A better backup plan for the Packers
June, 4, 2014
By Rob Demovsky | ESPN.com
USA TODAY SportsScott Tolzien and Matt Flynn give the Green Bay Packers more stability than they had at this time last year at the backup quarterback position.GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between them, the Green Bay Packers' backup quarterback combination of Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien has played in 47 NFL games and thrown for 3,192 yards and 18 touchdowns.
That's 43 more games, 3,172 more yards and 18 more touchdowns than what the Packers' backups a year ago at this time had on their professional résumés.
How much better should the Packers feel about their backup quarterback situation with Flynn and Tolzien than they did last year at this time with Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman?
"We know now what Scott and Matt can do," Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. "And they'll be here all the way through training camp. That will be the big thing."
Last year, the Packers dumped both Harrell and Coleman by the time the regular season opened. They had to rely on three backups – Seneca Wallace, Tolzien and Flynn – who spent last offseason with different teams.
And when Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone on Nov. 4, it showed.
Wallace did not make it through his first start, and Tolzien – although he showed signs of a strong arm and above-average athleticism – could not avoid the costly turnovers that may have been due to a lack of experience in the Packers' offense. Flynn, who spent 2008-11 with the Packers before stints in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, finally steadied the offense and went 2-2-1 to set up Rodgers' Week 17 return.
"Not only did we have to deal with the backup, there was two we hadn't seen and they were thrown into the fire two months into the season," Nelson said. "That will be the big thing. Scott's learning, still progressing. He'll do a great job. Obviously we know how hard he works. Matt's his normal self. We know what he can do, and he proved it again last year."
The Packers re-signed Flynn to a one-year deal that could be worth up $1.068 million (with incentives) and for now, he’s the No. 2 quarterback.
"You need a quality backup, and it's great having him," Rodgers said. "And Scott's done a really nice job for us as well. He's a really hard worker, a gym rat. He's made some great strides."
Tolzien isn't sleeping on a couch in the Packers’ locker room like he did during his early days with the San Francisco 49ers, but he appears to taking advantage of his first offseason in the Packers' quarterback-friendly program.
"Scott's gotten a lot better," McCarthy said. "I think what you're seeing now with Scott Tolzien is he's comfortable with the language. He's definitely comfortable with the footwork. We've changed some things with his mechanics and fundamentals. He's a tireless worker. I don't know if there's anybody in our program that spends as much time at it as Scott does. He's getting better."
For Tolzien, it's a chance to learn both the fundamentals that McCarthy and his assistants teach their quarterbacks and also to absorb the massive playbook without the pressure of cramming a game plan into his brain in less than a week.
As important as all the offseason work – the film study, the quarterback drills, the OTA and minicamp practices – will be for Tolzien, it might be his experience in real, live NFL games last season that will make the most difference.
"When the bullets are flying and you make good plays in a game atmosphere, you realize you can do it," said Tolzien, who completed 55 of 90 passes for 717 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions in three games last season. "And that's a super powerful thing to have that inner confidence that you've done it before."