The Green Bay Packers have been very fortunate with their two starting quarterbacks over the past 21 years.
Brett Favre started 252 consecutive games over 16 seasons with the Packers (starting in 1992) and won 160 games over that time, in addition to seven NFC North/Central divisional titles and a Super Bowl.
Aaron Rodgers has started 78 out of 80 games over five years, winning 52 games over that time and two NFC North divisional titles and a Super Bowl.
Think about that for a moment. Over the past two decades in the NFL, the Packers have averaged 10 wins a year, been in the playoffs 15 times, have won nine divisional titles and have won two Super Bowls.
That success should continue as long as Rodgers is behind center.
Going into the 2013 season, Rodgers is the highest-rated quarterback in NFL history. Rodgers has thrown 171 touchdown passes, compared to just 46 interceptions, for 21,661 yards. That adds up to a 104.9 quarterback rating.
Rodgers also has the highest quarterback rating of all time in a single season, when he had a 122.5 rating in 2011.
The former California Golden Bear is almost as good in the postseason, where he is currently ranked as the third-rated quarterback of all time in the NFL, behind only Bart Starr (104.8) and Drew Brees (103.9). Rodgers currently has a 103.6 rating, based on the 18 touchdown passes he's thrown compared to five picks for 2,315 yards.
The last two seasons Rodgers has been almost unstoppable as a quarterback. His stats are mind-boggling. Rodgers has thrown 84 touchdown passes against 14 picks for 8,938 yards in 2011 and 2012.
The recent performance of Rodgers has earned him the best deal in NFL history, when he signed a five-year, $110 million dollar contract extension, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In addition to that, Rodgers will get $54 million in guarantees, which includes a $35 million signing bonus and $62.5 million in the first three years of his extension.
The Packers also have one of the better receiving corps in the NFL, plus have added some real talent at running back, with the drafting of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in the 2013 NFL draft.
Plus, if that wasn't enough, the Packers announced recently that they are shifting their best two offensive linemen, tackle Bryan Bulaga and guard Josh Sitton, to the left side of the offensive line to protect Rodgers' blind side.
Head coach Mike McCarthy told the media why he was making the move, via Packers.com:
“Frankly, we felt Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton were our two most accomplished offensive linemen, and just going back to the old-school theory of how you structure your offensive line. We wanted to put those guys on the left side. We had a chance to watch Josh working and playing the left guard position at the Pro Bowl, so there was more information there. And so, with that, I think it creates more competition.”
The backup situation behind Rodgers is a bit murky, however. Right now the second-string quarterback is Graham Harrell, who was very inconsistent over the first three games of the 2012 preseason before having a very nice game in the last preseason game of the year versus the Kansas City Chiefs.
Still, we are talking about a guy who has thrown just four passes in the regular season (completing two) in his three-year career.
The Packers couldn't have been very happy when Harrell had to relieve Rodgers in the New Orleans Saints game early last season, when Rodgers had to go out of the game for a few plays due to getting poked in the eye.
The Packers were near the New Orleans goal line holding a 21-20 lead, when Harrell came into the game. He proceeded to fumble a handoff to the running back, which the Saints recovered. The Saints then went on to score the go-ahead touchdown.
To be fair, Harrell was tripped up by the feet of one of his offensive linemen as he was handing off, but sometimes you are just better off just eating the ball in a situation like that.
Luckily, Rodgers led the Packers to another touchdown and the Packers won 28-27.
The Packers have steadfastly stood by Harrell, even as he was struggling last preseason.
The Packers third-string quarterback is B.J. Coleman, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 2012, and spent the 2012 season on the practice squad.
Coleman looked very impressive at the minicamp held last weekend for rookies and second-year players. McCarthy was particularly impressed, as he spoke to the media via Packers.com:
“What I had to see from B.J. is him [having] looked like he’d been here for a year, be in charge of the drills and be productive. And that was evident in all three practices. Now there’s a couple things that he’ll learn from. Actually, I was talking to B.J. coming off the field about a particular play in the final team period. So he’s got ability. There’s just some things that he’s done in the past and the way he’s played the position that are total opposite of the way he’s being taught, so we got to get that part figured out. But I think he’s definitely making a lot of progress.”
Coleman is similar to Rodgers in arm strength and has better mobility than Harrell, who does not have the fastball that both Rodgers and Coleman possess.
I expect to see Coleman receive quite a bit of playing time this preseason, and he will attempt to pass Harrell on the depth chart.
Harrell will get plenty of playing time, too, but he needs to more consistent and productive this preseason.
The Packers hope to have four quarterbacks in camp this summer, even though the Packers did not draft a quarterback last month in the 2013 NFL draft. The team did, however, sign Matt Brown of Illinois State as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Brown put up some very good numbers in college, where he threw 78 career touchdown passes compared to 36 interceptions. In his senior year, Brown was Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year, when he threw 27 touchdowns versus 12 picks for 3,370 yards.
Brown will not get a lot of opportunities in terms of playing time this preseason, but when he does, he needs to make the best of it.
The best case scenario for Brown is to push Harrell and Coleman for a roster spot, or at the very least get on the practice squad.
Overall, the Packers will be among the best in the NFL at the quarterback position as long as Rodgers is behind center.
If Rodgers does go down with an injury or misses significant playing time, the Packers would be in a bit of a quandary. That's why it's essential that Coleman continues to improve and pushes Harrell to become better as well.
Seventh-round draft picks like Coleman have been okay under McCarthy. Just look at Matt Flynn, who was spectacular in the two starts when Rodgers didn't play. Flynn completed 55 of 81 passes for 731 yards, plus threw nine touchdown passes versus two interceptions.
I'm not saying Coleman would ever approach those numbers, but even if he's close, the Packers would be satisfied.
Bottom line, that's why the Packers have had a quarterback school in the offseason since McCarthy became head coach, and why his quarterbacks have done so well over that time. McCarthy, offensive coordinator Tom Clements and quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo make the quarterbacks go through intense playbook and film study and teach them the various nuances of the Packers offense.
The Packers also stress improving technique, whether it be in dropping back to pass or rolling out.
Obviously Rodgers has mastered what McCarthy is looking for from his quarterback, and it will be interesting to find out in 2013 who will take the next step forward in progressing as a reliable and productive backup quarterback.