WHAT WE KNOW
With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have the best quarterback in the NFL and its reigning league MVP.
What can Rodgers do for an encore? In guiding Green Bay to 560 points — second-most in NFL history — Rodgers set a single-season league record with a passer rating of 122.5. He threw 45 touchdowns against just six interceptions.
None of Rodgers’ success has gone to his head. Even with a complete mastery of the offense, Rodgers didn’t miss a day of the Packers’ offseason program, according to coach Mike McCarthy.
“He’s a tremendous leader, he’s a tremendous role model,” McCarthy said. “He gets obviously a lot of notoriety for the way he plays but he does all the little things behind the scenes, and that is huge for our football team.”
Really, the only question is how Rodgers will adapt to a new position coach. With Tom Clements promoted to offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo was slid over from tight ends coach to quarterbacks coach. Initially, Rodgers said he hoped McCarthy would hire a former quarterback; McAdoo had no experience with the position other than sitting in on quarterbacks school in 2010.
“I understood where he was coming from,” McAdoo said. “I’m not defensive about that. I didn’t play the position, I’ve never coached the position. I have something to prove. I’m very capable. I’ve never been the pretty girl in the room. I’ve always had to work for what I have, and I like that.”
“I think every player wants to be coached,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re Year 1 or Year 8 or Year 15, you want to be coached. I’m no different. I enjoy a new face in the room with some new ideas to motivate me and challenge me. Because it’s a different voice in the room, there’s going to be times when he brings things up that you probably haven’t heard before.”
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
With Graham Harrell and rookie B.J. Coleman, the Packers have — on paper, anyway — the worst backup situation of any team in the league.
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Based on projected depth charts by Ourlads.com, the Packers have the only No. 2 quarterback in the league to have never thrown a pass. On top of that, Harrell is one of seven projected No. 2s to have never started a game in the NFL. Contrast that to the rest of the NFL North, with Chicago’s Jason Campbell having 70 starts, Detroit’s Shaun Hill having 26 starts and Minnesota’s Sage Rosenfels having 12 starts.
Harrell set numerous records at Texas Tech, including most passing touchdowns and completions. Not only did he go undrafted in 2009, but he wasn’t even signed. In 2009 and 2010, he participated in the Browns’ rookie camp on a tryout basis but wasn’t offered a contract. He joined the Packers in 2010 and just went through their offseason program for the first time.
“Graham’s getting better,” McCarthy said. “Really, the preseason games will be the biggest challenge for Graham. That will be his biggest test because the classroom, the fundamentals, he’s hitting all the targets you like to see. I’m anxious to see him play in the games. Mentally, he’s prepared himself, he knows the offense. He’s done a very good job with the protection adjustments and all the little nuances of our offense that take a little more time. B.J.’s exciting. He’s a whirl a minute, he has a lot of questions, he’s always talking, a lot of energy. Talented young man, but he’s got a lot to learn. I feel good about those two guys, and they have an excellent mentor in Aaron Rodgers.
BATTLE TO WATCH
No. 2 quarterback: This is clearly Harrell’s position to lose. He knows the offense, he’s seen NFL defenses and he’s fundamentally sound. The knock on Harrell is his arm strength. There are no such knocks on Coleman’s arm. He can flat-out zing it. However, McAdoo and the coaches are tearing apart his fundamentals, so his time to shine might not be until 2013.
NUMBER TO NOTE
28.3: In his 62 career starts, Rodgers has led the Packers to 28.3 points per game. That’s tops in NFL history for a quarterback with at least 50 starts, followed by Philip Rivers’ 27.5 and Otto Graham and Norm Van Brocklin tied at 27.1.
Clements on Rodgers: “He’s the entire package. He’s what you’re looking for in every aspect. He has great physical talent. He can move around, he has a strong arm, he’s accurate, he’s smart, makes good decisions, makes them quickly. All those things combined him make him, in my mind, the prototype of what you’re looking for in an NFL QB.”
Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers had the greatest quarterbacking season in NFL history, which is fitting, because his career passer rating of 104.1 is a stunning 7.2 points better than Tony Romo’s second-place 96.9 and 7.3 points better than Hall of Famer Steve Young’s third-place 96.8.
Graham Harrell: Since signing with Green Bay in 2010, Harrell’s spent most of his career on the practice squad, getting late-season call-ups both times. He had a rating of 75.7 last preseason but rallied the Packers to victory at Indianapolis.
B.J. Coleman: The seventh-round pick from Tennessee-Chattanooga worked with Brett Favre before the draft and has been soaking up Rodgers’ knowledge in Green Bay. “There’s a lot of things that Aaron thinks about when he comes to the line that I’m not there yet.”
Total: 3. On 2011 opening roster: 2.
Final prediction: Rodgers, Harrell and Coleman.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.