Graham Harrell will have to play better than he did Friday night if he's going to hold off Vince Young and B.J. Coleman for Green Bay's No. 2 quarterback job behind star Aaron Rodgers.
Harrell also will have to play better to avoid being booed, as he was by a portion of the Lambeau Field-record crowd of 73,738 during the Packers' 17-0 exhibition loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
"Oh, yeah," Harrell said. "You always hear those. But that's part of the game."
Harrell completed 12-of-19 passes for 76 yards with two sacks, an interception and a 49.5 rating against. He also lost a fumble on one of the sacks, by John Abraham, and was at fault on the other, by Tyrann Mathieu, when he missed the pre-snap protection adjustment and couldn't high-step away from the diving Mathieu on the 12-yard loss.
"Graham has to play better, and it's tough," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Saturday, after breaking down the Packers' first scoreless exhibition game since a 9-0, rain-shortened loss to Kansas City in the 2003 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
"Playing quarterback in the preseason, it's never clean, and it's been like that as long as I've been in this league. You're going to have things go wrong. You're going to have guys run the route too deep and your guy who doesn't get off the press and they run into each other. Then you have to go on to the next receiver. It's those types of things — where you have to play through odd looks, play through situations that someone gets beat and throw the ball away, things like that.
"It's a challenge for any of those guys that get in there at that time because you've got some guys playing in their first NFL game, you've got some guys playing right tackle that haven't even practiced there. That's the way the preseason goes. For quarterbacks particularly, you have to play above that."
In the annual intrasquad scrimmage Aug. 3, Harrell had done just that, leading a collection of backups to 10 points and unofficially completing 9 of 12 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. And in the two practices after the team brought Young in for a tryout on Monday, Harrell had thoroughly outplayed both Coleman and Young, the 2006 No. 3 overall pick, NFL Rookie of the Year and two-time Pro Bowler who was out of football last year.
"Competition is only going to make you better, it's only going to make you fight and scratch and claw to keep your position," quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo said. "Graham probably doesn't get as much respect as he deserves, but you know what? He's got the edge right now, and I think he's competing for his job."
While Harrell probably wouldn't have sewn up the job with a better performance against the Cardinals, he could have put greater distance between him and his challengers. Instead, even though Young only had time to learn a sliver of the playbook (he completed one pass for 7 yards and ran twice for 12 yards) and Coleman continued his summer-long struggles (2 for 7, 15 yards), Harrell may have come back to the pack a bit.