Inexperienced Harrell Finally Gets His Chance

While the other 31 backup quarterbacks have thrown an average of 759 attempts, Graham Harrell finally is getting his first offseason of work. Harrell lacks a big-time arm but he's made believers of the coaches and personnel department.

It probably comes as no surprise, but the Green Bay Packers have the least experienced backup quarterback in the NFL.

While some of the names figure to be changed and shuffled between now and the start of the regular season, Packer Report examined the NFL's 32 backup quarterbacks, based on the depth charts by former NFL scout Dan Shonka at

How does Graham Harrell measure up with his fellow No. 2 quarterbacks?

— He's the only one to have not throw a pass in the NFL.

— He's one of four to have eight or fewer pass attempts and one of five with 16 or fewer attempts.

— He's one of seven to have not started a game in the NFL.

— He's one of seven to have entered the league as an undrafted free agent.

On the other end of the spectrum:

— Ten of the No. 2 quarterbacks were selected in the first round, including the Giants' David Carr (No. 1 overall pick in 2002) and the Bills' Vince Young (No. 3 overall pick in 2006).

— The other 31 backup quarterbacks have thrown an average of 758.8 passes, including four with at least 2,000 career pass attempts.

— Fourteen of the No. 2 quarterbacks have started at least 16 games — the equivalent of a full season.

With that as a backdrop, Harrell is in the midst of the most important months of his life. Matt Flynn is in Seattle. Seventh-round pick B.J. Coleman must retool his fundamentals. Now is Harrell's time to embark on a professional career that has gone almost nowhere since his record-setting career at Texas Tech ended in 2008.

"I think this is an outstanding opportunity for Graham Harrell," coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday. "But that's stating the obvious. I do like the body of work he has done to prepare for this opportunity. But it's now (time) for him to play and compete in these drills and show what he can do. He's been here the longest."

Harrell set numerous records in college, 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 signed with the Packers on May 20, 2010. That was too late to take part in the offseason program, and the 2011 offseason was wiped out by the Scouting Combine. So, this is the first time Harrell is benefitting from quarterback school and offseason practices.

"Graham just needs to play," first-year quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo said. "He feels comfortable with the protections, with the pass game. He just needs to go through it. He's going to get more opportunities this year in the offseason program and in training camp being the No. 2 guy as it sits right now."

Harrell spent most of his two seasons in Green Bay on the practice squad, earning late-season promotions both times. Nonetheless, he's practically the unquestioned No. 2 quarterback. That general manager Ted Thompson didn't use a high pick on a quarterback or sign a veteran speaks volumes about the belief the team's decision-makers have in Harrell.

"With OTAs coming up, I feel like it's huge for me," Harrell said. "I can get reps in and I'm more comfortable with it. I'm excited about these OTA workouts, and the past month we've been up here has been great. I've been able to watch a lot of film. So, it's been good for me to be up here and actually get an offseason and learn it."

To help Harrell's learning curve, the Packers released Nick Hill on Wednesday. That's one less quarterback vying for the limited live reps against the defense.

"The reps are a bar of gold right now because they are tough to come by. They're a challenge to get," McAdoo said. "Your time on the field is limited, especially the time vs. the defense. There's only maybe 12 to 16 plays you can get in one OTA practice vs. a defense going at a pretty decent clip out there. They need to take advantage of them."

Last preseason, Harrell completed 33-of-57 passes (57.9 percent) for 287 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 75.7. Getting extensive playing time against the Colts, Harrell really struggled. But trailing 21-13 in the final moments, Harrell threw an 11-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-10, completed another pass for the tying two-point conversion, and put the Packers in position to win the game after a successful onside kick. In all, he completed nine of his final 13 passes to pull out the victory.

Those final minutes spoke volumes to the Packers' coaches. Harrell might not have a big arm and he's not a great athlete, but he knows how to play the game.

"He has a savviness on where to go with the football," McAdoo said. "He's pretty accurate with it and there's a savviness, there's a moxie to him, and he's pretty comfortable with the ball in his hands. He's thrown a lot of passes in his day."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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