clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Two starts are not enough to decide whether Brett Hundley is garbage

Situation, pressure, and expectation doomed the first-time starter before he even took the field.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
If the alternative weren’t Aaron Rodgers and the Packers weren’t Super Bowl contenders with him, the Hundley talk might sound very different.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been sad to watch over the last few days the funeral being held for Brett Hundley. So young, so talented ... taken long before his time.

The eulogies are all basically the same: he was bad and Green Bay should feel bad about thinking he’s not bad. Poor Brett.

Can we all just chill out a little bit?

Hundley isn’t Aaron Rodgers. Wow.

He’s looked hesitant to pull the trigger in the pocket, and too eager to escape said pocket where his ability to throw on the run has been underwhelming at best. The game is moving too fast for him right now and as freely as he played against the Vikings where he made some outstanding stick throws and displayed his estimable talent.

But it’s been two and a half games.

Looking this stagnant and unprepared with 15 days to prepare is bad. Those who insisted Mike McCarthy would come out with a better plan and put Hundley in a better position to succeed (myself included) were wrong.

And those who said Hundley could come right in and play well (again, myself included) were likewise off the mark. But it wasn’t just homer media people. Buzz from around the league and from league observers was overwhelmingly positive about Hundley’s chances to succeed.

But our lens is off.

Packers fans wanted a quarterback to come in, be 75% of Aaron Rodgers, and hold down the fort before he came back.

If Brett Hundley were playing for, let’s say, the Bears, would the sky be falling in Chicago?

Let’s see:

Player A through 2.5 games

  • 58.8% completions, 4.7 YPA, 51.4 passer rating, 3 Total TDs, 4 INTs

Player B through 4 games

  • 47.5% completions, 6.4 YPA, 66.3 passer rating, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Player A is Brett Hundley. Player B is Mitch Trubisky.

Trubisky hasn’t thrown for more than 164 yards in a game so far in his career, and it took his 32 attempts to get there last week against the Saints.

The Bears won a game in which Trubisky attempted seven passes and another in a game where he attempted 16.

Based solely on the play on the field, why is there so much optimism around Mitch Trubisky and not Brett Hundley?

We expected Hundley to be better, but he’s only 10 months older than Trubisky, came from a more basic offensive system in college, and though he’s been in the NFL for two seasons, the CBA precludes backups from getting significant practice time.

When the Jimmy Garoppolo trades were being discussed this offseason, Brian Burke from ESPN’s analytics team determined Garoppolo’s two games were essentially statistically insignificant compared to the incoming rookie class.

In other words, two NFL games isn’t enough to differentiate a quarterback from a rookie, even with multiple years of practice in the NFL.

This is nearly identical the situation the Packers currently find themselves in. The Patriots got Garoppolo ready to play well, but did so with an entire offseason to prepare. Green Bay is doing triage on the fly with this offense under Hundley.

The Packers defense isn’t good enough to hide Hundley the way the Bears hide Trubisky. They can’t win by attempting seven passes.

It’s bizarre to me the perception that one quarterback is in a significantly different position than the other when each team appears terrified to let their guy throw the ball — the Bears so much so that they literally just don’t let him throw.

Wouldn’t the Browns rather have Hundley than DeShone Kizer based on his play this season? What about the Texans over Tom Savage? Brock Osweiler got highly-paid due to play extremely similar to what we’ve seen from Hundley to this point. The 49ers dropped Brian Hoyer (who, ironically, the Packers tried to sign) to play C.J. Beathard, who has been awful.

At least Kizer and Beathard are also first-time starters. What are those other guys’ excuses? If the Packers were within the breaking of one bone of being a Super Bowl contender, perhaps Hundley’s performance would be viewed differently.

There have been flashes of talent. I’ve tried to point them out in pieces here, here and here.

It would be okay for him to struggle. We’d see progress in a QB going from three to one to no interceptions, or in clutch drives against the Saints to respond to New Orleans scores. There’s been scrambles and rushes for first downs.

Hundley has thrived in hurry-up situations with the field spread where he can make quick decisions, but McCarthy hasn’t consistently allowed him to play to his strengths with the field spread.

Can Green Bay run out of those formations? Maybe, but how could we know given how infrequently the Packers have tried? They’ve averaged 6.3 yards per carry the last two weeks, putting up 259 yards on 41 carries and four touchdowns on the ground. Half of those scores belong to Hundley.

For some reason McCarthy has pulled out the zone-read once in a each game and never gone back to it.

Is it hubris, lack of imagination, or fear that is preventing the Packers from remaking this offense in the image of its quarterback?

Either way, it’s far too soon to throw dirt on the coffin of a 24-year-old quarterback who everyone agreed was a raw prospect coming out of college.

Look at the different a year makes for Jared Goff. I pointed out on Twitter, his spray chart from a huge day against the Giants isn’t materially different from Hundley’s except the Rams’ short passing game actually turned into big plays for Los Angeles.

And Sammy Watkins caught Goff’s deep shot for a TD, whereas Davante Adams made a feeble attempt at what was a pretty good throw from Hundley on his.

But McVay called — and the Rams executed — a number of beautiful bubble screens and gadget plays. The Packers aren’t set up for that. It’s not in their DNA because they don’t have to do that with Aaron Rodgers.

There’s an NFL truism that some coaches are perfect for young teams but can’t take them to the next level, while other coaches require veteran squads.

Maybe McCarthy is the latter, a guy who is a great fit for Aaron Rodgers, but if he had to build an offense from scratch for a young quarterback would struggle.

That would be a bit strange given how instrumental McCarthy was in developing Rodgers to begin with, but Rodgers talent clearly transcends the scheme and he too had significant time to sit and learn, watching one of the best to ever play.

None of this should excuse the mistakes Hundley has made or be taken to argue he’s a better long-term quarterback than Mitch Trubisky for example.

But let’s have some perspective. There are plenty of quarterbacks who have struggled in their first few games in the NFL. Not to mention Hundley had to make all three of his starts in marquee spots against good to very good NFC teams. Minnesota and New Orleans just might be the two best non-Eagles teams in the conference.

If his underwhelming play weren’t holding the Packers back from being the contenders we know they would otherwise be, the raining on the Hundley parade would be more like overcast.

He hasn’t been great. The issues he had in college — problems that looked better in the preseason — have popped up again. He’s dropping his eyes, feeling phantom pressure. He’s unwilling to climb the pocket and make secondary reads.

But the book hasn’t been written on Hundley.

Let’s not give into social media’s need for takez at all time. No need to rush to judgment so you can say “I told you he sucked,” later.

It is perfectly acceptable to take in new information and allow for development and growth both in athletes and your own thinking of what those athletes are/can be.

Brett Hundley might not be a good NFL quarterback, but after 2.5 games, we have no idea what he is or can be.

And that’s just fine.