NFL Nation: Graham Harrell

Tolzein/FlynnUSA 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."
Clemens & Mallett & WhitehurstAP PhotosKellen Clemens (L to R), Ryan Mallett and Charlie Whitehurst give their teams a veteran option at the backup quarterback position.
The heavy lifting done, we've reached that point in the NFL offseason when it's acceptable to obsess about backup quarterbacks. And so here we are.

At the moment, two franchises -- the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings -- are refusing to trade backups to teams where they might have a better chance to play. Their approach, while different in the details, has in a larger sense helped illuminate the smartest approach to the position, one that bucks conventional wisdom but aligns with supply and demand.

The career backup, a veteran who has played enough to prove he isn't a starter but is still valued as a fill-in, should be a quaint notion in 2014. Smart teams are using the spot as a developmental rather than caretaker position, understanding how rare it is to find a veteran backup who can maintain a team's performance when the starter is injured.

Recent history suggests success is far more connected to a starter's durability than the experience level of the backup. Over the past three years, 31 of the NFL's 36 playoff teams have had a 15- or 16-game starter at quarterback. Only three of the remaining five got winning performances from their backups, and all of them -- Tim Tebow (2011), Colin Kaepernick (2012) and Nick Foles (2013) -- were decidedly inexperienced at the time of their ascension.

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Which would you rather have as your team's backup quarterback?

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Discuss (Total votes: 5,967)

Not everyone will accept conclusions based on a three-year sample size, but if nothing else, these figures help support an intuitive inference: There aren't enough good quarterbacks to go around and you're fortunate to have one. If he gets hurt, your path to the playoffs will be difficult no matter how experienced your backup is. That's the nature of the talent drop-off at this point in league history. Faced with a choice, why not choose the upside of a promising youngster over the low ceiling of a veteran?

Some teams seem to understand the consequence of those facts better than others. The Patriots often are hailed as a model franchise, much to the chagrin of those who wonder what would have become of them if Tom Brady had been drafted No. 198 overall instead of No. 199, but they have been ahead of the curve on this issue for a while. It has been eight years since the Patriots have employed a veteran backup (Vinny Testaverde, a mid-year acquisition in 2006) and they have since backed Brady up with inexperienced youngsters from Matt Cassel to Brian Hoyer to Ryan Mallett.

A traditionalist would argue that the Patriots, a perennial title contender, are better off with a veteran who could presumably navigate them to the playoffs. A realist would wonder if such a player exists. Is there really a net difference between Mallett's experience in the Patriots' system and, say, the experience of Ryan Fitzpatrick -- who has started 77 NFL games but lost 49 of them?

This is not to say a team should make a haphazard, hands-in-the-air decision at such an important position. A young backup must at least demonstrate proficiency in the offense during practice, and it's fair to assume Mallett has convinced the Patriots he could run their plays in a game setting if Brady were injured. Second-round draft pick Jimmy Garoppolo hasn't had time to do that yet, which to me explains coach Bill Belichick's reluctance to trade Mallett this spring.

That's a big reason the Vikings haven't parted ways with Christian Ponder, who seems unlikely to start ahead of Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater. Their stance might change as Bridgewater moves through the offseason, but for now Ponder -- like Mallett -- represents a more comfortable option to back up their starter than someone signed off the street. As with other positions, smart teams prefer to develop their own backup quarterbacks.

That's what the Green Bay Packers tried to do earlier this decade with Graham Harrell, and the folly of their shift to veteran Seneca Wallace in 2013 was exposed when starter Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone after a 5-2 start. Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn won only two of the eight games Rodgers missed a part of, and the Packers won the NFC North at 8-7-1 only after Rodgers returned for Week 17.

So what does this mean for the league overall? If you've committed to a starter, as roughly 26 of the 32 teams already have for 2014, it makes sense to prioritize development behind him rather than fool yourself into thinking you can prepare more reliably for his absence.

A Baltimore Ravens fan might be nervous with Tyrod Taylor behind starter Joe Flacco. I wouldn't be any more optimistic with, say, Charlie Whitehurst or Jason Campbell in that role. If Flacco is injured, chances are the Ravens are going to have a much more difficult time making the playoffs. Backups such as Taylor have an upside that might be revealed if and when he replaces Flacco. On the other hand, we have a pretty good idea of the lower bar a veteran would bring in that role.

The same could be said elsewhere. Do you really feel better about the San Diego Chargers' playoff chances with Kellen Clemens than you would if they had drafted, say, Zach Mettenberger? And if it doesn't work out for Jake Locker this season with the Tennessee Titans, why not play Mettenberger instead of hoping that Whitehurst can work magic he hasn't demonstrated in eight previous seasons?

Many coaches like the idea of having a "veteran in the room." If it's important enough to them, they should keep three or even four quarterbacks on their roster to accomplish that mission. But if you're committed to your starter, a veteran backup brings false confidence more than anything else. For the most part, Plan B in the NFL means missing the playoffs. You're better off hoping a young player will blossom in that role instead.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Green Bay Packers do nothing else at the quarterback position this offseason, at least they know they have someone who has proven he can win games as a backup.

That is a better situation than they were in a year ago, when they had no clue whether Graham Harrell or B.J. Coleman could function with a meaningful NFL game on the line.

Flynn
Flynn
And it's a better situation than they were in in September, when they broke training camp by cutting Harrell, Coleman and Vince Young.

By re-signing veteran quarterback Matt Flynn on Tuesday, the Packers renewed an insurance policy that paid off last season after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. Flynn came back on Nov. 12 after failing to win starting jobs with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders (and following a brief stint with the Buffalo Bills).

Just 12 days later, he rallied the Packers to a comeback tie against the Minnesota Vikings and went 2-2 in his next four starts to keep the Packers in playoff contention before Rodgers returned to win the regular-season finale -- and NFC North title -- against the Chicago Bears.

Whatever Flynn's shortcomings were (likely a lack of arm strength and an unfamiliarity with new offenses) when he got his chances in Seattle and Oakland, he has proven to be comfortable and effective in Green Bay, where he began his career in 2008 and still holds a share of the team’s single-game passing yards record (480 against the Detroit Lions in the 2011 regular-season finale, a mark Rodgers tied in Week 2 last season against the Washington Redskins).

Perhaps the Packers won't need Flynn or they will decide Scott Tolzien is a better option after he goes through coach Mike McCarthy's offseason program for the first time. But for now, they don't have to worry about the unknown that came with Coleman, who never caught on with another team; or Harrell, who, coincidentally on Tuesday, was hired as an assistant coach at Washington State, according to media reports.

Super XLV: Where are they now?

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Exactly three years ago -- on Feb. 6, 2011 -- the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV.

Since then, much has happened to the 53 players who were on the roster for that 31-25 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Arlington, Texas.

Free agency, injuries, retirement and declining performance cause roster turnover.

Still, it’s eye-opening that from the group that suited up for the Packers’ last championship, only 12 players (just 22.6 percent) remain under contract with the team for 2014. Another 11 are still officially members of the Packers, but have contracts that expire next month. There are 13 players with other NFL teams, and 17 are out of football -- perhaps for good.

Here’s a look at the status of every player who was on the active roster three years ago today at Super Bowl XLV:

Under contract for 2014

  • [+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
    Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesThree years after being named MVP of Super Bowl XLV, Aaron Rodgers is still leading the Packers.
    QB Aaron Rodgers: Threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns on the way to winning the Super Bowl XLV MVP, then won the NFL MVP award the next season. Signed a five-year, $110 million contract extension last April.
  • G Josh Sitton: Started Super Bowl XLV at right guard, but moved to left guard in 2013 and was a second-team, All-Pro selection. Signed a five-year contract extension on Sept. 2, 2011 that averages $6.75 million per season.
  • T Bryan Bulaga: Started at right tackle, but moved to left tackle last offseason. A training camp knee injury ended his 2013 season, and he now enters the final year of his rookie contract.
  • G: T.J. Lang: Served as a backup, but became the starting left guard the next season. Signed a four-year contract extension on Aug. 14, 2012 that averages $5.2 million per season. Moved to right guard last season.
  • WR Jordy Nelson: Caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl, and went on to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons in two of the next three years. Entering the final year of his contract in 2014.
  • OLB Clay Matthews: Forced a fumble in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl that the Packers recovered and turned into a touchdown to pad the lead. Four-time Pro Bowler signed a five-year, $66 million contract extension last April.
  • LB A.J. Hawk: Started and made seven tackles in the Super Bowl. Was released two months later, only to re-sign a more salary-cap friendly deal. Is under contract through 2015.
  • CB Tramon Williams: Broke up three passes in the Super Bowl, including the one that sealed the game on fourth-and-5 from the Steelers’ 33-yard line in the final minute. Entering the final year of his contract. Scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2014, and could be a candidate to be released or restructured despite a strong finish to last season.
  • K Mason Crosby: Made a 23-yard field goal in the game and signed a five-year, $14.75 million contract on July 29, 2011. Struggled in 2012, but bounced back last year to post his best season.
  • P Tim Masthay: Capped his first season with the Packers by averaging 40.5 yards and allowing the Steelers just 5 yards on punt returns in the game. Signed a four-year, $5.465 million contract extension on July 26, 2012.
  • LS Brett Goode: Has been the long snapper since 2008 and signed a three-year, $2.715 million contract extension on Oct. 13, 2012.
  • CB Jarrett Bush: Special teams player who was pressed into defensive duty in the game after injuries to Sam Shields and Charles Woodson, and intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the second quarter. Signed a three-year, $5.25 million contract on March 26, 2012.
Headed for free agency next month

  • RB James Starks: Started the Super Bowl and rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries. Battled injuries most of his career, and might not be re-signed.
  • WR James Jones: Caught five passes for 50 yards in the game, and signed a three-year, $9.6 million contract on Aug. 2, 2011. Caught 59 passes for a career-high 817 yards in 2013, and could be a re-signed despite his age (will turn 30 next month).
  • DT Ryan Pickett: Started the game, made two tackles and was in on the play in which Matthews forced Rashard Mendehall's fourth-quarter fumble. Played in all 16 games last season with a base salary of $5.4 million, but might be at the age (34) where the Packers let him walk.
  • DT B.J. Raji: Capped a strong 2010 postseason with a pair of tackles in the game. Finished his rookie contract in 2013, and reportedly turned down an $8 million-per-year offer last season.
  • DE C.J. Wilson: Started the game, but played only 14 snaps. Biggest impact came the night before the game, when he kept things loose in the team hotel by playing piano and leading a team sign-along. Finished his rookie contract in 2013.
  • FB John Kuhn: Played on both offense and special teams in the game. Signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract on Aug. 1, 2011.
  • CB Sam Shields: Suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter of the game. Had his best season in 2013 while playing under the restricted free agent tender of $2.023 million. Will command a big contract either from the Packers or another team in free agency.
  • LB Robert Francois: Went back and forth from the practice squad to the active roster throughout the 2010 season, and played on special teams in the game. Played last season under a one-year, $725,000 deal, but tore his Achilles tendon on Oct. 6.
  • TE Andrew Quarless: Caught one pass for 5 yards in the game. Suffered a major knee injury the next season and missed all of 2012. Returned last season to catch 32 passes for 312 yards (both career highs) in the final year of his rookie deal.
  • QB Matt Flynn: Served as Rodgers’ backup but did not play in the Super Bowl. Left after the 2011 season as a free agent, and after stints with Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, he returned to the Packers last season for a one-year minimum deal and played in five games after Rodgers broke his collarbone.
  • C Evan Dietrich-Smith: Was inactive for the Super Bowl. Became a starter late in 2012 and for all of 2013, when he played under the restricted free agent tender of $1.323 million deal.
With other teams

  • [+] EnlargeMcCarthy
    Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCoach Mike McCarthy and the Packers have seen a lot of roster turnover since winning Super Bowl XLV.
    WR Greg Jennings: Started and became just the third player in team history to catch multiple touchdowns in a Super Bowl by recording touchdowns of 21 and 8 yards. Signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Vikings last March.
  • G Daryn Colledge: Started at left guard, but left in free agency a few months later to sign a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Cardinals. Has started every game for the Cardinals since.
  • C Scott Wells: Started at center and remained with the Packers through the 2011 season before signing a four-year, $24 million contract with the Rams. Has missed 13 games over the past two seasons because of injuries.
  • LB Desmond Bishop: Became a starter earlier in 2010 after Nick Barnett's wrist injury and made nine tackles in the Super Bowl. Also recovered the fumble that Matthews forced. Signed a four-year, $19 million contract in 2011, but was released after missing the entire 2012 season because of a hamstring injury. Signed with the Vikings last offseason, but appeared in only four games.
  • OLB Frank Zombo: Started the game and had the Packers’ only sack of Roethlisberger but battled injuries the next two years and was released. Signed with the Chiefs last year and appeared in all 16 games.
  • CB Charles Woodson: Started at cornerback, but broke his collarbone late in the second quarter and missed the remainder of the game. Played two more seasons with the Packers, who released him last year. Returned to his old team, the Raiders, and played in all 16 games last season.
  • DE Cullen Jenkins: Played 36 snaps and had a pair of quarterback pressures. Left in free agency the following year and signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Eagles, who released him after two years. Signed a three-year, $8 million contract with the Giants last season.
  • TE Tom Crabtree: Played on both offense and special teams in the Super Bowl, catching one pass. Left last year to sign with the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent, but was limited to seven games because of injuries.
  • CB Josh Gordy: Was inactive for the game, and the next season was signed off the practice squad the by the Rams. Spent the past two seasons with the Colts.
  • G Nick McDonald: Was inactive for the game, like he was for every game that season. Was released in training camp the next year, and spent parts of the next two seasons with the Patriots. Did not play in 2013, but was recently signed by the Chargers.
  • OLB Erik Walden: Was inactive after suffering an ankle injury in the NFC Championship Game. Played the next two seasons before signing a four-year, $16 million contract with the Colts last year.
  • DE: Jarius Wynn: Was active but did not play. Played in Green Bay through 2011, and with the Titans and Chargers before landing with the Cowboys last season.
  • FB Quinn Johnson: Inactive for the game. Was traded to the Titans in 2011. Has played in 24 games for the Titans over the past three years.
Out of football

  • T Chad Clifton: Started at left tackle, but his long career with the Packers ended when they released him after he played in only six games in 2011. Was never signed by another team.
  • WR Donald Driver: Started the game and caught two passes for 28 yards before leaving with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Retired after the 2012 season as the team’s all-time leading receiver.
  • S Nick Collins: Started and made a key early play when he returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Suffered a neck injury in Week 2 of 2011 and hasn’t played since.
  • DT Howard Green: Claimed off waivers earlier that season and started the game. His hit on Roethlisberger led to Collins’ interception return for a touchdown. Returned in 2011 and played in all 16 games, but has not played since.
  • WR Brett Swain: Posted a team-high four special teams tackles. Was released the following season and played briefly with the 49ers. Was cut in training camp last season by the Seahawks.
  • S Atari Bigby: Played on special teams. Signed with the Seahawks the following season and played in 15 games. Played in eight games with the Chargers in 2012, but did not play in 2013.
  • CB Pat Lee: Special teams player who saw action on defense after injuries to Woodson and Shields. Played one more season in Green Bay before splitting time in 2012 between the Lions and Raiders. Did not play in 2013.
  • RB Brandon Jackson: Played as the third-down back, but did not have any carries in the game. Caught one pass for 14 yards. Signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Browns in 2011, but missed all of that season and played in only two games in 2012.
  • FB Korey Hall: Caught one pass for 2 yards and made one special teams tackle in the game. He played in 13 games with the Saints in 2011, and retired after going to camp with the Cardinals in 2012.
  • S Charlie Peprah: Led the Packers with 10 tackles (including nine solo stops). Returned as a starter in 2011, when he had five interceptions, but was released shortly before training camp in 2012. Played in five games for the Cowboys in 2012.
  • LB Diyral Briggs: Made one special teams tackle in the game, but never played in another NFL game.
  • LB Matt Wilhelm: Made two special teams tackles, but seven-year career ended after that game.
  • G Jason Spitz: Played on special teams. Left in free agency the next year and signed a three-year, $4.05 million contract with the Jaguars, who released him in training camp last summer. He signed with the Seahawks, but was released on Oct. 12.
  • TE Donald Lee: Played in the game, but did not have a catch and was released two months later. Played in nine games for the Bengals in 2001.
  • QB Graham Harrell: Inactive for the game. Remained with the Packers until he was released in training camp last summer. Also spent time briefly with the Jets before being released.
  • RB Dimitri Nance: Inactive for the game. Was released by the Packers the following summer and never played in another NFL game.
  • CB Brandon Underwood: Inactive for the game. Was released in 2011. Went to camp with the Raiders in 2012 and Cowboys in 2013, but did not make either team.

Double Coverage: Packers-Cowboys

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
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IRVING, Texas -- The Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys are two of the most storied franchises in NFL history, but with three games to play in the 2013 season both are on the outside of the playoff chase and in need of a win.

The Packers have fallen on hard times without Aaron Rodgers but won last week against the Atlanta Falcons. The Cowboys are coming off a humiliating loss to the Chicago Bears and have a short week to get ready.

ESPN.com Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer debate the matchup in this week's Double Coverage.

Archer: I'll skip the "What's Aaron Rodgers status?" and ask about Ted Thompson's approach to the backup quarterback. The Cowboys pay Kyle Orton a lot of money to hopefully never throw a pass. Is there any regret form the Packers that they did not have a better backup quarterback situation behind Rodgers, considering their struggles without him?

[Editor's note: Rodgers was officially ruled out for Sunday's game on Friday.]

Demovsky: Thompson admitted at the end of training camp that he probably should have signed Vince Young much earlier than he did, although after watching Young for about a month, I'm not sure he would have been any better had the Packers signed back in the spring. Where they probably erred was in not drafting a quarterback. They overestimated what they had in Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman, and neither one developed enough. When Ron Wolf was the GM, he made it a regular practice to draft a quarterback in the middle-to -late rounds. Not all of them worked out, but guys like Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks all came up through the Packers' system.

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Tony Romo is "playing probably as good as he has in his career." Do you agree with that assessment?

Archer: I'd agree with that, sure. It's hard to argue against his numbers. He has 3,244 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's taking care of the ball. He had one really careless throw and it cost the Cowboys big-time in their loss to the Denver Broncos. Romo gets most of the blame for the December/January woes this team has had, but in his last 16 games he has 34 touchdowns and seven picks. It's hard to play better than that. But you know what? He has to. This defense is so bad that Romo has to be nearly perfect. There can be no poor drives. If they don't get points they at least need to chew up time because there's not an offense the Cowboys can slow down right now.

When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV at AT&T Stadium they were able to overcome so many injuries, especially on defense as we talked about. The difference this year is Rodgers missing time, but is there anything more to it than that?

Demovsky: They did end up with 15 players in injured reserve in their Super Bowl season, and then during that game itself they lost Charles Woodson to a broken collarbone. But you know what? This defense played fine early this season and even during the stretch Clay Matthews missed because of his broken thumb. Capers said last week that losing Rodgers had nothing to do with the Packers' defensive slide, but I'm not buying it. The Packers' defense got four turnovers in the Thanksgiving game at Detroit and still got walloped 40-10 because the offense couldn't do a darn thing with them. To be sure, there are issues on defense. Their failure to address needs at safety has hurt them up the middle, where their inside linebackers also haven't played well enough.

It sounds like Monte Kiffin is already taking heat, but how much of it is personnel? When I saw Packers castoff Jarius Wynn playing Monday night against the Bears, to me that was a red flag that there are talent issues, perhaps some of them caused by injuries.

Archer: There are talent issues and there are depth issues. Blame the owner and GM who constructed this team. Blame the coaches -- Kiffin and Rod Marinelli -- for saying the line was a position of strength. The Cowboys thought they had pieces to fit Kiffin's scheme at the start of the year. DeMarcus Ware has not been DeMarcus Ware in part because of injuries, but he acknowledged he has to play better. Bruce Carter was supposed to be the ideal weak-side linebacker and he just has not made any plays. The corners are more man corners and Kiffin has tried to play more man but all of them -- Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick -- have had issues. Sean Lee has been hurt and could miss Sunday's game with a neck injury. He's been good but the defense has been lit up with him on the field, too. It's just a mess. Until Jerry Jones realizes he needs better players, not necessarily better schemes, it will be a mess.

Let's stick with the defensive coordinators. From the outside looking in, it appears Capers is catching a lot of grief too. Are the Packers committed to the 3-4 regardless or could they pull a Dallas and move to a 4-3 in the future?

Demovsky: When the cornerstone of the defense is Matthews, an outside linebacker, I would think they'd have to stick with the 3-4 even if they part ways with Capers, which I'm not sure will happen anyway. Mike McCarthy has continually praised Capers and the defensive staff. It's probably more about personnel. They need a few more playmakers to help out Matthews. They haven't gotten enough production from their defensive front. I'd look for an overhaul in personnel more than a coaching change.

Knowing the temperature in the Cowboys locker room like you do, how do you think they will react to getting steamrolled Monday night? Is this a group that will fight? Or will they pack it in?

Archer: This is where I have to give Jason Garrett credit. This team has fought. Maybe they didn't fight all that much in the losses to New Orleans and Chicago, but they have not packed it in. You saw the last time the Cowboys packed it in in 2010 at Lambeau Field when Wade Phillips was the coach. The Cowboys lost 45-7 and were completely disinterested. Phillips was fired the next day and Garrett took over. There is some gumption to this team. They do work hard. They do the right things. I'll say it again: Most of it is a talent issue. I'd expect the Cowboys to come out with the effort Sunday because they're still very much in the playoff chase. But do they believe they can really make a run? I don't know about that.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots had 11 players in for tryouts on Friday, a group that included quarterbacks Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and Austin Davis.

The Patriots have just two quarterbacks on their active roster, Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett, and have an opening on their practice squad. So it's possible that they could be looking to add a third layer of depth at the position.

At the same time, it is commonplace for the team to work out players at numerous positions as they keep emergency lists fresh. This happens on a yearly basis, especially at this time on the calendar.

Of the quarterbacks, Harrell has the biggest name recognition from his college career at Texas Tech. He was most recently with the Packers and briefly with the Jets.

Also notable on the workout list was former Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer.

The full list of workouts for the Patriots, with the player's college:

WR Josh Bellamy (Louisville)
RB Damien Berry (Miami)
WR Chad Bumphis (Mississippi State)
QB B.J. Coleman (Chattanooga)
QB Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi)
RB Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech)
NT Sione Fua (Stanford)
QB Graham Harrell (Texas Tech)
RB Cameron Marshall (Arizona State)
DT Clinton McDonald (Memphis)
NT Andre Neblett (Temple)

A wild ride: Nine QBs in 18 months

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
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Does the Jets' quarterback situation make your head spin? Welcome to the club.

The last 18 months have been like a ride on the Coney Island Cyclone. We're talking about nine quarterbacks, three free-agent signings, three cuts, two trades, one retirement and one contract extension. Pop a dramamine, and relive the madness:

UNDER GM MIKE TANNENBAUM

March 12, 2012: The Jets profess their faith in Mark Sanchez, rewarding a mediocre season with a three-year contract extension -- a total package of five years, $58 million.

March 16: They sign former Lions backup Drew Stanton to serve as Sanchez's primary backup, giving him a $500,000 signing bonus.

March 22: Stunning the NFL, the Jets trade for Tim Tebow and name him the No. 2 backup. Hello, quarterback controversy. Stanton immediately requests his release.

March 24: Stanton is traded to the Colts. He makes a half-million bucks for a week of doing nothing.

2012 season: Pick a day, any day. Dysfunction reigns throughout the season.

UNDER GM JOHN IDZIK

March 12, 2013: On the one-year anniversary of their commitment to Sanchez, the Jets sign veteran David Garrard to compete with Sanchez for the starting job. Team officials are blown away by his workout, downplaying (or ignoring) his chronic knee condition. Privately, they say he has a good chance to win the job.

April 27: They draft Geno Smith in the second round, changing the landscape of the position. Idzik, with a straight face, calls it an open competition with six QBs -- Smith, Sanchez, Tebow, Garrard, Greg McElroy and neophyte Matt Simms.

April 30: After showing up for two weeks of off-season workouts, Tebow finally gets his release -- a foregone conclusion.

May 15: Unable to make it through a month of OTAs, Garrard announces his retirement, citing chronic knee pain -- an unexpected snag in Idzik's grand plan.

Aug. 9: Smith sprains an ankle in his first preseason game. Another snag.

Aug. 24: Sanchez suffers a significant shoulder injury because of Rex Ryan's controversial decision to play him in the fourth quarter behind the second-team line -- yet another snag in the plan. This time, it's a $715,000 mistake. Read on.

Aug. 28: The Jets sign Packers castoff Graham Harrell, giving them five quarterbacks. The depth chart is growing at a time when most teams are cutting down.

Aug. 31: McElroy is waived with an injury. Simms, their best quarterback in the preseason, makes the 53-man roster.

Sept. 1: The Jets quietly fly the well-traveled Brady Quinn into town for a workout.

Sept. 2: With Sanchez expected to miss a few weeks, the Jets sign Quinn to a one-year deal, probably for the $715,000 veteran minimum. Harrell is released. Quinn is expected to open the season as the No. 2 quarterback, essentially filling Tebow's role. That's interesting because Quinn wasn't good enough to beat out Tebow in 2011 with the Broncos.

This can only happen to the Jets.

Wallace might be good fit for Packers

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Sure it’s only the backup quarterback -- and that caveat will stick as long as Aaron Rodgers stays upright -- but the Green Bay Packers haven’t found themselves scrambling at that position so close to the start of the regular season in years.

Wallace
In the 5˝ weeks since training camp opened, they have had four different No. 2 quarterbacks. It began with Graham Harrell, whose release on Aug. 24 gave way to Vince Young (who wasn’t signed until Aug. 5). B.J. Coleman had the job, albeit for only two days, after Young was released on Saturday. By Monday morning, Coleman was on the streets, and the Packers signed veteran backup Seneca Wallace.

“You go through that, you create opportunities, you evaluate and you assess,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “That’s really the matter of what happened. So if it didn’t work out the way people are used to, I make no apologies for that at all.”

Now, McCarthy and his coaches will have one week to prepare Wallace just in case he would have to play in the season opener at San Francisco on Sunday. They had nearly a month to get Young up to speed and that did not work out, but perhaps the process will be easier with Wallace, who has been a career backup.

“He clearly understands the role,” McCarthy said.

What’s more, the 33-year-old Wallace has vast experience in the West Coast offense that McCarthy’s system is rooted in. From 2003-09, Wallace played for the Seattle Seahawks under former Packers coach Mike Holmgren.

“It has a lot of carryover from the West Coast terminology that I’m used to,” Wallace said. “Mike Holmgren was here, and I was with him in Seattle for seven years. There’s a lot of carryover. Now it’s just trying to hone in, especially in this kind of week with the game coming up, and I just got here, trying to take in as much as I can.”

The Packers first expressed an interest in Wallace last season, when they brought him in for a workout in October. The former Iowa State standout was out of football all of last season after he was released by the Browns at the end of training camp. He signed with the New Orleans Saints this past April but was released midway through training camp. He then spent less than a week with the San Francisco 49ers before he left the team on the day of their preseason finale.

There’s no telling how well Wallace would be able to function if he had to play, especially early in the season, and there’s no guarantee he will turn out to be a better option than Harrell, Young or Coleman.

But when Wallace gets acclimated, he might be a valuable resource for Rodgers on the sideline during games and in the meeting room during the week.

“I think it’s been some years since they had a veteran quarterback backup to try to help A-Rod during the game and during the meetings and things like that,” Wallace said. “Just some of the insight that I can provide being around for a long time. I guess I’m the oldest one in the locker room [actually second oldest to Ryan Pickett], which is hilarious. It’s exciting just to be able to keep playing in this journey, and so I’m just excited to be here.”

The case for Seneca Wallace

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In the NFL, so often coaches and general managers rely on the familiar.

Such is the case with 33-year-old Seneca Wallace, who, as Ed Werder first reported Monday morning, was signed to be the Green Bay Packers’ newest backup quarterback.

Take a look at Wallace’s career path. In 2003, he was a fourth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who at the time had Mike Holmgren as their coach and general manager. Wallace had an unusual career in Seattle, where sometimes he played receiver when he wasn’t needed at quarterback. When he did play quarterback, he went 5-9 as a starter, with his most extensive playing time coming in 2008 after Matt Hasselbeck sustained a knee injury. Wallace started eight games that season, going 3-5.

In 2010, Wallace was traded to Cleveland, where Holmgren had become the Browns' president only a few months earlier. Wallace started seven games over the next two seasons, but won just one of them.

Wallace hasn’t played in an NFL regular-season game since 2011 and his most recent stint with an NFL team was a week-long stay with the San Francisco 49ers, which ended last week in bizarre fashion, with coach Jim Harbaugh saying Wallace would retire and Wallace later denying that.

Which brings us back to the Packers, whose general manager, Ted Thompson, was Holmgren’s top personnel man in Seattle from 2000 to '04. So Thompson not only knows Wallace well but has seen him play in an offense that is similar to what Packers coach Mike McCarthy runs.

Still, familiarity doesn’t always breed success. There’s been little in Wallace’s history to suggest he could keep the Packers afloat in a playoff race if something happened to Aaron Rodgers.

Thompson has been in a scramble mode with his backup quarterbacks ever since he signed Vince Young on Aug. 5 after Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman got off to shaky starts to training camp. Thompson released Harrell on Aug. 24 and Young on Saturday. The Packers briefly had Coleman as the only quarterback behind Rodgers. To make room for Wallace, the Packers released Coleman.

With Wallace, the Packers now expect to have two quarterbacks with ties to the 49ers, their Week 1 opponent. They plan to sign Scott Tolzien, who was released by San Francisco last week, to their practice squad.

But for those who think the Packers signed Wallace to help with preparation for the 49ers, it should be noted that he spent only a week there this summer, and as a vested NFL veteran, the Packers would be on the hook for his entire 2013 base salary (likely the league minimum) if he’s on the Week 1 roster.

New York Jets cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
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Most significant move: It wasn't a surprise, but the New York Jets waived Greg McElroy, their only quarterback not named Mark Sanchez who has started a game in the NFL. Granted, McElroy has only one career start, but the move is significant because it underscores the lack of experience at the position. If Sanchez (shoulder) doesn't dress for the season opener, it leaves the position to Geno Smith, Matt Simms and Graham Harrell, who have a combined total of four career pass attempts -- all by Harrell. The former Packers backup made the final cut despite having spent only three days with the Jets. McElroy was waived with an injury, so he wouldn't have been ready for Week 1 anyway. Still, this is a precarious situation to say the least.

Not much depth on offense: Aside from quarterback, the Jets are perilously thin at a few spots. They have only five receivers, one of whom (Santonio Holmes) is a question mark because of his surgically repaired foot. The group includes a rookie free agent, Ryan Spadola. They also don't have an experienced backup at tackle. Jason Smith was supposed to be that guy, but he was atrocious in the final preseason game. Vladimir Ducasse can play some tackle, but that's not his best spot. Rookie OT Oday Aboushi (fifth-round pick) isn't ready to play. They have low numbers in the backfield -- only four backs, although Mike Goodson will be eligible to return from his suspension in Week 5.

What's ahead: The Jets need help on offense. You can't go into a season with Aboushi as your No. 3 tackle, so look for them to address this over the next 24 hours. Anybody up for a Wayne Hunter reunion? The wide receiver situation is interesting. Right now, the Jets have only three healthy and experienced receivers. They're either confident Holmes will return for the opener or they have plans to add a veteran. The quarterback situation bears watching, too. If Sanchez is sidelined a few weeks, it might behoove New York to import an experienced backup. A couple of former Marty Mornhinweg-ites are available -- Vince Young and Trent Edwards.

Jets cuts: QB Greg McElroy (injured), RB Mossis Madu (injured), WR Michael Campbell, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, WR Ben Obomanu, WR Zach Rogers, TE Chris Pantale, C Erik Cook, OT J.B. Shugarts, OT Jason Smith, DL Junior Aumavae, DL Lanier Coleman, DL Tevita Finau, DL Antonio Garay, LB Troy Davis, LB JoJo Dickson, LB Jacquies Smith, DB Royce Adams, DB Mike Edwards, DB Rontez Miles, PK Dan Carpenter.

Placed on reserve/suspended: RB Mike Goodson.

If not Vince Young, then who?

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Vince Young didn’t play as well in Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City as the Green Bay Packers had hoped.

Young
In 11 series, Young managed only a pair of field-goal drives, one which came without the benefit of a first down after cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel on the first play of the game. On Young’s other nine possessions, the Packers either punted (seven times), turned it over (once on a Young fumble) or ran out of time at the end of the game.

In his first preseason start, Young completed 14-of-30 passes for 144 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked twice and finished with a passer rating of 61.0.

Although he played only one series with the starting offensive line and just two snaps with receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, Young did little to convince the Packers he could play winning football if something were to happen to Aaron Rodgers.

On Friday, ESPN’s Ed Werder indicated that Young could be in trouble.

 
The problem for the Packers is that their options appear to be limited.

B.J. Coleman, who played four series against the Chiefs and completed just 2-of-7 passes for 19 yards with no touchdowns and an interception (45.2 passer rating), is not NFL-game ready. He needs another year on the practice squad before he can make a stronger push for the backup job.

The Packers’ investment in Young is minimal financially -- he’s scheduled to make the veteran’s minimum of $715,000 if he makes the roster -- but they spent nearly a month of training camp giving him practice and game reps. If they were to bring in another quarterback off the street, they would be starting over.

There isn’t another quarterback currently on the market that has any experience in coach Mike McCarthy’s system. Graham Harrell, who was cut by the Packers last Saturday, signed with the New York Jets. Even if the Jets release him, a return to Green Bay is unlikely. Matt Flynn, who was the Packers’ backup from 2008-2011, was competing with Terrelle Pryor to be the Oakland Raiders starter. Even if the Raiders go with Pryor, they may keep Flynn as the backup.
Although he was not one of the pregame scratches, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will not play in Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City, the team announced shortly before kickoff.

The team also announced shortly before kickoff that linebacker Clay Matthews and tight end Jermichael Finley wouldn't play.

None of those three moves was believed to be injury-related.

That means Rodgers’ preseason action will have consisted of just five series and 45 snaps.

The Packers will get a long look at backup quarterback Vince Young, who was elevated to the No. 2 spot after Graham Harrell was released last Saturday.

The following players were ruled out before the game:
Add another chair to the Jets' quarterback room.

The Jets have agreed to terms with former Packers backup Graham Harrell, FoxSports reported early Wednesday morning. Harrell, released last Saturday by the Packers, will report Wednesday to the Jets, the report said.

Harrell
This means the Jets have five quarterbacks on the roster, back where they were in the spring. It probably means Greg McElroy, out the past two games with knee and ankle injuries, isn't healthy enough to play Thursday night against the Eagles. McElroy, the No. 3 quarterback for two years, could be on the bubble. The Jets also don't know if Mark Sanchez (shoulder) will be ready for opening day.

Rex Ryan refused to reveal his QB plans for Thursday night, let alone Week 1. Barring a change, Matt Simms is expected to start against the Eagles. Sanchez is out and Geno Smith probably won't play.

Harrell, who served as Aaron Rodgers' backup for three seasons, lost his job to Vince Young. He has only 32 regular-season snaps on his record, but Harrell has been prolific in the preseason -- 208 career attempts. He's familiar with the West Coast offense, which should help his transition.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A day after the Green Bay Packers released backup quarterback Graham Harrell, the beneficiary of that move, Vince Young, tried to act like nothing changed.

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsPackers backup QB Vince Young will see more action in Thursday's preseason finale at Kansas City.
In one respect, he was correct.

Even though the practice snaps on Sunday indicated he has now assumed the job of backing up Aaron Rodgers, Young still must figure out how to absorb coach Mike McCarthy’s massive playbook in time to be effective if he had to play early in the regular season.

“It’s still a learning process,” Young said. “Nothing’s really changed.”

To review, Young was out of football for 11 months until the Packers signed him on Aug. 5. By the time he arrived for his first training camp practice, McCarthy and his offensive coaching staff already had presented seven of the eights part of their playbook to the players.

Young, 30, has played seven series combined in the first three preseason games, but his performance on Friday against the Seattle Seahawks was enough to convince McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson that the former first-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans would be a better option than Harrell, who had been with the Packers since 2010.

“Tough decision to release Graham, more so on a personal level,” McCarthy said. “Graham’s been with us for three years. Very fond of him. He was developing and getting better. At the end of the day, we talk about creating opportunities and performance, and we feel at this particular time we’re going in another direction with the two remaining (backup) quarterbacks.”

While McCarthy insisted that Young and B.J. Coleman, who spent last season on the practice squad, are still competing for the backup job, the reality is that Coleman appears to be at least another year away from making a serious run at it.

“I really feel like the job is still up in the air right now,” Young said. “I feel like me and B.J. are still competing. Overall, it’s not about us, really, it’s about the team and pushing each other so we can bring the talent out of both of us as well as Aaron. Just pushing each other. That’s what it’s all about.”

Both are expected to receive extensive playing time in Thursday’s preseason game at Kansas City, meaning Young’s playing time will increase significantly. It also means Young will have to take an increased number of plays into the game. The first three games, Young has been limited to mostly play-action bootlegs, which play into his strengths as a mobile quarterback, and short-to-intermediate passing routes.

While Young has completed 12-of-19 passes, his passing yards (74) and yards per attempt (3.89) indicate how limited his play selection has been. Also, Young often has relied on his scrambling ability, rushing for 58 yards on six attempts.

“You want Vince to be able to take as much as he can and, it has increased each week,” McCarthy said. “And we’ll definitely try to do that this week."

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Earlier on Saturday, the debate was whether the Green Bay Packers would value Vince Young’s dynamic playmaking ability enough to overlook the fact he may not have a firm grasp of the playbook for weeks or possibly even months.

By making the decision to release Graham Harrell, the Packers’ backup last season, coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson essentially admitted that Young’s talents outweighed Harrell’s knowledge of the offense. When Young was signed Aug. 5, the Packers had already installed seven of their eight parts to the offense, while Harrell had been with the team since 2010.

The Packers surely were waiting for a sign that the 30-year-old Young could offer them more than the steady-yet-unspectacular presence of Harrell. That sign came against the Seattle Seahawks on Friday, when Young led an impressive 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive during which he made plays with his feet (scrambles of 21 and 18 yards) and his arm (a 16-yard completion to tight end Andrew Quarless and a 1-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jonathan Amosa).

Now, it will be up to McCarthy, offensive coordinator Tom Clements and quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo to get Young to the point where he knows enough of the offense that he could function for a full game if something were to happen to starter Aaron Rodgers.

“It’s going to take a lot of work behind the scenes,” Young said after Friday’s game. “Me and Benny and Coach Clements, we’re doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes. I’m trying my hardest to catch up with the guys, but they’re more advanced right now.”

Note: The Packers made at least two other roster moves Saturday. They released receivers Omarius Hines and Justin Wilson, the agents for each player told ESPN.com. Teams have until Tuesday to reduce their rosters to 75 players. The final cut to 53 is Aug. 31.

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