For the Green Bay Packers, it is time to turn their focus over 100% to improving the team for the 2014 season. In order to do so, however, the team needs to evaluate what it has returning, how it worked in 2013, and what is available in terms of replacements or upgrades. Here at Acme Packing Company, we are going to start doing the same thing.
This will be a process over the next three weeks, as we will look at one position each day from multiple angles. You can expect a grade for the position as a whole, a look at any impending free agents at the position, some possible free agency or draft targets, and finally an evaluation of the overall need to improve the personnel at the position.
In the first installment of our offseason review of the 2013 Green Bay Packers, we will analyze the quarterback position and grade the unit's performance this season.
Packers' 2013 Quarterbacks
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backups on roster: Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, Seneca Wallace
Released players: B.J. Coleman, Graham Harrell, Vince Young
Packers fans hoped Aaron Rodgers would return to MVP form with the a talented rookie running back, a solidified offensive line, and a slew of receiving weapons at his disposal. If he were forced to leave a game, Wallace would be expected to hand the ball off and throw the occasional play-action pass, doing just enough to keep the team afloat until Rodgers' return. We all know how that ended.
The Packers jumped out to a 5-2 start, with close losses to playoff teams in the 49ers and Bengals. Through those seven games, Aaron Rodgers threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns per game, completing over 67% of his passes. That's the Rodgers that Packers fans have come to expect. Then on the first series of Green Bay's eighth game, against the Chicago Bears, everything went horribly wrong when Rodgers' collarbone was fractured, shelving him until week 17.
Seneca Wallace played poorly in relief of Rodgers, and was injured himself on the first series of the next game. Scott Tolzien showed toughness and a strong arm in his first two games (one coming in for Wallace and another starting against the Giants), but ultimately his interceptions were his downfall and he was benched midway through the week 11 game against the Vikings.
Matt Flynn, who was signed after Wallace's injury, took over from there and did just enough to keep the Packers on life support until Rodgers returned, helping to lead the Packers back to a tie with Minnesota. His performance against the Lions on Thanksgiving was abysmal, but he was efficient in a win against the Falcons and posted a remarkable second-half performance in the Packers' comeback win in Dallas before failing to impress in a critical game against Pittsburgh.
Rodgers' return in Chicago started slowly with interceptions on the team's first two drives, but his second half (and particularly the final drive) were spectacular in leading the Packers to a division-clinching win over the rival Bears. He was less than marvelous in the cold against a tough 49ers defense though in the Wild-Card round, as the Packers were sent home early by San Francisco for the second straight year.
Overall Grade: B-
This grade could easily have dipped into the C range, but Matt Flynn's second half in Dallas and Rodgers' final drive in Chicago forced me to bring it up a notch. Early on, Rodgers was good. Not MVP-caliber good, but the kind of good that Packers fans have come to expect as typical for Rodgers. However, the wheels fell off when he was injured, as Wallace and Tolzien could not manage to avoid turnovers. Flynn's ability to jump into the fray and both know the offense and manage the huddle were sorely needed by a team and an offense struggling to find a calming veteran presence.
A fractured collarbone and a failure to develop a capable backup quarterback put the Packers in an incredibly difficult situation midway through the year, but the team found a way to scratch and claw their way to get into a win-and-in position in the final week of the season. Once there, Rodgers made the critical plays upon his return to help the team end its biggest rival's season and earn a home playoff game. Earning a playoff berth after everything that happened forces me to give the quarterbacks a B-minus.