The Green Bay Packers learned the hard way last season that it's very important to have a solid backup quarterback. When Aaron Rodgers fractured his clavicle in Week 9, the Packers went into a free fall over the next few weeks.
The Packers had lost three straight games and it looked like they were about to lose their fourth straight, as they trailed the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 at Lambeau Field in the third quarter. That is when head coach Mike McCarthy decided to bring in Matt Flynn in relief of quarterback Scott Tolzien.
Flynn rallied the Packers enough to forge a 26-26 tie, and then after a loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving, led the Packers to back-to-back wins against the Falcons and Cowboys with late comebacks. He almost did the same thing versus the Steelers in Week 16.
Overall, Flynn was 2-2 as a starting quarterback for the Packers last season and he basically saved the season for the team. In Week 17, Rodgers was able to play again and the Packers beat the Bears at Soldier Field 33-28 in a game that decided the NFC North title.
So how did this all begin? It started in training camp when the Packers had Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman fighting for the No. 2 job behind Rodgers. McCarthy soon realized that neither player was showing the attributes he was looking for as a backup, and veteran Vince Young was brought into camp.
When it was all said and done at the end of training camp, the Packers decided to clean the slate with all the candidates for backup quarterback, and brought in veteran Seneca Wallace to back up Rodgers. They also signed the former Wisconsin Badger Tolzien to the practice squad.
Everything was fine until Week 9. Wallace relieved Rodgers after his collarbone injury in the Bears game and threw a costly interception. The Packers ended up losing the game. Then just a week later, Wallace saw his season end when he injured his groin versus the Eagles.
The Packers by then had brought Tolzien up from the practice squad, and he was now the new starting quarterback after the injury to Wallace.
The Packers also signed Flynn to be a backup, a job he had from 2008-2011 backing up No.12 very effectively.
Flynn eventually became the starter in 2013 and had a fine season. No. 10 threw seven touchdown passes versus four interceptions for 1,146 yards. That adds up to a quarterback rating of 86.1.
Flynn has proven himself as a key backup to Rodgers over his career in Green Bay, much like Zeke Bratkowski did for the Packers in the 1960s backing up Bart Starr.
I have talked to legendary right guard Jerry Kramer on many occasions and when we talked about Bratkowski's play, Kramer thought it was just like having Starr behind center. The team didn't miss much of a beat.
When Flynn has played quarterback for the Packers with Rodgers out, the team seems to have a similar mindset.
The two backups have a comparable stat line with their quarterback play for the Packers as well.
In his career with the Packers, which was from 1963-68 and also in 1971, Bratkowski was 4-4-1 as a starter. Zeke threw 21 touchdowns versus 29 interceptions for 3,147 yards. That adds up to a quarterback rating of 65.5.
I know what some of you are thinking: Those stats are not overly impressive. But you have to also realize that the Packers were a run-first offense in that era, and that Bratkowski always seemed to make clutch throws when they were needed.
Case in point: The 1965 Western Conference Championship game at Lambeau Field when the Packers played the Baltimore Colts. Starr was knocked out of the game early when he hurt his ribs trying to tackle linebacker Don Shinnick of the Colts who was returning a fumble for a touchdown.
Bratkowski led the Packers back from a 10-0 deficit and the Packers ended up winning 13-10 in sudden death overtime. Again, Bratkowski's stat line for that game was not superb, as he completed 22-of-39 passes for 248 yards and threw two interceptions.
But if you watched the game-tying drive in regulation and also the game-winning drive in overtime, Bratkowski was money when it came to throwing the football.
Likewise, if you check out Flynn's career stats with the Packers, he has also been a money player when the chips were down. Overall, Flynn has thrown 16 touchdown passes versus nine picks for 2,161 yards. That adds up to a quarterback rating of 89.1.
Like Bratkowski, his record as a starting quarterback of the Packers is at .500, as he is 3-3.
The game that most of Packer Nation remembers with Flynn as a starter was back on Week 17 in 2011. McCarthy decided to rest a number of regulars like Rodgers for the playoffs, so Flynn got the start against the Lions at Lambeau Field.
All Flynn did that day was to throw for 480 yards, including six touchdown passes, in a 45-41 win by the Packers.
The bottom line is that it's a very good thing when a championship-caliber team has a capable backup quarterback who can make plays when the starting quarterback can't play.
The Packers had that with Bratkowski and they currently have that with Flynn.
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