrett Boykin was also very good matching some of his performances from previous weeks. So was tonight's play really Harrell stepping up or was it the second team offense actually showing they belonged in the NFL?
In the end my logic is the same as for why I threw Harrell under the bus. The quarterback position is a role that gets too much praise and too much criticism. The last two weeks the second team offense looked very bad, and that reflected poorly on Harrell. Tonight they looked very good and that reflects on Harrell just the same.
In the last preseason performance Harrell showed the confidence needed in a developing QB. More importantly though he put together a performance to renew the confidence of the Packer faithful in his ability to lead the offense. Harrell is still not the best backup in the league, and there are other players who may be available who could be a real upgrade over Harrell (e.g. Colt McCoy). Despite this, Harrell showed that he can be more than good enough and should be able to help the Packers muddle through should the worst happen over the course of the year.
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