Back in the 1990s Green Bay was a virtual quarterback farm system for the rest of the league. Each training camp it seemed some new, late-round find from a previous draft would rip through whatever back-up cornerbacks and safeties the opposition threw out there. They would show poise in the pocket, a keen eye for reading defenses and a knack for putting the ball in the end zone.
Scouts and personnel men from around the league would compliment them. They‘d become instant trade bait and rumors would swirl. Fans would gush -- some even to the point of suggesting that one of these preseason phenoms might do as good a job, if not better, than the guy in the No. 4 jersey. (If you were one of those fans, please stop reading, go into the bathroom and wash your mouth out with soap.)
W. Keith Roerdink
From there, these dutiful back ups to the reigning quarterback royalty could hope for a handful of snaps the rest of the year (if they were lucky) while dreaming that one day, they too might get their shot to start in the NFL. Of course, it wouldn't be with the Packers.
In the same year that the Packers traded a first round pick to Atlanta for Favre (everyone in unison: Thank you, Atlanta), they drafted Heisman-trophy winning quarterback Ty Detmer out of BYU in the ninth round. The following year, they plucked hotshot lefty Mark Brunell out of Washington in the fifth round. The trio would play together for three years before Brunell was traded to Jacksonville in April of 1995 and Detmer joined Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent in 1996.
Brunell would go on to become a star in his own right, while Detmer's career proved less stellar with stints in Philly, San Francisco, Cleveland and Detroit. While he never made the final roster, Favre, Detmer and Brunell did share a few snaps with another quarterback during the 1994 training camp. Some scrawny Warner kid from Iowa who went on to play in the Arena League and bag groceries before catching on in St. Louis. But everyone knows that story.
All told, 10 former Favre back ups went on to start for other teams including Doug Pederson, who played with the Eagles and Browns before returning to Green Bay; Steve Bono (Rams); Rick Mirer (Jets); Aaron Brooks (Saints), Matt Hasselbeck (Seahawks) and Danny Wuerffel (Redskins). Even Don Majkowski, went on to start for the Colts and Lions after Favre arrived in 1992.
Brooks and Hasselbeck have both flashed greatness with their new teams. Of Favre's other former back ups, only the 32-year old Brunell remains a starter. Jacksonville addressed their future at quarterback when they drafted Marshall's Byron Leftwich in the first round this past April. Which brings us back to Green Bay.
Pederson is the safe, reliable, veteran back up who's proved he could come in (like last year against Washington) and hold down a lead. Could he start a game for Green Bay and win? Probably depends on whom they're playing. But at age 35, he's not a long-term solution.
Upon escaping the gravitational pull of the NFL's black hole (a.k.a. Cincinnati), Akili Smith was eager to show the skills that made him the No. 3 overall pick in 1999. After all, it's hard to gauge how good a guy really is when he‘s played for the Bengals. But after watching the second half of the Packers-Falcons exhibition, I think I felt better about him before he took the field.
Smith's full name is Kabisa Akili Maradufu. It's Swahili for power, creativity and intelligence. But what's Swahili for "I'm not real comfortable out here?" On some plays, Smith looked athletic and strong-armed. On other plays, he was bouncing balls off defender's chests. He's got three more games to get a better feel for the offense and prove himself.
Battling Smith for a spot is Craig Nall. The 2002 fifth rounder from Northwestern (La.) State was inactive for 16 games last season, but made the most out his NFL European vacation, leading that league with a 95.9 passer rating and 18 touchdowns. He gained valuable leadership experience while his team, the Scottish Claymores, competed for spot in the World Bowl and had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 against Barcelona.
After a shaky start against Kansas City, Nall rebounded nicely against the Falcons showing the good feet and quick release that landed him in Green and Gold in the first place. Throw out the play where he stared a hole through Javon Walker and got his receiver lit up, and he wasn't bad. But is he the next Brooks or Hasselbeck? It's way too soon to say.
In the end, it seems there's only one solution. Favre needs to not only play next year, but also the year after that and really, well into his 40s. If he likes mowing his lawn back in Mississippi as much as he says he does, maybe the team can let him mow the turf at Lambeau Field on his days off.
The next Favre isn't out there. There is only one. But someday in the not too distant future, someone else will be lining up under center. Is that player on the roster now? Or maybe some college roster?
Hopefully, we're a few years and another Super Bowl victory away from knowing.
Note: W. Keith Roerdink is a freelance writer from Wausau, Wis. and longtime contributor to the Packer Report. Check out his weekly Hot Read column each Thursday.