The Packers selected Coleman in the seventh round last year. He was longtime top NFL scout Dave-Te Thomas' "Super Sleeper," drawing comparisons to a "poor man's Philip Rivers" due to his moxie, arm talent and mechanical flaws, and Joe Flacco for their similar paths to the NFL. (Flacco transferred from Pittsburgh to Delaware and Coleman transferred from Tennessee to Tennessee-Chattanooga.)
Coleman never mounted a challenge for the backup job, which essentially was won by default by Graham Harrell. Coleman was released in the final cuts and signed to the practice squad, where he spent the entire season watching, learning and being mechanically retooled.
"It's been a good year to kind of sit back and watch and take it all in and learn how the operation works," Coleman said late in the season. "I've sat down and really paid attention to how the quarterbacks meetings go, especially when Ben (McAdoo, the quarterbacks coach) and Tom (Clements, the offensive coordinator) and Aaron (Rodgers) are all game-planning, and then when Mike (McCarthy) comes in, and listen to how all of that works. It's been an interesting experience. I've been really blessed."
Asked twice about Coleman late in the season, McAdoo offered only muted praise. Either Coleman's progress was slow or McAdoo didn't want to open any ears around the league for teams considering signing Coleman off the practice squad.
"He's making progress," McAdoo said.
Asked, as a follow-up, whether Coleman had a lot of talent, McAdoo said, "I see a young man who has some talent."
For Coleman, the focus was on learning the playbook — a bit of a challenge when his daily focus at practice was running the opponents' offense — and improving his fundamentals, specifically his footwork.
"We spend a lot of time here on special teams, and during those periods we kind of separate quarterback-wise and go work on fundamentals, work on footwork, and that's something that he really enjoys, getting to spend time with Aaron, getting to see how he does things, and getting a chance to coach him," McAdoo said at the end of the season. "His fundamentals are different here than what he's been used to in the past, the way we teach them. So, you see a little bit more rhythm in his body, you see a little less chatter in his feet, and he's come a ways. He still has a ways to go, but the guy's going to work at it, we know that. He's excited to learn and we're excited to teach him."
Coleman said there was "no comparison" between the quarterback he was when he was drafted to the quarterback he was at season's end. Now, the challenge will be to unseat Harrell as the No. 2 and stay ahead of talented undrafted rookie Matt Brown — who will join Coleman at this week's camp.
"I'm learning little things every day," Coleman said. "I think the biggest thing for me is to continue to study the playbook, learning the X's and O's of it — which is coming great. Once you can play fast, it really helps you mechanically, as well. Once you understand what you're looking for — what's good, what's bad, getting out of bad plays and into good plays — I think that allows you to play fast. It's a process of quarterbacking. It's not like you can just be thrown in there and rock and roll. It's something that really takes time, especially in this offense. Talking to (Rodgers), he said really take your time to learn it from the ground up. It's OK to make mistakes. That's the thing that's been the toughest for me is you try to be perfect early. It's OK to make mistakes. It's OK to go out there, fail, and fix it for the next time. That's been my emphasis: Try what they ask me to try. If you fail, come back, look at it on film and fix 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.