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Packers 2017 Roster Grades: Quarterbacks room disappoints after Rodgers’ injury

The season started off well for the Packers’ QBs, then went worse than expected once Aaron Rodgers went down.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2017 season. Today, we examine the quarterbacks.

“From the penthouse to the outhouse.”

If someone were to sum up the quarterback play for the Green Bay Packers in 2017, they would probably use that phrase or some slight variation of it. Perhaps nowhere else in the league did a team see as drastic a drop off in quarterback play as the Packers did when Aaron Rodgers went down and Brett Hundley stepped in.

When Rodgers broke his collarbone against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6, so too did the hopes and dreams of the Packers and their fans break into pieces. It’s just that no one knew it.

Green Bay had been preparing Hundley for two plus seasons for just this kind of moment and when the spotlight finally shone on the former UCLA standout, his performance left much to be desired. He could not run the offense like Rodgers could. He couldn’t throw deep and he couldn’t develop chemistry with any of the wide receivers save Davante Adams on a few select occasions.

The Packers were set up to go only as far as Rodgers could take them, and when Rodgers was lost for basically the rest of the season (except his one game return against the Carolina Panthers), the rest of the roster quickly crumbled and Green Bay missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

In short, Rodgers’s injury put the team on life support and Hundley’s performance, along with poor defensive play, finally killed it.

Starter: Aaron Rodgers

7 games active, 7 starts
154-238 (64.7%), 1,675 yards, 16 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 97.2 passer rating
24 rushes, 126 yards, 0 touchdowns

Before his untimely injury, Rodgers was having a decent start to his season. He averaged 273 yards per game in the team’s first five as the Packers jumped out to a 4-1 start, and his passer rating — 104.1 — was just a tenth of a point lower than his rating in 2016. He was just getting hot, too, with passer ratings over 100 in three straight games from weeks 3-5, including games against the Bears and Cowboys where he put up numbers over 120.

Of course, Anthony Barr of the Vikings broke Rodgers’ right collarbone early in week six, sending him to injured reserve and forcing Brett Hundley onto the field. Rodgers’ return against the Carolina Panthers was an especially ugly game, as Rodgers threw three interceptions (half of his season total). Once the Packers were officially eliminated from the playoffs, there was no reason to keep Rodgers on the field.

Backup: Brett Hundley

16 games active, 9 starts
192-316 (60.8%), 1,836 yards, 9 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 70.6 passer rating
36 rushes, 270 yards, 2 touchdowns

Once Rodgers went down, Hundley came on with plenty of time to prepare for this opportunity and some rather high expectations from coaches and Packers fans alike. In a mind-boggling oddity, Hundley failed to throw a single touchdown pass in five starts at Lambeau Field, posting a passer rating of 50.6 at home compared to a much more tolerable 91.7 on the road.

While Hundley made some good things happen with his legs, he also seemed to get little help from a Packers coaching staff that seemingly struggled to adequately adjust the offense to his skill set. In addition, production on deep passes all but vanished, first due to some narrow misses and later thanks to wild throws and a virtual elimination of deep balls from the playbook. Overall, the Packers were 3-6 with Hundley as the starter, and two of those wins were come-from-behind overtime victories against the 5-11 Buccaneers and 0-16 Browns.

All in all, Hundley’s best chance to audition for a starting job in the future went to waste along with the Packers’ season.

Third String: Joe Callahan

10 games active, 0 starts
5-7 (71.4%), 11 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

After losing the battle for the #3 spot to Taysom Hill in training camp, Callahan stuck around on the practice squad when Hill was claimed by the Saints on waivers. He was then promoted to the active roster following Rodgers’ injury, but only saw action in one game: the season finale against Detroit.

Overall Grade: D

Really, Rodgers’ good early performances were the only things keeping this grade from being a full-blown F. Hundley looked unprepared and shaky for most of his starting stint, a failure that belongs equally on him and on the coaching staff. In fact, it is possible that the sweeping changes Mike McCarthy has made to the offensive staff this offseason are as much a result of the lack of development of Hundley as the rest of the shortcomings on that side of the football.

Even Rodgers’ return was a massive disappointment; the handful of deep passes he attempted did not seem to have their normal zip and, even more troubling, were pretty poor decisions.

Here’s hoping that Joe Philbin’s return and the new arrival of Frank Cignetti, Jr. as quarterbacks coach will lead to a return to glory for this position group in 2018 — and hopefully the upcoming season features 16 starts from the man wearing #12.