For Greener Pastures and a Chance to Start

Matt Flynn is one of six backup quarterbacks in Green Bay since 1993 to have left for a legitimate shot at becoming a starter. While those who departed via free agency haven't fared well, those who were traded found a measure of success.

Matt Flynn is in as good of a position as any former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback over the last 20 years to succeed with his new team.

Not only does he have a new three-year, $26 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks, but he has been tutored by three of the best in the NFL in coaches Mike McCarthy and Tom Clements and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And for good measure, he has the most prolific passing game in Packers history to build upon.

Flynn's 480-yard, six-touchdown performance in the regular-season finale last season, in a game in which the Packers chose to sit Rodgers with the No. 1 playoff seed locked up, was timely to say the least. Flynn already had become regarded in league circles as one of the best backups. But to do it on the field, three months before becoming an unrestricted free agent at 26 years old, was a major boost to his stock.

Being the full-time starter, however, will be a different challenge. Since the advent of the NFL's modern free agency system in 1993, six former Packers backups have either left or been shipped to new teams for greener pastures and the chance to be an NFL starting quarterback. Here they are:

Craig Nall

Nall never was considered the next great thing while in Green Bay, but he showed enough improvement to land an unrestricted free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills in 2006. After being drafted by the Packers in 2002, he spent the next four years either as the No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback behind Brett Favre while adding a stint in NFL Europe, where he was the league's leading passer. With Favre still going strong and the Packers drafting Rodgers in 2005, Nall looked for a chance in Buffalo. But competing for a starting spot in his first preseason with the Bills, a hamstring injury set him back. A year later, the Bills released him, opting instead for J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards. Nall went on to short stints with the Houston Texans, one more with the Packers in 2007, and one in the UFL. He never started a game in the NFL.

Matt Hasselbeck

Probably the most successful of the Packers' backups, Hasselbeck went on to become a Super Bowl and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback with the Seahawks. Drafted by the Packers in the sixth round in 1998, he was on the practice squad before backing up Favre for two seasons. Seeing his potential and having coached him for a season in Green Bay, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren traded for Hasselbeck in a March 5, 2001, deal. Hasselbeck was a 10-year starter in Seattle before moving on to Tennessee last season. He has 33,150 career passing yards and 194 touchdown passes.

Aaron Brooks

Brooks' time in Green Bay was short-lived. Drafted in the fourth round in 1999, he was traded on July 31, 2000, to the New Orleans Saints. Brooks never played in a game with the Packers his rookie season, serving as the third-string quarterback behind Favre and Hasselbeck. The Saints, however, looked at him as a potential franchise quarterback. After making five starts his first year in New Orleans when filling in for the injured Jeff Blake, Brooks put together five productive seasons as the full-time starter, rating among the top half of quarterbacks in the league. From 2000 through 2004, his offensive coordinator was McCarthy. Brooks had one more stint in Oakland (making eight starts) in 2006 before being released in February 2007.

Doug Pederson

Pederson served as almost another quarterbacks coach during his time as a backup in Green Bay (1995 through 1998, 2001 through 2004). His first real shot to be a starter came in 1999, the year he signed a free agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Then 31, he started nine games that year with little success (62.9 passer rating with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions) before giving way to rookie Donovan McNabb. Pederson was off the Cleveland the following season but was even worse there in eight starts (56.6 passer rating with just two touchdowns). He returned to Green Bay in 2001 to finish out his career.

Ty Detmer

The 1990 Heisman Trophy winner served primarily as a third-string quarterback for the Packers from 1992 through 1995. Despite his impressive accomplishments at BYU, Detmer's draft stock was low and the Packers snatched him in the ninth round of the 1992 draft. With Favre in his prime, Detmer signed a free agent contract with the Eagles in 1996. Rodney Peete started that season as the Eagles' quarterback but was injured, giving a chance to Detmer, who led the Eagles to the playoffs. In 11 starts, he threw for 2,911 yards and 15 touchdowns with a passer rating of 80.8. He split time as a starter the next season, but never was able to grab the spot entirely. In 1998, he returned to a backup role with the San Francisco 49ers and then played for three other teams through 2005.

Mark Brunell

There was a time early on in Favre's career when Holmgren consider making Brunell the starter until being convinced otherwise. But after a couple cameo appearances for Brunell in 1994, the Packers shipped the left-handed quarterback to the Jaguars in a 1995 draft day trade for a third- and fifth-round draft pick. The Packers had originally drafted Brunell in the fifth round in 1993, just one year after Favre came to Green Bay. After leaving Green Bay, Brunell confirmed Holmgren's intuitions by becoming a solid playoff quarterback in Jacksonville. Two times the Jaguars advanced to the AFC Championship game over Brunell's nine seasons. Brunell went on to spend multiple seasons with the Washington Redskins, the Saints, and most recently the New York Jets in 2011 where he completed his 19th season in the NFL (he was a regular starter for 11 of those years). Brunell has 32,072 career passing yards and 184 career touchdown passes.


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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