The Green Bay Packers made it official by releasing Harrell on Sunday, leaving Young to be Aaron Rodgers' backup quarterback.
"Vince Young's making progress. I think it's the obvious," coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. "He's more and more comfortable each week with our terminology and with our offense. Made plays with his feet, was something that was obviously a huge asset of Vince's. I think he looked comfortable, moved the football team obviously in his first series down on the field for a touchdown. He's getting better."
Looking at the passing statistics, the choice between Young and Harrell was about as appetizing as a vegetarian choosing between a steak and hamburger. Harrell completed 54.8 percent of his passes and averaged 4.0 yards per attempt. Young completed 63.2 percent of his passes but averaged just 3.9 yards per attempt. Of quarterbacks with at least Young's 19 passing attempts, only Chicago's Josh McCown (3.9), Indianapolis' Chandler Harnish (3.2) and New England's Tim Tebow (2.8) have lower averages per attempt.
Young has one touchdown and no interceptions – though it easily could have been the opposite had the Seahawks' Allen Bradford not dropped an interception. Harrell had no touchdowns and one interception, but could have had one score had Jermichael Finley hauled in Harrell's fourth-down pass last week.
Young, however, is the team's second-leading rusher with 58 yards on six scrambles. That mobility is an asset in several ways.
One, it's another way to move the ball, whether it's through quarterback draws, rollouts, bootlegs or scrambles. Two, it practically forces the defense to play zone; on his 21-yard run against Seattle, the Seahawks' corners were in man and didn't see Young with the ball until it was too late. Third, it's a way to mitigate pressure with the Packers going with a rookie at left tackle and, presumably, a second-year pro with six career starts at right tackle.
"At least the Packers' backup quarterback situation is a little better than it was," an AFC scout told Packer Report. "I imagine that the combination of the uncertainty along the offensive line and having mobility at the quarterback position played a pretty big role in the Packers' final decision. If all things were equal, it makes sense to go with the more mobile option."
Said another scout, who hadn't seen Young play with the Packers, "I don't know if Young's any good but I know Harrell isn't."
Playing quarterback is about results, plain and simple. In three games, Harrell had 14 possessions. The Packers gained 16.6 yards per drive, picked up 15 first downs and scored three points. It's not like the offense was much better with Young in his seven possessions. The Packers gained 23.9 yards per drive, gained 10 first downs and scored 10 points.
Still, at least there's some long-term upside with Young. With three-plus years in Green Bay, Harrell isn't going to know the offense any better or get markedly better fundamentally. He's worked arduously with a personal trainer and the team's training staff, so he isn't going to get a stronger arm or faster feet. In other words, he's reached his ceiling.
Young, with less than three weeks with the team, is still learning the offense. His fundamentals should improve the longer he remains with the team. Despite a quirky throwing motion, he's got a better arm than Harrell. And his feet, well, that Young's an infinitely better athlete than Harrell goes without saying.
Finally, there's this: Young has a resume. Despite his scattershot accuracy (57.0 percent for career), suspect decision-making (46 touchdowns vs. 51 interceptions), obvious mechanical flaws and inexperience in the Packers' scheme, Young makes things happen. That was obvious against Seattle, and it's obvious with a 31-19 career record as a starter that includes seven fourth-quarter comebacks and 13 game-winning drives. That's more than Rodgers' total of five fourth-quarter comebacks and nine game-winning drives, for what it's worth.
Let's not kid ourselves: The Packers are sunk either way if Rodgers is out for the long haul. At least Young gives them a chance.
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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.