Questions at QB for First Time in Two Decades

Starting with the triumvirate of Brett Favre, Ty Detmer and Mark Brunell in 1993, the Packers have had enviable depth at quarterback for the last 20 years. During that time, they've drafted 12 quarterbacks. Heading into this season, it's questions galore behind MVP Aaron Rodgers.

Buried on my tape recorder was an interview I did with Ty Detmer a couple months ago, back when he was selected for enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Detmer, who won the 1990 Heisman Trophy and left BYU owning practically every meaningful passing record in NCAA history, was a ninth-round draft pick by the Packers in 1992. He threw 21 passes for the Packers from 1993 through 1995 before signing with Philadelphia as a free agent in 1996. He started 18 games in two seasons with the Eagles and 25 games in 14 total seasons in the league.

Detmer was the first in a long line of quarterbacks who went from the bench in Green Bay to a starting role elsewhere.

Mark Brunell was a fifth-round pick in 1993 who joined Detmer in holding clipboards behind Brett Favre in 1993 and 1994. Brunell was traded in 1995 to Jacksonville, and he led the Jaguars to two AFC title games. Journeyman Doug Pederson joined the Packers in 1996 before making a total of 17 starts while grooming Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia in 1999 and Tim Couch in Cleveland in 2000. Matt Hasselbeck, who led the Seahawks to one NFC title game, was a sixth-round pick in 1998 and learned under Mike McCarthy in 1999. Aaron Brooks, a fourth-round pick in 1999, had some big seasons in New Orleans — not coincidentally, when McCarthy was the Saints' offensive coordinator.

Heck, even Steve Bono, Rick Mirer, Danny Wuerrfel and, of all people, Henry Burris went from backup roles in Green Bay to at least emergency starters elsewhere.

"I think the coaches that have been there have been quarterback coaches," Detmer said. "The guys that they've hired have been pretty in tune with the quarterback position. The offense that's been run there since Mike Holmgren came — it's pretty much the same offense with little wrinkles here and there. The front-office guys have an eye for quarterbacks that they feel like they can develop and get some value out of the guy down the road."

Of the five quarterbacks central to the Packers' backup history — Detmer, Brunell, Hasselbeck, Brooks and Pederson — only Pederson wasn't drafted.

All of which leads to this question: Is Graham Harrell good enough to win a game for the Packers? Is he good enough to start one game or a series of games?

The early evidence isn't encouraging, notwithstanding all of the positive words coming from McCarthy and his coaching staff..

Harrell, like Detmer, was a prolific college passer who lacked the arm strength to be considered a credible prospect entering the NFL. He's played in two preseasons for the Packers. In 2010, he completed 51.6 percent of his passes with no touchdowns, no interceptions and a rating of 67.4. Because he was signed in May 2010, he didn't have the benefit of the offseason program, so that performance probably shouldn't be used as a gauge.

Last year — again, without the offseason program, though at least he had a firm handle on the offense — Harrell completed 57.9 percent of his passes with two touchdowns, one interception and a rating of 75.7. He led the offense to points on four of his 17 possessions. Those numbers aren't good, though in fairness, it's not like he was playing behind a bunch of future starters on the offensive line. Interestingly, in the 20 drafts from 1993 through 2012, the Packers selected 12 quarterbacks — even with Favre and Aaron Rodgers being among the elite at the position.

However, this is the first time during that span in which the Packers' No. 2 quarterback either wasn't drafted or didn't have NFL starting experience.

So, ready or not, Harrell figures to enter the regular season as the NFL's only No. 2 quarterback without a regular-season passing attempt.

"Really, tthe preseason games will be the biggest challenge for Graham," McCarthy said. "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."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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