In an instant, the Green Bay Packers transformed from a Super Bowl frontrunner to perhaps a dark horse to qualify for the playoffs. Such is the significance of Aaron Rodgers' broken collarbone and his impact on the team. Few teams can survive without their starting quarterback, and even fewer have one as historically talented as the two-time MVP.
We don't yet know the recovery timetable for Rodgers' injury. The Packers have only revealed that he "could miss the rest of the season." However, even if he can return late in the year, the Packers need to settle the quarterback position, and every option comes with concerns.
When Rodgers went down in Minnesota, the Packers turned to the only other quarterback on their 53-man roster: Brett Hundley. The 24-year-old signal-caller, drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, has flashed immense potential in exhibition games but seen only mop-up duty during the regular season. That obviously changed Sunday, as Hundley attempted three times as many passes against the Vikings as he previously in his NFL career.
While Hundley had some positive moments during his first extended showcase, he mostly struggled, completing less than 55 percent of his passes and falling short of 5 yards per pass attempt. He also threw three interceptions, including one on his first throw.
Still, the outing provides little data for evaluation purposes. Hundley did not work with the No. 1 offense during the week and the coaching staff had to adjust on the fly after Rodgers departed. With a full week to prepare for his first regular-season start, the outcome could look quite different.
Indeed, former Green Bay backup Matt Flynn followed such a trajectory during the 2010 season. That year, a concussion forced Rodgers out of a Week 14 game against the Detroit Lions, and an underprepared Flynn led the offense to just three points. A week later, Flynn nearly led an upset of the New England Patriots on the road. The reps in practice and the chance for the coaching staff to plan for a new starter under center made a huge difference for Flynn, and such could prove true for Hundley as well.
For now, the Packers plan to roll with Hundley as the starter. Head coach Mike McCarthy declared as much in his postgame press conference, calling the third-year man "my quarterback." At least for now, the job belongs to Hundley.
Put aside whether the Packers locker room can handle Colin Kaepernick's ongoing social justice concerns (it can) or whether his salary demands are unreasonable (they aren't). The quarterback market nearly always looks barren at this time of year, and Green Bay should feel fortunate that one of Kaepernick's caliber remains available.
Since Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy joined forces in 2006, they've mostly pursued mobile quarterbacks capable of working inside and outside the pocket. Though Kaepernick doesn't match Rodgers' mastery of extending plays with his legs, he does have that element to his game. He also ranks as one of the most dangerous runners at the quarterback position, something the Packers know well from their meeting in the 2012 playoffs.
Like any quarterback outside the organization, Kaepernick requires some time to internalize the offense and build chemistry with his teammates before playing effectively in a game. With Hundley set to start next Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints and the bye arriving the following week, the Packers have a solid window in which to get Kaepernick up to speed.
Certainly, a segment of fans would disapprove of Kaepernick's signing, and his recently filed collusion grievance could throw a wrench into any plans to bring him to Green Bay. Still, the Packers should gauge Kaepernick's interest and seriously consider signing him. At worse, he provides the best-possible backup in case Hundley goes down with an injury. Kaepernick could potentially provide much more, however.
Almost immediately after reports of Rodgers' broken collarbone circulated, some observers floated the idea of quarterback-turned-broadcaster Tony Romo coming out of retirement. That list includes FOX NFL analyst Troy Aikman, who speculated on the broadcast whether the Packers and Romo might have mutual interest.
However, while the former Dallas Cowboys starter probably has the highest ceiling of any quarterback available, the hurdles to get him to Green Bay appear more significant than any other option.
Romo has a comfortable, highly coveted job as the color man on CBS's No. 1 NFL broadcast team. He became a fan favorite in just his first month on the job, providing analysis behind the typical clichés spouted by far too many TV talking heads. He also doesn't have to deal with the week-to-week grind that comes with playing professional football.
If Romo expressed interest in leaving the booth, the Packers would have to listen. However, Romo downplayed any interest in returning to the field as recently as a week ago. By all appearances, he seems content in retirement.