Monday, November 25, 2013
Preparing the right quarterback critical
By Rob Demovsky
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In all likelihood, Aaron Rodgers isn't going to rescue the Green Bay Packers.
At least not this week.
Not after coach Mike McCarthy on Monday called his quarterback's chances of returning for Thursday's game at the Detroit Lions, "slim to none."
And make no mistake about it, their season is in serious need of rescuing. Still winless since Rodgers broke his collarbone on Nov. 4 and sitting at 5-5-1, the Packers are long past the point where they can wait for Rodgers to save them.
"Exactly," receiver James Jones said Monday. "That's what I've been trying to say from the get-go, and I'm sure he wants this, too. We've got to find a way to win one for him. All he puts into this, we've got to find a way to get one done."
Short of an unlikely Thanksgiving return by Rodgers, McCarthy's most important task this week might be picking the right quarterback and preparing him adequately on short notice.
In each of the first three games without Rodgers, the choice was more or less made for him.
Against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 10, it was an easy call to start Seneca Wallace given that he had relieved Rodgers against the Chicago Bears and that Scott Tolzien had only been promoted from the practice squad earlier that week. A week later at the New York Giants, Tolzien was the best option after he finished the game against the Eagles following Wallace's first-quarter groin injury. Tolzien played well enough against the Giants, throwing for 339 yards despite three interceptions, to earn the start on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings only to get benched midway through the third quarter.
Perhaps the choice isn't as simple this week after Matt Flynn, who was re-signed on Nov. 12, rallied the Packers from a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit to a tie against the Vikings. Or maybe McCarthy just wants to keep the Lions guessing. Either way, he wouldn't say Monday whether he would start Flynn or Tolzien.
"I want them both ready," McCarthy said.
That's difficult in a normal week, when most of the practice time is devoted to preparing the starting quarterback. It will be even tougher this week because of the quick turnaround. The Packers did not practice on Monday. They are scheduled to practice for no more than 90 minutes on Tuesday and an hour on Wednesday before they fly to Detroit.
"Obviously with four days it's difficult to get anybody ready, but we've got to make sure they're both ready because like I already stated, we played four quarterbacks in four weeks," McCarthy said.
If the Packers go with Flynn, he will need the majority of the work. He said in the two weeks since he has been back with the Packers, he has taken a total of eight practice snaps -- four each week -- with the starting offense.
As good as he looked while throwing for 218 yards and a touchdown on 21-of-36 passing against the Vikings and as proficient as he seemed running the no-huddle -- something McCarthy had not entrusted Tolzien with -- there were rough spots.
"There was definitely a couple times yesterday when my brain was scrambling at the line of scrimmage," Flynn said. "So I've got to work hard in the playbook to make sure that doesn't happen this week."
Flynn took responsibility for the three false-start penalties -- two on guard T.J. Lang and one on center Evan Dietrich-Smith -- in the overtime period.
"Every quarterback has a little bit different cadence, snap count and just haven't gotten many reps with guys," Flynn said. "Then towards the end, we were going in two-minute, so obviously Aaron does his snap count a little bit different, and I probably maybe held it for too long. It's just different. To put all the fault on the offensive line is, I think I have to take most of the credit for that."