The truth, not surprisingly, falls somewhere in between.
On Monday, Packer Report discussed Harrell's performance with Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo and an AFC scout who was in attendance for Thursday's preseason game.
Not surprisingly, McAdoo toed the company line that Harrell did plenty of things right but was derailed by a supporting cast that didn't carry its collective weight.
"You see why some of the plays turned out the way they turned out," McAdoo said when asked to lend a coaching eye to Harrell's 12-of-24 performance. "You'd like to see Graham come out and start faster and you'd like to see him make the throw to (Andrew) Brewer (for what should have been a fourth-quarter touchdown), but there are some things that may have been out of his control. I thought he did a good job of managing the game. There's a lot of personnel that comes in and out. I thought he did a good job of trying to keep us in good plays and not run the ball into bad looks or having free hitters in protections and things like that."
In two preseason games, Harrell has led the offense to three scores in 16 possessions. Eleven possessions failed to gain a first down. Against the Browns, Cleveland's defense scored nine points while Harrell led the Packers to just three in nine possessions.
However, Harrell was saddled by an offensive line that frequently included three rookies, and his running backs, tight ends and receivers generally were rookies, as well.
There's little doubt that Harrell would perform better with the Packers' starting offensive line and front-line skill players. But good enough? McAdoo said he has "100 percent confidence" in Harrell. The AFC scout, however, said the Packers would follow the same path as last year's Bears, which started 7-3 with Jay Cutler but finished 1-5 after he broke his thumb.
"Starting quarterback is the most important position on the field," the scout said. "It's not a matter of if a guy is going to get hurt, it's a matter of when. If I was Ted Thompson and those guys in the front office, I would feel very uncomfortable with my situation at backup quarterback in the event that Aaron Rodgers gets hurt. What you're looking at right now is a situation where potentially they can get off to a good start, like the Chicago Bears last year with Jay Cutler, and then have to put in a guy like Caleb Hanie. That's pretty much what they're looking at as of right now."
The scout disagreed with the premise that Harrell "can't play," and sees the intangibles that the Packers saw when essentially handing him the No. 2 job by not signing a veteran in the offseason.
"At the end of the day, you'd rather have a guy that can actually go out and execute the offense instead of wetting himself," he said.
The scout has watched Colt McCoy for years and saw him again during his impressive one-series stint on Thursday.
"Listen, if you're looking for a backup guy, he's ideal," he said. "He's a team guy, not a me guy. He's going to do whatever's in the best interest of the team. Colt's a guy that's not going to worry about everything else that's going on. He's going to be a great teammate, he's going to focus on getting himself ready and getting himself prepared so whenever that next opportunity comes, he's going to be ready. The problem is, just knowing Ted, Ted's not going to give up a third-round pick to get Colt. It's not in his nature. I just don't see Ted doing that at all."
A trade, especially if a third-round pick is indeed the cost, seems unlikely. After Thursday's game at Cincinnati, there are only seven practices and one preseason game remaining until the regular season kicks off against San Francisco. Maybe it's being spun for public consumption, but everyone from Thompson to McCarthy to quarterback Aaron Rodgers consistently sing Harrell's praises.
"If I was the Packers, I would be pretty concerned," the scout countered. "And, look, I'm positive that they're pretty concerned (laughs), but they're just not saying it — and they're not supposed to say it."
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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.